Nonviolent Communication


FOTCM Member
Someone shared this on Facebook a little while back and even though I haven't seen the entire video, I thought what he presents in the video, Nonviolent Communication, is a very interesting framework or way of communicating that differs a lot from what he describes as black/white and moralistic judgments that are based on opinion but not facts. That the entire basis for human communication is based a lot on fear of punishment or anticipation of reward and that communicating from that 'place' stifles the ability of human beings to honestly meet their needs, empathize with others and become able to give and receive naturally, as he puts it. At least that seems to be the overall message I get from it.

Not sure how well a communication style like this would work when dealing with pathology, but as far as dealing with a harsh negative introject/inner critic and black/white thinking towards people and situations, it could be helpful in removing some of those biases and 'opening one's eyes'.

Here's a bit about what wikipedia has to say about it. _

Nonviolent communication 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 needs.[4] Habits of thinking and speaking that lead to the use of violence (psychological and physical) are learned through culture. NVC theory supposes all human behavior stems from attempts to meet universal human needs and that these needs are never in conflict. Rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. NVC proposes that if people can identify their needs, the needs of others, and the feelings that surround these needs, harmony can be achieved...

Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, shame, etc. These "violent" modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.

Communication that blocks compassion

Rosenberg says that certain ways of communicating tend to alienate people from the experience of compassion:

Moralistic judgments implying wrongness or badness on the part of people who don't act in harmony with our values. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticisms, comparisons, and diagnoses are all said to be forms of judgment. (Moralistic judgments are not to be confused with value judgments as to the qualities we value.) The use of moralistic judgments is characterized as an impersonal way of expressing oneself that does not require one to reveal what is going on inside of oneself. This way of speaking is said to have the result that "Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting."

Demands that implicitly or explicitly threaten listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply.

Denial of responsibility via language that obscures awareness of personal responsibility. It is said that we deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to: vague impersonal forces ("I had to"); our condition, diagnosis, personal or psychological history; the actions of others; the dictates of authority; group pressure; institutional policy, rules, and regulations; gender roles, social roles, or age roles; or uncontrollable impulses.

Making comparisons between people.

A premise of deserving, that certain actions merit reward while others merit punishment.

Four components

Rosenberg invites NVC practitioners to focus attention on four components:

Observation: the facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as distinct from our evaluation of meaning and significance. NVC discourages static generalizations. It is said that "When we combine observation with evaluation others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying." Instead, a focus on observations specific to time and context is recommended.

: emotions or sensations, free of thought and story. These are to be distinguished from thoughts (e.g., "I feel I didn't get a fair deal") and from words colloquially used as feelings but which convey what we think we are (e.g., "inadequate"), how we think others are evaluating us (e.g., "unimportant"), or what we think others are doing to us (e.g., "misunderstood", "ignored"). Feelings are said to reflect whether we are experiencing our needs as met or unmet. Identifying feelings is said to allow us to more easily connect with one another, and "Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts."

Needs: universal human needs, as distinct from particular strategies for meeting needs. It is posited that "Everything we do is in service of our needs.

Request: request for a specific action, free of demand. Requests are distinguished from demands in that one is open to hearing a response of "no" without this triggering an attempt to force the matter. If one makes a request and receives a "no" it is recommended not that one give up, but that one empathize with what is preventing the other person from saying "yes," before deciding how to continue the conversation. It is recommended that requests use clear, positive, concrete action language.


There are three primary modes of application of NVC:

Self-empathy involves compassionately connecting with what is going on inside us. This may involve, without blame, noticing the thoughts and judgments we are having, noticing our feelings, and most critically, connecting to the needs that are affecting us.

Receiving empathically, in NVC, involves "connection with what's alive in the other person and what would make life wonderful for them... It's not an understanding of the head where we just mentally understand what another person says... Empathic connection is an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person, the divine energy in the other person, the life that's alive in them... It doesn't mean we have to feel the same feelings as the other person. That's sympathy, when we feel sad that another person is upset. It doesn't mean we have the same feelings; it means we are with the other person... If you're mentally trying to understand the other person, you're not present with them." ([30] ch.5) Empathy involves "emptying the mind and listening with our whole being." NVC suggests that however the other person expresses themselves, we focus on listening for the underlying observations, feelings, needs, and requests. It is suggested that it can be useful to reflect a paraphrase of what another person has said, highlighting the NVC components implicit in their message, such as the feelings and needs you guess they may be expressing.

Expressing honestly, in NVC, is likely to involve expressing an observation, feeling, need, and request. An observation may be omitted if the context of the conversation is clear. A feeling might be omitted if there is sufficient connection already, or the context is one where naming a feeling isn’t likely to contribute to connection. It is said that naming a need in addition to a feeling makes it less likely that people will think you are making them responsible for your feeling. Similarly, it is said that making a request in addition to naming a need makes it less likely that people will infer a vague demand that they address your need. The components are thought to work together synergistically. According to NVC trainer Bob Wentworth, "an observation sets the context, feelings support connection and getting out of our heads, needs support connection and identify what is important, and a request clarifies what sort of response you might enjoy. Using these components together minimizes the chances of people getting lost in potentially disconnecting speculation about what you want from them and why."


The Living Force
Hi Turgon. That does read like an interesting framework. I seem to recognize some of the elements of Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations in that material, and on that basis I agree with your initial assessment.

Turgon said:
Not sure how well a communication style like this would work when dealing with pathology,...

"Doc" Thompson's Verbal Judo, defined generally as "using one's words to prevent, de-escalate, or end an attempted assault" may help fill in any gap for "dealing with pathology" in a conversation context. Although Doc's work was originally slanted towards police officers, it's emphasis on how to avoid ego errors should work for anyone. IOW, assuming a person has some business for saying what they're saying because they're supposed to be representing someone or something other than their own ego preferences (and this could be just a consciously agreed upon ethic in some area), then they'd have whatever authority and confidence they need and should be good to go!


The Living Force
I liked the simple and entertaining presentation. I find this idea of need fulfillment being the reason for all of our actions interesting. In any case, taking responsibility for one's own needs is pretty important. I find in myself the tendency to sometimes expect others to fulfill my needs, needs which to me are not apparent. I think I take pride in being able to fulfill other's needs and not having needs of my own.

So in those two findings lies a dark area which is - what are my needs, truly?

Right off the top of my head, I know of the needs for food & shelter. However, going deeper we find that what really seems to be on peoples hearts and minds are their emotional needs. It's a confusing area and links the mind back to the body. It doesn't help when one is disconnected from one's body because it seems to cancel out an awareness of their needs.

So what's the answer? Get out of my head? But I like being in my head. It's fun and I get to do things such as learn and play. Maybe the body also does these things and there needs to be a balance between the two. Awareness of both and giving both their due then maybe will work.

The stuff that is discussed in the video is great, in the context of personal relationships, but maybe outside of it, there needs to be something more. What I'm thinking of is work situations, where there is normally a strict code of conduct. There's sometimes no room for feelings because it gets in the way of getting things done, it ain't expedient! I guess in work situations, we do have to sacrifice these things for shared higher goals.

Thanks for the post Turgon.
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