Establishing better Communication in Relationships/Marriage through Nonviolent Communication
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a way of communicating that helps inspire compassion toward others, as well as toward ourselves. NVC teaches us to express ourselves and to hear others by focusing on Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests. NVC teaches that judgements, evaluations, diagnoses, and other similar means of communicating decrease the connection between ourselves and others, and also decrease the chances of our needs being met. The NVC model helps us refrain from the aforementioned “violent” means of communicating, and focus instead on compassionate communication where empathy and understanding are the primary goals.
Nonviolent communication is a powerful process that creates compassionate relationships, helps to prevent and resolve conflicts, and facilitates communication that helps everyone get their needs met.
A Brief Overview of Nonviolent Communication
NVC consists of two parts:
- Fully and honestly expressing ourselves, but without blame or criticism.
- Empathically receiving the communication of others, without hearing blame or criticism, even when they express themselves in hostile ways.
Both when expressing ourselves and when listening to others, Nonviolent Communication helps us to focus attention on a four step process:
- Make an observation
- State what/how you feel
- State what need of yours is (or is not) being met
- Make a request
- Very specific and factual
- State exactly what happened – what the person did or said (in case of what they said – stay as close to verbatim as possible)
- Refer to the most recent specific example of the repetitive behavior rather than saying in general what the person is doing
- Observation about another person always starts with “When you did…” or “When you said…”, not with “you are…” (which is a diagnosis or a judgment), as well as “your problem is…”, “the reason you did that is…”
- Watch out for words that imply judgments: always, never, ever, often, rarely Examples: Evaluation: You are always late. Observation: You came home an hour later than usual 3 times last week. Evaluation: You don’t care about me. Observation: You looked away when I told you about my argument with my boss.
- Feelings are expressed in one word: angry, frustrated, hurt, sad, annoyed, glad, pleased, happy.
- Watch out for the phrases “I felt like…”, or “I felt that…”. They are not feelings, but thoughts.
- We all share the same feelings – making it easier to connect to one another
- Needs are what we would like to have (happened), what we value.
- Our feelings are caused by our needs, not by what the other person said or did.
- We all share some basic needs: connection, communication, to understand and to be understood, respect, autonomy, security/safety.
- Words like “ignored, betrayed, misunderstood, abandoned, rejected” contain both a feeling (i.e. sad, hurt, lonely) and our interpretation of what the other person did. It is helpful to focus on feelings and avoid interpretations. Example: your friend is late – you may feel upset and impatient (if we have a need for trust and keeping one’s commitments, or if we want to get someplace on time) or we may be pleased (if we need some more time alone to focus and relax.
4) Requests – Strategies for resolving the problem
- The main goal of this practice is to have more understanding of ourselves and the other person — to make a connection with them. Only after we truly understand one another can we talk about strategies to get the problem resolved. There is often more than one way to resolve an issue that will get your needs met.
- Make a specific and “doable” request about the other’s actions or words.
- Specific – what exactly we want the other person to do, how we want it done, how often, etc.
- “Doable” – instead of “don’t do X” ask for something a person can do.
- Example: The request, “I want you to pay more attention to me,” is not specific. “Would you be willing to come down and greet me at the door when I come home from work tomorrow?” That is specific.
Pay attention to emotional content – how the other person is feeling. Even if no feelings are mentioned – try to make a guess of how they feel (but be clear that it is a guess by posing it as a question (ex. “Are you feeling sad?”).
- Why are they feeling that way? What do they want to have? What do they value?
Even if the speaker does not follow the “rules” above, we may still try and focus on their feelings and needs instead of their judgment/criticism of our behavior. Reflect back/paraphrase what they say (either the way they say it, or better yet making a guess about their feelings and needs).
The full Nonviolent Communication format
- When you said/did ____ , I felt ____ because I would like/ I value ____. Would you be willing to ____?
- Example: “When you came home late last night, I felt disappointed because I wanted to spend some time together. Would you be willing to come home by 5 pm tomorrow night?”
(c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication
Website: www.cnvc.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Origins of Nonviolent Communication
- Living in Harmony With Our Values
- Applications of Nonviolent Communication
- Communication Without Judgment
- Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings
- Learning a Language of Needs
- Relating to the Needs of Others
- Needs Are Life in Action
- Connecting Empathically With Others
- Defusing Violence With Empathy
- Conversation and Silence
- Healing Power of Empathy
- Learning to Express Anger Fully
- Cause of Anger
- Difference Between Cause and Stimulus
- Techniques for Expressing Anger