Nonviolent Communication

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Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a theory and practice intended to create a quality of connection among people such that they want to, and are able to, consider the needs of everyone involved in any given situation. It is also known as Compassionate Communication, because it's about learning to listen more compassionately, and to speak in ways that are likely to inspire compassion in others.

There is a large network of people sharing NVC through much of the world (see NVC people and organizations by area). In some places there are enough people supporting each other and working together that one might even call them communities.

Yet another name for NVC is giraffe Language - we use giraffe as a symbol for the kind of communication we are teaching, and jackal (or in some areas of the world wolf or snake) as a symbol for the kind of communication that is not compassionate, clear or connected.

Also see the Nonviolent Communication page on Wikipedia.


Nonviolent Communication is also the name of a book (ISBN 1-8920-0503-4) by Marshall Rosenberg explaining the theory/practice. It has been translated into many languages.

Website for the book (with many additional materials):

Ways of describing NVC

"NVC helps us when we are involved in communication which is difficult and potentially conflictual, to get beyond right, wrong, good, bad - to get in touch with what we are feeling and needing and express that to another person with no blame or demand. Equally it helps us hear the other person's feelings and needs behind any blame or demand they put on us. We do this by telling someone clearly and factually what triggered our present feelings, and what needs of ours are not being met right now. We might follow this with a specific, doable request. The most important thing underpinning all this is that we are seeking not to win, but to connect empathically, so that each person involved can find joy in meeting both their own and the other person's needs."

(a Conversational piece)

"Do you sometimes feel that you've said what you thought you meant to say with a strong wish to connect with someone, but the response you get from your listener doesn't bear this out? - its as if we know and feel inside at some level what it is we really want to express, but then there seems to be a mis-match between this and the language and habitual thought structures which we rely on to communicate ourselves. In fact, instead of actually expressing what is going on inside us, often we seem to just react and respond to things outside of ourselves - we talk to judge, evaluate, to make things wrong or right, to demand others to change, we blame and seek ways of influencing the outer world in an effort to express ourselves, offload tension, or make things better.

We have all learnt to do this - and it serves us to some extent. Recently, however, I came across a new way of thinking and communicating which I've found inspiring and really helpful, as it gives me more choice about how to express myself and how to listen to others in a more heartfelt way.

It goes like this...When we notice ourselves reacting to the outside world, we can identify what objective experience we are having without making any value judgements of it. Then we notice what feeling or feelings get triggered by that. If we can connect with those feelings, then we can do the next step. It's said that feelings always arise on the basis of needs - feelings are valuable information - if they are "positive" in nature, it means that our needs are being met, if "negative", then there are needs of ours which are not being met. Having identified what needs are, or are not, being met, we can then directly express things to others in the light of what we are feeling and needing. Finally, we can form requests and ask others to do specific and do-able things to support us in meeting those needs, (but without requiring them to do that).

When you practise this, it feels a bit strange at first, but gradually it becomes more natural and it feels satisfying to be able to say what it is that is real for us at any moment in an authentic way. And then when listening, the same applies - you stop hearing the words, and look for the feelings and needs the person might be experiencing, and you can empathise with those directly, and reflect that back to them, along with a suggestion for a request".