Tip #311: Nonviolent Communication #2: NVC Defined

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“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.” Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

What is nonviolent, or compassionate, communication (NVC)? According to Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, in his Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life:

While we may not consider the way we talk to be ‘violent,’ words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or ourselves.

NVC guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting.

We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to hear our own deeper needs and those of others.

NVC trains us to observe carefully, and to be able to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in any given situation. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

As NVC replaces our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, or attacking in the face of judgment and criticism, we come to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light. Resistance, defensiveness, and violent reactions are minimized.

When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. Through its emphasis on deep listening- to ourselves as well as to others- NVC fosters respect, attentiveness, and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart.

… NVC is more than a process or a language. On a deeper level, it is an ongoing reminder to keep our attention focused on a place where we are more likely to get what we are seeking.

The NVC process has four components:

1. We observe the concrete actions that affect our well-being.
2. We state how we feel in relation to what we observe.
3. We express the needs, values, desires, etc. that create our feelings.
4. We request concrete actions in order to enrich our lives.

When we use the NVC process, we may begin by either expressing ourselves or by empathically receiving these four pieces of information from others.

However, it is possible to experience all four pieces of the process without uttering a single word. The essence of NVC is in our consciousness of the four components, not in the actual words that are exchanged.

Why care about NVC? It can be effectively applied at all levels of communication and in diverse situations, including: intimate relationships, families, school, organizations, counseling relationships, diplomatic and business negotiations, and disputes and conflicts of any nature.

It is so powerful and effective that it now serves as a valuable mediation resource for communities around the world that face violent conflicts and severe ethnic, religious or political tensions, including Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierre Leone, etc.

Next week, we will continue our discussion of NVC with a look at communication that blocks compassion.

May your learning be sweet.

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