Nonviolent communication

by Anna Finlayson and Daren DeWitt

Introduction

NVC is one of the most useful things you will ever learn.

William Ury, Getting to Yes

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)SM is currently recognised as one of the world’s leading conflict resolution models. At the time of writing, it is being utilised by people from all walks of life in more than 65 countries worldwide. It is also a powerful tool for connecting with and understanding people.

It is a universal tool, simple in essence, with four main ‘steps’ or ‘ingredients’ that can be used in any situation: at work, at home, socially, within and between communities and even nations. Anyone who has to listen to other people will find something of use in this process. It supports deep listening through its emphasis on connecting with others – and ourselves – at the level of universal human needs.

The process of Nonviolent Communication has a flow to it. From helping us to clarify what is going on in the situations we find ourselves engaged with, it moves us through to connection with ourselves and others, and from there to strategies to resolve issues. The emphasis on connection with ourselves and others separates this process from other models, many of which focus on finding solutions to problems, missing the value of connecting with humans at the level of their deeper, human motivation. When we connect at the level of our deeper, human motivation first, the solutions we seek are easier to arrive at, more apt, satisfying and lasting.

Nonviolent Communication is essentially a practical tool. It has been designed as a ‘how to’ rather than as a theory about conflict. It focuses particularly on the ways we communicate that get us into conflict, with others and internally, and how we can communicate to resolve conflict. It is also a ‘language of life’, providing us with tools to help us express ourselves clearly and humanely to others in any situation.

In this outline, the authors present the essential ingredients of Nonviolent Communication. They have also included examples of how NVC works, to resolve conflicts and also to empathise with others.

Caution

One word of warning: in writing this topic, the authors are conscious that while the technique is presented here, it is difficult to convey in printed words the spirit of this process. To get a true feeling for Nonviolent Communication, it is perhaps better to witness or experience it being used or demonstrated in action. And it helps to practise or try it out experientially in order to get a feel for how it can support you in your communication with others.