by Penny Wassman

Personal website: www.pennywassman.ca

The international Center for Nonviolent Communication website: www.cnvc.org


Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a process of compassion that inspires deep, authentic self-connection and mutually empowering and respectful connection with other people. Created in the early 1960's by Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, NVC is based on the premise that mankind is an inherently nonviolent, interdependent species. The process, NVC, invites ongoing awareness of its 4 components with the question, "in this given moment, what is being observed, felt, needed, and requested?" While these components may be easy to grasp intellectually, if the process is "done" mechanically, it is unlikely to be sustained. Instead, as NVC is lived and experienced, it flows symbiotically in two infinitely evolving and connected directions: authentic presence and expression of oneself... and compassionate, empathic presence for others.

OBSERVATIONS: The developing awareness in this NVC component is the ability to distinguish an observation from an evaluation.

Example: "Bobby is irresponsible." (evaluation)
"Bobby picked up the children at 4:00 today after saying he would be at the school at 3:00." (observation)

FEELINGS: Feelings might be most optimally viewed as signals... signals that life as experienced in the moment is either working (needs are fulfilled) or not working (needs are not being fulfilled). NVC invites us to notice that many words commonly used as feelings are thoughts instead. For example, consider the word "ignored". I may say, "I feel ignored" (a thought that I'm not noticed) when my real feelings may be hurt or sadness because a need for inclusion or friendship may be unmet in that moment.

NEEDS: Needs are the universal pulse of humankind and the heart of NVC consciousness. Needs are common to people of all genders, races, beliefs, and cultures. Needs as they exist (love, contribution, peace, integrity, understanding - a few examples) are, at essence, abstract forms of living energy. They are often confused with the concrete (specific strategies). For example, my friend may be attached to an idea that she needs a specific person to do meet her for a chat, yet that person is resisting. If I assist her to look underneath this idea, she may come to a realization that her underlying needs are actually understanding and companionship. If she focuses on the needs (instead of her strategy), she is empowered to explore other options (possibly involving other people) to fulfill those needs and the world and its abundant possibilities open up to her.

REQUESTS: Initially, the request (if I am processing my own need) is always addressed to myself. Given my awareness of a particular need, what concrete do-able action am I requesting of myself? Suppose I have a need for support and I have a particular person in mind to fulfill that need. Imagine that my history with this person is such that I am not optimistic this need will be fulfilled. If I choose to speak to him, what specific do-able action am I requesting of him? If I am holding a critical evaluation of this person and project this energy, my request is less likely to be honoured... so, given my past experience with him, am I willing to also consider needs that might be present for him? Would I be making a request or a demand? If I'm unable, in this moment, to come up with a request to present to him, what other strategy might best fulfill my need? - and so the inner questions may evolve. Perhaps the most useful realization that arises as the request component of NVC is experienced, is the awareness that NVC is a non-linear process. So if requests do not evolve with ease, clarity is more likely to occur if the other components (observations, feelings and needs) are re-visited.

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Copyright 2005 Penny Wassman