Nonviolent communication

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Introductory resources for Nonviolent Communication

Feelings and Needs Lists

What is "Nonviolent Communication"?

"Violent" vs "Nonviolent" Communication

If "violent" means acting in ways that result in harm, then much of how we communicate — with moralistic judgments, evaluations, criticisms, demands, coercion, or labels of "right" versus "wrong" - could indeed be called violent.

Unaware of the impact, we judge, label, criticize, command, demand, threaten, blame, accuse and ridicule. Speaking and thinking in these ways often leads to inner wounds, which in turn often evolve into depression, anger or physical violence.

Sadly, many of the world's cultures teach these "violent" methods of communication as normal and useful, so many of us find our communication efforts painful and distressed, but we don't know why.

What is "Nonviolent Communication"?

The concepts and tools of Nonviolent Communication are designed to help us think, listen and speak in ways that awaken compassion and generosity within ourselves and between each other. Nonviolent Communication helps us interact in ways that leave each of us feeling more whole and connected.

It ensures that our motivations for helping ourselves, and each other, are not from fear, obligation or guilt, but because helping becomes the most fulfilling activity we can imagine.

With its focus on interpersonal communication skills, a casual observer might suppose that the NVC process is only applicable to relationships or conflict resolution.

Yet people who practice the Nonviolent Communication process quickly discover its transformational impact in every area of the human experience - including transforming our classrooms and organizations, improving productivity in the workplace, transforming anger and emotional pain, enhancing our spiritual development, and creating efficient, empowering organizational structures.

- Marshall Rosenberg, from Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Nonviolent Communication Empathy Calls

With Nonviolent Communication Empathy calls, an important part of providing empathy in these calls is to provide guesses about the feelings and needs that seem to be alive for your empathy partner. This is something that is assumed and not mentioned in this guide for doing empathy calls that you can go to by clicking here.

While doing empathy calls, it's helpful to have feelings and needs lists in front of you. Click here for some lists you can use.

Teddy Bear Talk Support sessions for doing Nonviolent Communication (NVC) with non-NVC people

Asking non-NVC people to serve as teddy bears for you

Sharing NVC with non-NVC people can be hard. With Teddy Bear Talk Support, one advantage is that you can have them dip their toes in for a few minutes every now and then. You can also have it so they don't have to have much of an understanding of NVC to feel some of its magic. You can start out just by having them serve as a silent teddy bear so that they can experience the power of silent empathy. Then later on you can give them feelings and needs lists and have them make NVC empathy guesses. Maybe they'll be able to see how this can help with getting at what really matters and what's really alive for you. Maybe they'll be able to see how connecting this can be.

Maybe you can have them help you get to your deeper needs by telling them that, when they think it'd be helpful, they can ask you "What might you be needing, if you ____?"

  • have that need (meaning the need that you just said that you do have)
  • have that feeling (meaning the feeling that you just said that you do have)
  • want to blame ________
  • have an enemy image of __________
  • sound like we feel "done-to"

Maybe you can have them hold the space for a "jackal show" and help you to translate from jackal language (judging, blaming, criticizing, finding fault, making demands, and thinking in terms of people deserving rewards and punishments) to giraffe language (the language of NVC).

Note that much of this can all be done without having to explain Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests. Note that you can add some of these pieces in after they've already had quite a bit of experience with making feelings and needs guesses. Or maybe you might not want to add these things in. Maybe getting to share having each other as teddy bears that make feelings and needs guesses is already getting to share a lot.

Practicing making NVC feelings and needs guesses with non-NVC people

Teddy Bear Talk Support sessions are often of benefit to the teddy bear as well as the talker. You can specify that you would like to benefit from using a Teddy Bear Talk Support session to practice your NVC skills. This is something you can do with non-NVC people if you explain NVC feelings and needs guesses to them and propose being a teddy bear that offers feelings and needs guesses.

Why feelings and needs guesses can make a big difference

Here is an excerpt (with bold added for emphasis) from the book You're Not Listening: What You're Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy about research carried out by Graham Bodie, a professor of integrated marketing communication at the University of Mississippi:

People want the sense you get why they are telling you the story, what it means to them, not so much that you know the details of the story," Bodie told me. Trouble is, he and his colleagues have consistently found that most people are really bad at this. Their data suggests that listeners' responses are emotionally attuned to what speakers are saying less than 5 percent of the time, making your dog look pretty good by comparison.