Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) was created by Marshall Rosenberg, drawing on his experience in clinical psychology, comparative religion, and mediation. His work began in the 1960’s, and grew into an institution, the Center for NVC, which was created in 1984. The contents of this page are largely from the Center for NVC (CNVC) website, where you can find further information and resources.

The CNVC website describes NVC as a “language of life” that helps us to transform old patterns of defensiveness and aggressiveness into compassion and empathy and to improve the quality of all of our relationships.

NVC is based on a simple model consisting of four components with two parts.

Four Components

1. Observation: Observation without evaluation consists of noticing concrete things and actions around us. We learn to distinguish between judgement and what we sense in the present moment, and to simply observe what is there.

2. Feeling: When we notice things around us, we inevitably experience varying emotions and physical sensations in each particular moment. Here, distinguishing feelings from thoughts is an essential step to the NVC process.

3. Needs: All individuals have needs and values that sustain and enrich their lives. When those needs are met, we experience comfortable feelings, like happiness or peacefulness, and when they are not, we experience uncomfortable feelings, like frustration. Understanding that we, as well as those around us, have these needs is perhaps the most important step in learning to practice NVC and to live empathically.

4. Request: To make clear and present requests is crucial to NVC’s transformative mission. When we learn to request concrete actions that can be carried out in the present moment, we begin to find ways to cooperatively and creatively ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

Two Parts

1. Empathy: Receiving from the heart creates a means to connect with others and share experiences in a truly life enriching way. Empathy goes beyond compassion, allowing us to put ourselves into another’s shoes to sense the same feelings and understand the same needs; in essence, being open and available to what is alive in others. It also gives us the means to remain present to and aware of our own needs and the needs of others even in extreme situations that are often difficult to handle.

2. Honesty: Giving from the heart has its root in honesty. Honesty begins with truly understanding ourselves and our own needs, and being in tune with what is alive in us in the present moment. When we learn to give ourselves empathy, we can start to break down the barriers to communication that keep us from connecting with others.

The model provides an outline for how to apply the ideas which can be used and adapted by individuals. It is based on how we can communicate the components of the model, as follows;

When I see that __________ (observation)
I feel __________ (feeling)
because my need for __________ is/is not met. (need)
Would you be willing to __________? (request)

You can find further information, including a 35 page guide, on the NVC instruction guide page of the CNVC website.