NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION (NVC)
Nonviolent Communication (NVC), also known as Compassionate Communication, is both a collection of principles that support the development of a consciousness based on universal human values and needs as well as a practical, learnable process that helps people connect more deeply with themselves and others.
It was founded by Marshall Rosenberg, as he explored the questions:
What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to act violently and exploitatively?
And conversely, what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature even under the most trying circumstances?
While studying the factors that affect our ability to stay compassionate, he was struck by the crucial role of language. So he identified an approach to communicating that leads us to give and receive from the heart allowing our natural compassion to flourish.
“When we give from the heart, we do so out of a joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life”
- Dr. Marshall Rosenberg -
Nonviolent Communication supports us to
Create a quality of connection where everyone’s needs are valued and strategies to meet needs contribute to connection, harmony and peace
Be congruent with our values in thought, speech and action
Cultivate moment to moment awareness of what is alive in ourselves and others, and to be able to clearly articulate this
Bring consciousness to the interdependence of our well being
Give to others and ourselves, not out of duty, obligation, guilt, shame, fear of punishment or hope for a reward, but because it's in our nature to enjoy giving to one another
Transform our patterns of thinking that lead to anger, guilt, shame and depression
Develop our ability to transform our own and others judgement, blame and criticism into understanding, compassion and the peaceful resolution of conflict
Use power with others to work together to meet the needs of all concerned
Bring together honesty and kindness; compassion and accountability; individuality and connection. Be assertive and negotiable at the same time
Use language and actions that are efficient, effective and full of integrity
Support others in our families and communities to find calm and clarity when they are reactive or upset
Focus our attention on what matters most
Speak and listen so that conflict turns into collaboration, so that we access all parts of the brain for more creativity and inspiration and shared power
Receive critical and hostile messages without taking them personally, giving in, or losing self-esteem
The framework of Nonviolent Communication
In any moment we can choose between the three modes of communication: expressing ourselves authentically, listening with empathy and self-connection.
Each mode comprises four components:
Observations free of evaluations
Feelings straight from the heart
Needs, values and longings
Requests, in clear positive action language
Although it is taught in reference to this particular model and designed as a communication process, NVC is indeed much more than this: it is a way of living more compassionately, powerfully and effectively in relationship to ourselves and others. It is an invitation to focus our attention where we have the greatest chance of finding what we are seeking, connection. It reminds us of the profound value of human interactions and helps us live with that awareness.
A personal note by Donal on the common misunderstanding of Nonviolent Communication
Most people don’t realise that NVC has evolved a LOT since Marshall Rosenberg created the form 50 years ago.
Many have learnt it by listening to him talk, reading his book or from trainers who’ve learnt this way. Most of these don't really get it; a few understand the concepts; even fewer figure out how to ‘do it correctly’, but almost nobody really integrates the fundamental principles and has the shifts in consciousness that are required to truly practice it.
I have found this level of understanding more often harmful than helpful. I meet many people mistrustful of NVC because of others who have learnt this way, often imposing a strange way of talking on them without their agreement; speaking in a long-winded, text-book or mechanical way; faking empathy with rehearsed phrases or using the form of NVC to manipulate others to get what they want.
Practicing ‘NVC’ like this is a contradiction of the foundational principles, which encourage us to hold others’ needs with as much care as our own and to avoid notions of any ‘right’ way of doing anything. In fact, NVC moves us beyond all dichotomies of right and wrong; good and bad, should and shouldn’t etc, and we see everything anyone ever does as their best attempt to meet some need(s) in that moment.
By deeply integrating these, and other principles, we no longer need to judge and blame others or ourselves and so we develop genuine compassion, understanding and care… and from here, words that bring authentic connection and effective collaboration flow naturally.
This is what I focus on in my trainings. If you're interested to explore this more with me, check out the 'TRAININGS' tab, in particular the NVC foundation training: 'Communicate to Connect'
What people say about Nonviolent Communication
“Marshall Rosenberg provides us with the most effective tools to foster health and relationships. This is the missing link in my work.”
- Deepak Chopra, MD -
“These techniques transform potential conflicts into peaceful dialogues”
- John Gray, Ph. D. -
“I believe the principles and techniques of Nonviolent Communication can literally change the world, but more importantly, they can change the quality of your life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
- Jack Canfield, Author of Chicken Soup for the Soul Series -
Find out more about Nonviolent Communication from this video and on our resources pages