This has been such a helpful tool in my life and in my family that I wanted to share it with all of you dear readers. I am hoping that this short introduction will excite you enough to learn more and apply it in your own life.
NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves and how we hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we perceive, feel and want in that moment.
Within the framework of NVC, we’re 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 specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative. – Marshal Rosenburg (founder of NVC)
The NVC process:
First, we observe what the others are saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life. The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without introducing any judgment or evaluation.
Next, we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated?
And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified. An awareness of these three components is present when we use NVC to clearly and honestly express how we are.
For example, a mother might express these three pieces to her teenage son by saying, “Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share in common.”
She would follow immediately with the fourth component – a very specific request: “Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?” This fourth component addresses what we are wanting from the other person that would enrich our lives or make life more wonderful for us.
NVC is a communication tool, it is an exchange. In addition to communicating our own feelings and needs, we must also learn to sense and connect with other people’s feelings and needs. This is the road to commpasionate communication. When we feel heard, we are more calm, when others feel heard, they are more calm. We can work on meeting the needs, rather then fighting over words.
NVC offers practical, concrete skills for manifesting the purpose of creating connections of compassionate giving and receiving based in a consciousness of interdependence and power with others. These skills include:
- Differentiating observation from evaluation, being able to carefully observe what is happening free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us;
- Differentiating feeling from thinking, being able to identify and express internal feeling states in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment;
- Connecting with the universal human needs/values (e.g. sustenance, trust, understanding) in us that are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling; and
- Requesting what we would like in a way that clearly and specifically states what we do want (rather than what we don’t want), and that is truly a request and not a demand (i.e. attempting to motivate, however subtly, out of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, etc. rather than out of willingness and compassionate giving).
These skills emphasize personal responsibility for our actions and the choices we make when we respond to others, as well as how to contribute to relationships based in cooperation and collaboration.
With NVC we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others, and to identify and clearly articulate what “is alive in us”. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, needed, and wanted, 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 others—NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative. – The Center for Non-Violent Communication
I use this method almost organically, I don’t follow the “formula” in my wording. I rarely say, “I am feeling angry because my need for support isn’t being met, would you be willing to help me clean up this mess?’ Instead I might say, “I would really like some help cleaning up, would you be willing to pick a chore to do?” Using the formula may feel foreign as we are not used to speaking in this way, it can also feel a little silly and repetitive to keep saying the same basic sentence. There is a video on YouTube about naturalizing NVC. It helps us live the concepts without sounding like a tape player on repeat. The words and sentence structure are not important. The main point is to connect rather the coerce, to hear behind their words what other people are needing, and to work cooperatively to get everyone’s needs met. We focus on win-win solutions where we all matter.
I especially enjoy Darrell Beckers adaptation on Non-Violent Communication. He calls it Voluntary Communication, and he does a great job at normalizing the process and making it less clunky and awkward. He does a 4 part series on the school sucks podcast if you are interested in checking it out.
Learning NVC has been by far the best education I have given myself in helping raise happy kids and be a happy parent. I hope it brings you as much joy as it has brought me.