Nonviolent Communication (NVC), also known as Compassionate Communication, was developed by clinical psychologist Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s and 1970s.
Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, is considered the authoritative text about the concept, although there is a large ecosystem of workshops and clinical and self-help materials about NVC.
What is non-violent communication?
The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) offers International Intensive Trainings and certifies NVC trainers.
According to the CNVC website:
NVC is based on the principles of nonviolence – the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart. NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture.
NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that all actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs. People who practice NVC have found greater authenticity in their communication, increased understanding, deepening connection and conflict resolution.Source: https://www.cnvc.org/
The CNVC website outlines the basic model of NVC which cultivates Empathic Listening and Honest Expression using a four-step model – observations, feelings, needs, and requests. The heart of NVC is explained in Chapter 1 of NVC: The Language of Life.
My Introduction to Nonviolent Communication
I was introduced to NVC (compassionate communication) by a friend in 2008 while living in Albuquerque and began participating in workshops and practice groups. Having been an empath all my life,
I had feelings and emotions running rampant inside of me. However, I had not learned to identify or name them. NVC helped me develop the skills to differentiate between feelings and name them. This was the first gift NVC offered me.
The second gift was learning to identify the need or needs that were not being met when I was having a feeling (or a shit-show of feelings 😉). This was a critical learning for me since it had only been a few years prior that I learned that it is a normal human experience to have needs. Putting these two pieces together, having needs and knowing what they are, changed how I interacted with people and navigated the world.
The third gift, or key learning, was coming to understand there are many strategies for meeting my needs. I, and many people, want what we want. When we identify the unmet need that is driving what we desperately want, we often discover many strategies to meet the need, not just the one we’ve been perseverating on.
This concept threw open the doors to curiosity and exploration. No longer did I have to demand that I get what I wanted; I could now explore different ways to meet a need and be in conversation with myself and others about how we could meet that need.
As you might imagine, all this required learning to trust that others would be willing to engage with me with kindness and care. NVC practice groups were the place I, and many others, practiced this process.
I became a part of a community of people who were learning compassionate communication. People who were willing to engage with each other and stay in conversation even when emotionally triggered and finding it hard to regulate.
While often challenging, it was also deeply healing. And it was where I met my husband, who was a CNVC certified trainer at the time😊.
Over time, I developed a keen capacity to hear the needs (met or unmet) in conversations. This capacity, I believe, is one aspect of being present with others. It is, essentially, the way I engage my empathic abilities and is the cornerstone of my coaching.
I am present. I listen deeply. I reflect the needs I see, hear, feel or experience back to the person I’m in conversation with. I get curious about how they might be able to meet those needs and we talk about options.
This simple-but-not-easy process is incredibly healing and allows for action steps to emerge that deeply resonate for the person I’m coaching.
As you can imagine, they are much more likely to trust and take those action steps because they come from their own knowing – their own needs. In this way, my coaching is alchemical.
Although sometimes unfamiliar and scary, clients are much more likely to build nourishing, satisfying lives because they are built on their core values as expressed by their needs.
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