NVC – A SHORT OVERVIEW
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.