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Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a process developed by Marshall Rosenberg. It is a way to communicate with greater compassion and clarity. It focuses on two things: honest self-expression — exposing what matters to oneself in a way that's likely to inspire compassion in others, and empathy — listening with deep compassion.
One central tenet of nonviolent communication (also called "compassionate communication") is that everything a human being does (whether benign or hurtful) is an attempt to meet their human needs. NVC postulates that conflict between individuals or groups is a result of miscommunication about these needs, often because of coercive language or manipulative language (e.g., inducing fear, guilt, shame, praise, blame, duty, obligation, punishment, or reward).
One aim of NVC is to create a situation in which everyone's needs are met. The reasoning is that from a state of mutual understanding and compassion, new strategies will be generated that meet at least some needs of everyone.
NVC advocates that in order to understand each other, the parties express themselves in objective and neutral terms (talking about their factual observations, feelings and needs) rather than in judgmental terms (such as good versus bad, right versus wrong, or fair versus unfair). Formal NVC self-expression follows four steps: making neutral observations (distinguished from interpretations/evaluations e.g. "I see that you are wearing a hat while standing in this building."), expressing feelings (emotions separate from reasons and interpretation e.g. "I am feeling puzzled"), expressing needs (deep motives e.g. "I have a need to learn about other people's motives for doing what they do") and making requests (clear, concrete, feasible and without an explicit or implicit demand e.g. "Please share with me, if you are willing, your reasons for wearing the hat in this building."). Practicing NVC means that one listens carefully and patiently to others, even when speaker and listener are in conflict. The listener may show empathy for the speaker by responding with reworded versions of the speaker's own statements ("I hear you saying that....") and attempting to recognize the needs motivating the speaker's words ("It sounds like you need....").
One definition of nonviolent communication offered by Rosenberg is the following:
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a way of speaking that facilitates the flow of communication needed to exchange information and resolve differences peacefully. It helps us identify our shared needs, encourages us to use language that increases goodwill, and avoid language that contributes to resentment or lowers self-esteem.
Nonviolent Communication focuses our attention on compassion as our motivation, rather than fear, guilt, blame, or shame. It emphasizes taking personal responsibility for our choices and improving the quality of our relationships as our goal. It is effective even when the other person or group is not familiar with the process.
NVC gives priority to creating a high quality of connection to oneself and between people. NVC advocates claim that without connection, effective communication cannot occur.
Maintaining a focus on needs is a central premise. Needs, as the term is used in NVC, are universal and experienced by all people at different times and to different degrees. They serve as a basis for understanding and more easily sympathizing with motivations.
NVC distinguishes needs from strategies, which are specific plans to try to meet needs. NVC advocates claim that if people interact only with an awareness of strategies, it is easy for people's strategies to come into conflict. NVC advocates claim that operating from an awareness of needs increases flexibility, insofar as there are typically many strategies that could lead to a given need being met. NVC practitioners report that awareness of needs leads to deep satisfaction.
NVC processes and attitudes are strategies intended to "serve life" — to increase the joy and well-being of all. NVC advocates claim quality connections and a focus on meeting everyone's needs serve these ends.
 OFNR process model
The NVC model has three or four steps depending on the mode of use.
- Request (optional, depending on mode)
The two modes of use of the NVC model are
- empathy, including both self-empathy, and empathy for another, and
- honest self-expression, including "please" (request) and "thank you" (gratitude)
 OFNR model in more detail
The four steps, when used in "self-expression" mode, work like this:
- To observe without evaluation, judgment, or analysis,
- To express feelings which these observations evoke,
- To express needs connected with these feelings,
- (optional) To make a specific request of another person to help meet an unmet need, and to enrich life of everyone involved. Essential in this is that the other person is to be left free to honour or decline the request.
In this recipe, offering an observation serves to give the listener a reference as to the subject. Offering a feeling (uncontaminated by interpretation and blame) tends to increase connection. Expressing needs, either met or unmet, provides connection and meaning. Finally, a request offers clarity as to what the speaker wants.
Demands (for which there is only one acceptable response) do not meet the recipient's need for autonomy and tend to produce either submission or rebellion. Typically, neither of these responses is enjoyable for both parties. Both responses foster resentment and strain the relationship. In contrast, it is felt that the consistent use of requests (for which no answer will trigger retaliation of any kind) leads to people experiencing the joy of giving. People will often say "yes" to a request out of the desire to contribute to one another, which NVC practitioners maintain is a stronger and more universal motivation than is commonly recognized.
If a request yields a "no," the suggestion is to interpret that as information that a need exists that the requester was not aware of and may want to investigate. The need that originally motivated the request is more likely to be met through a strategy that respects all needs.
The Empathy process practiced in NVC is sometimes called "deep listening". It involves the listener connecting with the essential core of an individual's experience and offering a kindly energy of presence. The empathy process offered by NVC is often referred to as "giving empathy." It is more accurately a procedure that supports the development of true empathy.
This process involves listening for, and sometimes guiding the other person towards describing:
- Observations as to what happened,
- Feelings evoked, sometimes guessing what feelings might be, if the other is (for example) in blame mode,
- Needs both met and unmet, although the unmet needs are most likely to be provoking the feelings involved
(Note: in Empathy mode, the "Request" step for the OFNR model is omitted.)
The empathy process for another may be conducted out loud, as an interaction with that person, or silently, as an inner approach to awareness of that person's experience.
Empathy brings about understanding of the needs of the one "receiving" empathy, and also relieves emotional charge. Emotional charge is often uncomfortable and is a barrier to being able to hear others clearly and respond in a flexible fashion. Thus, empathy may be used to relieve distress and increase understanding and readiness for hearing.
 Formal vs. colloquial
To communicate using NVC, one can choose to speak either "formal" or "colloquial" NVC. In formal NVC, following the OFNR steps to provide empathy and express oneself, one tends to use standard NVC expressions and NVC words such as "feel" and "need." Formal NVC can be well-received and effective, but it is sometimes perceived as odd and stilted by the receiving party. In colloquial (or "street") NVC, on the other hand, one seeks to use natural language that fits seamlessly in the exchange. So long as it springs from an awareness of needs and an intention to connect, such natural language may be considered NVC.
Formal NVC is used mainly to teach NVC and among NVC practitioners. To speak colloquial NVC effectively, mastering formal NVC first is recommended.
The name "nonviolent communication" refers to Mohandas Gandhi's philosophy of ahimsa or nonviolence. Unlike Gandhi, Rosenberg endorses the use of protective force—the use of force to keep injury from occurring, so long as it is not punitive, i.e., force applied with the intention to punish or harm someone for a past deed. Rosenberg says the desire to punish and the use of punitive measures only exist in cultures that have moralistic good/evil worldviews. He points out that anthropologists have discovered cultures in many parts of the world in which the idea of someone being "bad" makes no sense. He says such cultures tend to be peaceful and do not rely on punitive force to correct maladaptive or harmful behaviors. One example of such a culture is the Semai people in Malaysia.
Rosenberg has used the concept of nonviolent communication in peace programs in conflict zones including Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Serbia, Croatia, Ireland, and the Middle East including the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The approach also has been used in projects of Restorative Justice; bringing prisoners, victims of crime, police and other interested parties together for healing and reconciliation. NVC is recognized by the government of Israel and several NVC training schools have been founded there. The theory has much in common with concepts used in mediation and conflict resolution and is used by some mediators in their work.
 Relationship to other practices and philosophies
 See also
- Alternatives to Violence Project
- Marshall Rosenberg
- People skills
- Restorative justice
- Teaching for social justice
- Active listening
- ^ Nonviolent Communication
- ^ Rosenberg, Marshall (1999). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion. Puddledancer Press. ISBN 1892005026.
- ^ Rosenberg, Marshall (2003). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Puddledancer Press. ISBN 1892005034.
- ^ Buddhism and Nonviolent Communication: an interview with Oren Sofer, Stephen Colgan, Examiner.com, February 3, 2010
- ^ "NVC in the FWBO: Heart-to-Heart Communication", Shantigarbha, FWBO & TBMSG News, May 8, 2008
- ^ "Buddhism and Nonviolent Communication", Jason Little, Shambhala Times, January 31, 2009
- Atlee, T. "Thoughts on Nonviolent Communication and Social Change." Co-intelligence Institute.
- Kabatznick, R. and M. Cullen (2004) "The Traveling Peacemaker: A Conversation with Marshall Rosenberg." Inquiring Mind, Fall issue.
- Moore, P. (2004) "NonViolent Communication as an Evolutionary Imperative-The InnerView of Marshall Rosenberg" Alternatives, Issue 29, Spring.
- Simons, G. (2003) "Review of Nonviolent Communication" SIETAR Europa Newsletter, November.
- Sauer, M. (2004) "Expert on conflict resolution believes nonviolence is in our nature" San Diego Union-Tribune, October 14, 2004.
- van Gelder, S. (1998) "The Language of Nonviolence" Yes Magazine, Summer 1998
- How to Practice Nonviolent Communication Fairly detailed introductory how-to guide.
- The Center for Nonviolent Communication nonprofit international organization.
- PuddleDancer Press: the main English language publisher of Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication related self-help books on conflict resolution
- A fairly complete reference of NVC
- Common pitfalls and traps for beginning practitioners of NVC
- The complete nonviolent communication process