Nonviolent Communication

What is Nonviolent Communication?

For me, it is before everything else, a violence free journey process towards our innate compassionate nature, our true essence.

The founder Marshall Rosenberg, tells about how he developed Nonviolent Communication, longing for “a compassionate flow, based on giving and receiving from the heart.”

Nonviolent Communication suggests that people take action motivated by the need of giving from the heart, rooted in their compassionate nature rather than motivated by fear, guilt, shame or obligation. The purpose is to care for the needs of all included.

In his book Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life, Marshall Rosenberg says that: “Even though I speak of this method as a “communication process” or language of compassion”, Nonviolent Communication is indeed more than a process or a language. On a deeper level, Nonviolent Communication constantly reminds us to focus our attention where we actually can find what we are looking for.”

The process of Nonviolent Communication invites us to translate “what is missing” in our lives to “what we are longing for.”

What are the Four Components of Nonviolent Communication?

With Nonviolent Communication, we focus our conscious attention to here and now, with the intention of building a connection, where everyone’s needs are valued the same. The four components of Nonviolent Communication which are observation, feelings, needs and requests bring us step by step back to our inherent nature of being able to give and receive from the heart.

We want to learn the four components of Nonviolent Communication not to get “a new and ‘right’ way to talk” but because they offer a guide that can contribute to our intention of meeting with our own compassion.


What is Observation?

It is the first component of Nonviolent Communication. It is about concretely observing what makes us feel nice, or what stops us from feeling that (the trigger). While doing that, it is key to differentiate between what we are observing and our own interpretation about the observation.

The observation is something that we can see, hear, touch and remember. It is describable. It is like a camera recording of whatever is happening or happened. Interpretation and evaluation on the other hand, contain the conclusions that we draw from our observations, our comments or judgments, the accumulated information in our minds.

When we learn to translate our judgments and interpretations, this takes us out of the vicious circle of right and wrong, and focuses our attention on the needs that are the source of our feelings, therefore we start taking responsibility of our reactions. Observations serve us to connect on a deeper level with ourselves and others. This in turn creates a substantial transformation in our consciousness. Here’s how Marshall Rosenberg explains this: “If we focus on clarifying observations, feelings and needs rather than trying to make a diagnosis and judge, we can discover the depth of our compassion.”

Why Do We Want To Notice Our Feelings?

The second component of Nonviolent Communication is feelings. We cannot put the responsibility of our feelings on someone else’s shoulders. Our feelings cannot be created by others. Some other person might stimulate/trigger us but the stimulated feelings are in fact just messengers of our own needs.

In the process of Nonviolent Communication, to notice and allow the feelings is highly valued because they are the feedback of our “brain” or “the life in us” about our needs being met or unmet. Comfortable feelings are messengers of met needs and uncomfortable ones are messengers of unmet needs.

When we express our feelings, we continue to take responsibility for our experience. This way, others can hear what is important for us and not criticism or blame towards them. This is how we can step into communication where both our needs and theirs can be met.

What are Needs?

The third component of Nonviolent Communication is needs, lying at the root of feelings, causing them to arouse. Needs are the expression of the life energy in us. It is the source of our aliveness. If we can’t meet certain needs, our life is narrowed, we might become ill or even die.

When we confuse strategies and needs, and when we get stuck on some particular strategy or outcome, we usually suffer. We can be free from suffering if we leave strategies that are not working for us, and if we detach from particular outcomes. Meeting with our innate needs, we open to creativity and naturally find other strategies to meet our needs. This is how we train our minds towards abundance consciousness.

Whatever action we are doing, we are doing it to express our life energy to the world. When we choose to do something we later come to regret, we can take a look at the needs we were trying to meet and the ones that went unmet, and we can find compassion. This way we can discover how to act differently if the same situation occurs once again, without blaming or judging ourselves. This helps us to learn to make more suitable choices for ourselves and to grow.

By creating peace within ourselves, we can do more to contribute to the peace in the world. At the same time, by expressing ourselves, growing, contributing and connecting with the world, we can find more freedom, power and compassion.

Needs have three basic attributes:

  1. They are universal.
  2. They are the motivation of all of our actions.
  3. At each given moment, we are doing the best to meet our needs.

What are Requests?

Vivet Alevi describes Nonviolent Communication as “Action of Love”. Inspired by her, I can say that Nonviolent Communication is a method to act with love. In that sense, the forth step of Nonviolent Communication which is Request, leads us to act out of love, to find strategies in an abundance consciousness.

Requests express an effort to use concrete action language. It brings clarification to here and now. It brings everything to the present moment. It contains things that are doable, applicable. It is done with the consciousness that all parties have the freedom to choose.

What I make is a request when I express a concrete wish that could meet my need, that is doable in the moment in a positive language.

Once we identify what need of ours is unmet, unlimited ways to meet the need (strategies) unfold before us. Requests present the most convenient strategy for us in the given situation.

Most of us are brought up to ask for nothing of others. This is based on unwritten rules such as “If you are a nice person, people will be willing to meet your needs.” This is at best confusing and at worst, completely inefficient as it puts the burden of discovering what we need on other people. At the same time it strips us from the responsibility of meeting our own needs.

When we are not clear on what we want from other people to meet our needs, we create confusion, unease and dissatisfaction both for ourselves and others.