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How Non-Violent Communication Can Change Your Life

By Edited Aug 25, 2016 3 3

What is NVC?

Non-violent communication (NVC) is about being empathic, not only with others but with yourself. It can radically change how you think about yourself (you get to know why you feel a certain way) and how you feel when people say something to you.

The Evil Jackal
First, you have to know that we live in a world of jackals. This is the term used by Marshall Rosenberg, the father of non-violent communication. Jackals communicate violently because they don't know how to do it better. Your mother could be a jackal too (sorry):

"Son, you never care about me."

This is the jackal way of saying: "Son, I feel sad because you cannot come to see me every weekend. I need to be around my children more frequently."

The first comment makes you feel bad because your mother is judging you, and you can take it as an attack. The second one expresses facts, feelings and needs. You cannot argue over these, they only encourage you to resolve the conflict.

Self-empathy: What is Really Wrong With Me?

In order to speak in a non-violent way, you need self-empathy. That is, you need to ask you WHAT you feel and WHY. Feelings and needs.

Only then, you can talk using facts, feelings and needs. So instead of saying something like "You don't know how to clean the carpet!", you say: "It frustrates me [a feeling] seeing you cleaning the carpet using that product [a fact, not an opinion] because I need things to be according to my standards [a need]." Or something along these lines.

Once you now what you feel and why, then you can make a specific request: "Could you use this product instead?" You just speak out your needs and ask the other person if he wants to cooperate to satisfy them. It's not selfish, it's just you communicating fairly with other people.

Your boyfriend may still think you are a freak control, but at least you are not confronting him, and he'll have a chance to talk to you reasonably.

My Mind-changing Experiment

Sometimes we cannot even know why we feel a certain way, but I committed myself for a week to know myself better. I set up a reminder on my mobile phone to show up four times a day with the following question: "What are you feeling now? What is your need?"

Everytime I answered this question, I tried to keep digging:

"I feel frustrated because I need to finish what I planned today. Wait... I actually need that because I actually have a need to improve my skills. But, why? Because I feel inferior and need other people's approval." Then, I end up identifying my real need.

Now you know what's causing you to feel a certain way and you can do something about it. Next time maybe you won't be so hard on yourself or realize that there's no point in feeling a certain way.

You can break a lot of established thought patterns in your head. I certainly did.

Exercise: Think about a particular situation; an argument with your father, or a friend. How does this make you feel? Why do you feel like that? What do you really need?

Empathy: Put Your Giraffe's Ears

Non-violent communication
Giraffes are the animal with the biggest heart. They only hear "thank you" and "please" from other people's mouths. See what I mean:

Your wife: "You spend too much time at work!"

With your giraffe's ears on: "Please, can you spend more time with me?"

Then, you can say: "I see, so you would like to spend more time with me?". (Maybe you are wrong assuming that, but hey, you're empathizing. You just try to connect with your wife and understand her).

If you train yourself to hear "thank you" and "please", you'll certainly live a happier and more compassionate life.

"You may have read a great deal, be capable of great arguments and of solving problems, but the problem-solving mind is not the intelligent mind. Intelligence comes with compassion, with love. And when that intelligence is an action of compassion it is global, not a particular action." - Krishnamurthy

More on NVC

Practicing non-violent communication actually takes guts, because we feel that expressing our needs is a sign of weakness. But this is the only way we can resolve our conflicts without fighting.

In addition, it sounds very unnatural at first to talk the facts, feelings and needs language but it is very advisable to start this way to train our brain, it is like learning a second language.

Watch and listen to Marshall Rosenberg in this workshop if you want to learn more in a very practical way. He is an American psychologist and the author of "Non-Violent Communication, A Language of Life: Create Your Life, Your Relationships and Your World in Harmony with Your Values (Nonviolent Communication Guides)."

I also recommend this book: What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication, in which a couple, a yoga teacher and a mediator, uses Rosenberg's techniques as spiritual practice.

If you want to start changing the world, you have the tools now.



Oct 3, 2012 9:47am
I really enjoyed this article. Thanks for the breakdown and great examples!
Oct 3, 2012 4:35pm
Excellent choice of topic for an article. I think it is good to practice compassion and understanding in relationships. Too much of what is communicated in the world today is through ego, and what we can supposedly 'get' from another person, whether it is spouse, family member or even a complete stranger. Emotional triggers often come up in such situations. Being non-violent in communication is definitely the way to go.
Oct 3, 2012 9:44pm
Thank you thewinking! Glad you liked it.

wordspeller: For me, compassion is one of the most healing things people can do to themselves. I'm trying everyday. I know I'm still a "jackal" but now I'm aware when I'm being one, and that simple fact helps a lot. Thanks for your comment!
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