Non Violent Communication, A technique that helps lift depression, prevent mania, and reduce anxiety.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a communication approach that emphasizes compassion and empathy when people communicate with each other. Developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, NVC is based on the idea that language is a powerful tool that can either contribute to or alleviate human suffering. The approach has been widely adopted by individuals and organizations as a means of resolving conflicts and fostering healthy relationships.  In this article, I hope to help you understand how you can use NVC to improve your relationships, reduce conflict, and thereby improve your mood and reduce anxiety.

At the core of NVC is the belief that everyone has the capacity for empathy and compassion. The approach is grounded in the idea that every individual has basic needs that must be met in order for them to feel fulfilled. NVC emphasizes the importance of recognizing these needs and learning how to communicate them effectively so you can build strong and lasting relationships.

One of the key principles of NVC is the use of “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You are always so selfish,” one might say, “I feel hurt and unsupported when I don’t feel like my needs are being taken into account.” This subtle shift in language can have a profound impact on how others receive the message. By using “I” statements, you take responsibility for your own feelings and needs, rather than placing blame on the other person.

Another important aspect of NVC is the use of active listening. This involves fully attending to the speaker, without judgment or interruption, and seeking to understand their perspective. Active listening requires a deep level of empathy and an ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This can be challenging, especially in situations where there is conflict or tension, but it is an essential skill for effective communication.

In addition to using “I” statements and active listening, NVC also involves identifying and expressing your own needs and feelings in a clear and respectful manner. This requires a degree of self-awareness and an ability to articulate your needs and feelings without blaming or criticizing others. By expressing your needs and feelings in a clear and respectful manner, you can create an environment that is conducive to open and honest communication.

NVC also emphasizes the importance of empathy and compassion in communication. This means recognizing the inherent humanity in every individual and seeking to understand their perspective and experience. By approaching communication with empathy and compassion, you can create an environment of trust and mutual respect in your relationships.

One of the key benefits of NVC is that it can be used in a variety of settings and contexts. Whether in personal relationships, professional settings, or community organizations, NVC can help individuals and groups resolve conflicts and build strong and lasting relationships. By fostering empathy, compassion, and effective communication, NVC can help create a more harmonious and interconnected world.  Use caution in professional and community settings, feeling out the culture of acceptance of this type of communication.  Some settings may frown on the expression of feelings.

However, like any communication approach, NVC is not without its limitations. One potential criticism of NVC is that it can be overly focused on individual needs and feelings, at the expense of larger societal issues. For example, in situations where there are power imbalances or systemic injustices, focusing solely on individual needs and feelings may not be sufficient to create meaningful change. In these situations, a more structural approach may be necessary.

Another potential limitation of NVC is that it requires a high degree of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. For individuals who struggle with self-awareness or emotional regulation, NVC may be difficult to implement effectively. In these cases, additional support or training may be necessary to help people develop the skills necessary for the effective use of NVC.

Despite these potential limitations, NVC remains a powerful tool for fostering empathy, compassion, and effective communication. By emphasizing the importance of individual needs and feelings, NVC can help individuals and groups build strong and lasting relationships. By fostering empathy and compassion, NVC can help create a more harmonious and interconnected world.

Making NVC even more effective involves starting with an appreciation of the person you are having a conversation with, continuing with the ‘I’ statement and adding your contribution to the conflict.  This might look something like this:

“I really appreciate that you cleaned up the kitchen last night.  I felt hurt when you didn’t come inside before dinner to help me get the kids to the table.  I acknowledge that I’ve done it on my own many times before and that I was more worn out than usual today so I didn’t have the energy to come get you.”

It is important to remember that conflicts involve two people and are rarely the sole fault of one individual.  The  structure for this interaction is this:

  1. Express appreciation for the person with whom you are communicating.  This appreciation must be about something they did or about their personality.  This is not a physical attribute.
  2. Next, express your feelings and the event that triggered them using “I feel”, then your feelings, followed by one specific thing they did to trigger your feelings.  It is crucially important to only include one thing they did so as to help them hear your feelings and not feel blindsided by too many issues.
  3. Next, acknowledge some way that you contributed to the conflict at hand.  This helps them feel like it isn’t all on their shoulders.

Try this technique with someone you care about.  

            Once you have established the conflict, you can also ask your partner to sit with you and brainstorm solutions.  Together you make a list of 6-10 potential solutions to the problem, all suggestions are valid and get written down.  Each party is listened to and validated.  Once there is a list, you go through it together and each gets a chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and why you like it or dislike it.  Ideally, if you have clarified the conflict effectively, you’ll be able to find at least one item that you both agree to try.  Sometimes, you can combine ideas or edit them.  For even more effective results, you can write up a simple contract that might look like this:

Person A agrees to do X at this time________.  Person B agrees to do Y at this time__________.

If either person doesn’t do their part, they agree to this consequence:____________________.

We agree to revisit this in ______________ (2 weeks?) at this location:___________________.

Sign and date.  Happy conflict resolution!

#nonviolentcommunication #problemsolving #relationshipbuilding