Nonviolent communication (NVC)
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Nonviolent communication (NVC)

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Nonviolent communication is a framework that helps you express grievances, give critical feedback and resolve conflicts in a non-confrontational way.

🔖 Table of contents

💡 About NVC

The premise of NVC is that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that induces fear, guilt, shame, etc. These "violent" modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention away from clarifying one's needs, feelings, perceptions, and requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.

NVC can be applied in different modes and environments - whether it is expressing yourself honestly in a conflict with another person, giving or receiving feedback empathically, or practicing self-empathy and connecting to what is going on inside us. The framework helps you prepare for difficult conversations, by breaking down the situation into 4 components

  1. Expressing facts
  2. Expressing feelings
  3. Expressing needs
  4. Making a request

✂️ How to use it?

1. Express facts

First, write down objective observations, the facts - what you are seeing, hearing, touching. If you have a hard time recognizing the facts, think about "How would a fly on the wall describe this situation?" It helps to focus on observations specific to time and context to make the situation easy to understand for your counterpart.

  • Language you can use: "When I (see, hear),...."

2. Express feelings

Describe your emotions or sensations. Doing so helps us to more easily connect with one another. Be mindful to distinguish feelings from your internal thoughts ("I feel ignored" as opposed to "You are ignoring me"). When noting your feelings, remove words that we use colloquially but that are not constructive to making the argument. Instead they might 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").

  • Language you can use: "I feel...."

3. Express needs

Articulate what you need or value.

  • Language you can use: "...because I need/value..."

4. Make a request

Request a specific action to your counterpart, but do so free of demand - be open to hearing "no". If you get a negative answer, empathize with the other person and try to discuss what is preventing them from saying "yes". Don't be forceful, use clear, positive, concrete action language.

  • Language you can use: "Would you be willing to...?."

🌊 Example

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This example shows how the NVC framework can be applied for giving feedback.

  1. Express facts
    • In the client meeting earlier this morning, you said in front of the client that my team would deliver the documents by the end of the week.
  2. Express feelings
    • When you said that, I felt like I was put on the spot. I did not have the opportunity to give you my perspective beforehand, and I felt frustrated because I could not have negotiated the deadline with you in front of the client.
  3. Express needs
    • I really value the work our team is doing and working with you, so I feel like aligning between the two of us before speaking to clients is essential.
  4. Make a request
    • Next time, can we please take the time and talk about the delivery timeline before the meeting? I feel like that would give us an opportunity to better understand where we're coming from, and show up better in front of our clients.

📚 Additional reading resources