Do you wonder how to create healthy relationships grounded in mutual respect, compassion, and emotional safety?
One effective approach — that works in both your personal and professional life — is called nonviolent communication (NVC) or collaborative communication.
What is nonviolent communication?
According to The Center for Nonverbal Communication, NVC is “based on the principles of nonviolence — the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart. NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies — whether verbal or physical — are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture.
NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that all actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs. People who practice NVC have found greater authenticity in their communication, Increased understanding, deepening connection and conflict resolution.”
Developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., NVC liberates you from ancient patterns of power struggle, defensiveness, and suffering, which is why it has been adopted by Fortune 500 companies, governments, school systems, inmate rehabilitation programs, and social change advocates.
We have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand, and diagnose — to think and communicate in terms of what is “right” and “wrong” with other people.
We believe we have to defend ourselves and behave accordingly. Adverbs and adjectives slice and dice. Plus, communicating and thinking this way can create misunderstanding, frustration, and even worse, result in anger, depression, and even emotional or physical violence.
Why is nonviolent communication important?
NVC is based on the idea that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and only resort to violence or behavior that harms others when they don’t recognize more effective strategies for meeting their needs.
Far more than a communication technique, you’ll learn to transform the thinking, language, and moralistic judgments that keep you from the enriching relationships you long for. NVC aims for everyone involved to get what really matters to them without the use of guilt, humiliation, shame, blame, coercion or threats.
Through simple techniques, you can consciously change your language and thinking and learn how to use nonviolent forms of communication to forge better quality relationships with others.
The communication process of NVC aims to find a way for everyone involved to get what matters to them without the use of guilt, humiliation, shame, blame, coercion, or threats. It is useful for resolving conflicts, connecting with others, and living in a way that is conscious, present, and attuned to the genuine, living needs of yourself and others.
By learning and honing these nonviolent communication skills, you’ll learn to:
- Put your primary focus on connection through empathic listening, rather than “being right”, “getting what you want”, or “fixing someone.”
- Transform conflict into mutually satisfying outcomes.
- Defuse anger and frustration peacefully.
- Move beyond power struggles to cooperation and trust.
Here are the 4 components of nonviolent communication in healthy relationships.
State concrete actions you observe in yourself or the other person. A pure observation is without comparison to the past and is what we see or hear that we identify as the stimulus to our reactions, the “trigger.” The observation gives the context for our expression of feelings and needs.
For example, “It’s 2:00 a.m. and I hear your stereo playing” states an observed fact.
Identify the feeling that the observation is triggering in you. Feelings are always related to your body, and never involve others. They represent our own emotional experience and physical sensations associated with our needs that have been met or that remain unmet.
For example, “It’s 2:00 a.m. and I hear your stereo playing (observation). I’m irritated (feeling).”
State the need that is the cause of that feeling. A psychic or basic need is always about oneself, not about another, and is always a basic human quality.
All human beings share key needs for survival: hydration, nourishment, rest, shelter, and connection to name a few. In the context of NVC, needs refer to what is most alive in us: our core values and deepest human longings. The key to identifying, expressing, and connecting with needs is to focus on words that describe shared human experiences rather than words that describe the particular strategies to meet those needs.
For example, “It’s 2:00 a.m. and I hear your stereo playing. (observation). I’m irritated (feeling) because I need to get some sleep (need).”
The need for sleep is a shared human experience.
Make a concrete request for action to meet the need just identified.
To meet our needs, we make requests to assess how likely we are to get cooperation for particular strategies we have in mind for meeting our needs. Our aim is to identify and express a specific action that we believe will serve this purpose and then check with others involved in their willingness to participate in meeting our needs in this way.
For example, “It’s 2:00 a.m. and I hear your stereo playing. (observation). I’m irritated (feeling) because I need to get some sleep (need). Please turn the volume down (specific request).”
We waste too much precious time and energy because we don’t know how to articulate what is in our hearts and minds safely.
We can “say a lot” by truly listening for other people’s feelings and needs and responding to them instead of just the words said.
As a community, we urgently need to move past power struggles to cooperation and trust. Using NVC, the improvement to your life and others you care for is immediate. Start practicing the principles of NVC today — over and over — until it becomes second nature.