aka NVC or Compassionate Communication
Nonviolent Communication can dramatically improve relationships by helping people focus their attention on empathetic understanding of others without compromising their own values. It gives people tools to express their real feelings and needs openly and honestly, yet without blame or criticism. Even in situations of long-standing conflict or hostility, the NVC process can open new doors to compassionate connection and action.
"Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a process that strengthens our ability to inspire compassion from others and respond compassionately to others and ourselves. It is a way of connecting with the core of empathy and honesty within us -- which is the basis of our connection with others -- especially at those times when it is most difficult to do," writes NVC trainer Miki Kashtan.
"Sometimes described as 'the language of the heart,' NVC is a set of tools for expressing clearly and confidently our needs and dreams, and for hearing more easily others' needs and dreams even when they are not expressed directly. Using NVC enhances our ability to understand ourselves, create more satisfying connections with others, and work through conflict with compassion and success."
"Through the work of its developer, Marshall Rosenberg,
over the last 35 years, and of the many trainers certified by
the Center for Nonviolent Communication, NVC is today being used
in daily life around the world, as well as in schools, businesses,
government agencies, police, and other organizations. It has also
been used extensively in areas where conflict has been pervasive,
such as Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, Israel and Palestine, Ireland,
Columbia, Sri Lanka, and several African countries including Rwanda
and Burundi, in which inter-tribal and ethnic warfare has resulted
in unimaginable devastation."
The Anatomy of Heart-to-Heart Dialogue
NVC delineates four components of communication. Together they help create the kind of dialogue that can foster resolutions satisfying for everyone without painful compromise or sacrifice:
OBSERVATIONS free of evaluations.
FEELINGS straight from the heart.
NEEDS, VALUES and longings.
REQUESTS expressed clearly in positive action language.
Here's an example of an NVC-trained mother talking with her child:
"When you leave the den all cluttered up like this I feel upset because I really need more order in my life. Would you be willing to help me straighten it up before dinner?"
"Aw, mom, you're always picking on me when I'm busy!"
"So when I asked you to help me clean, you felt mad because you need to complete what you're working on?"
"So would you be willing to tell me when you're done, and then we can clean up together?"
The mother talks about her own reality using the four steps above, and also uses them when she empathizes (honestly guesses what's happening in her child's inner world), and looks for a solution that will satisfy both their needs.
Nonviolent communication is one of those "simple but not easy" practices (like counting one's breaths for an hour of meditation). It does take practice, but the rewards are quite dramatic. I [Tom Atlee] have seen conflicts evaporate (even without any action being taken on the substantive issues!) and people's perspectives on life change dramatically simply by having someone use NVC empathy to totally understand them so they really know they've been understood. It is a remarkable feeling -- a feeling so rare, the changes can be quite remarkable.
I have a couple of friends who have mastered NVC to a point where they can use it in ordinary conversation with such simplicity and grace that I can barely tell they're doing the four steps, even though I know it's NVC.
Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion (Puddle Dancer Press, 1999) -- and information about trainings and workshops -- are available from
Center for Nonviolent Communication [sm]
2428 Foothill Boulevard, Suite E
La Crescenta, CA 91214 USA
Thoughts on NVC and social change by Tom Atlee