An enlightening look at how peaceful communication can create compassionate connections with family, friends, and other acquaintances, this international bestseller uses stories, examples, and sample dialogues to provide solutions to communication problems both at home and in the workplace. Guidance is provided on identifying and articulating feelings and needs, expressing anger fully, and exploring the power of empathy in order to speak honestly without creating hostility, break patterns of thinking that lead to anger and depression, and communicate compassionately.

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1 Giving From the Heart The Heart of Nonviolent Communication

1 Giving From the Heart The Heart of Nonviolent Communication Read more

The NVC Process Read more

To arrive at a mutual desire to give from the heart, we focus the light of consciousness on four areas—referred to as the four components of the NVC model. Read more

First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life? Read more

Next, we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated?Read more

And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified. Read more

Four components of NVC: 1. observations 2. feelings 3. needs 4. requests Read more

the fourth component—a very specific request: Read more

The other part of this communication consists of receiving the same four pieces of information from others. We connect with them by first sensing what they are observing, feeling, and needing; then we discover what would enrich their lives by receiving the fourth piece—their request. Read more

NVC Process The concrete actions we observe that affect our well-being How we feel in relation to what we observe The needs, values, desires, etc. that create our feelings The concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives Read more

Two parts of NVC: expressing honestly through the four components receiving empathically through the four components Read more

NVC helps us connect with each other and ourselves in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish. It guides us to reframe the way we express ourselves and listen to others by focusing our consciousness on four areas: what we are observing, feeling, and needing, and what we are requesting to enrich our lives. Read more

2 Communication That Blocks Compassion

Certain ways of communicating alienate us from our natural state of compassion. Read more

Moralistic Judgments One kind of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values. Read more

In the world of judgments, our concern centers on “who is what.” Read more

It is my belief that all such analyses of other human beings are tragic expressions of our own values and needs. They are tragic because when we express our values and needs in this form, we increase defensiveness and resistance among the very people whose behaviors are of concern to us. Read more

It is important here not to confuse value judgments and moralistic judgments. All of us make value judgments as to the qualities we value in life; for example, we might value honesty, freedom, or peace. Value judgments reflect our beliefs of how life can best be served. We make moralistic judgments of people and behaviors that fail to support our value judgments; for example, “Violence is bad. People who kill others are evil.” Read more

For example, instead of “Violence is bad,” we might say instead, “I am fearful of the use of violence to resolve conflicts; I value the resolution of human conflicts through other means.” Read more

Classifying and judging people promotes violence. Read more

Making Comparisons Another form of judgment is the use of comparisons. Read more

Another kind of life-alienating communication is denial of responsibility. Communication is life-alienating when it clouds our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Read more

We deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to factors outside ourselves: Read more

We can replace language that implies lack of choice with language that acknowledges choice. Read more

We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.Read more

Other Forms of Life-Alienating Communication

Communicating our desires as demands is yet another form of language that blocks compassion.Read more

Thinking based on “who deserves what” blocks compassionate communication. Read more

the more people are trained to think in terms of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness and badness, the more they are being trained to look outside themselves—to outside authorities—for the definition of what constitutes right, wrong, good, and bad. When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings. Read more

Summary It is our nature to enjoy giving and receiving compassionately. We have, however, learned many forms of life-alienating communication that lead us to speak and behave in ways that injure others and ourselves. One form of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of those who don’t act in harmony with our values. Another is the use of comparisons, which can block compassion both for others and for ourselves. Life-alienating communication also obscures our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Communicating our desires in the form of demands is yet another characteristic of language that blocks compassion. Read more

3 Observing Without Evaluating

3 Observing Without Evaluating Read more

The first component of NVC entails the separation of observation from evaluation. We need to clearly observe what we are seeing, hearing, or touching that is affecting our sense of well-being, without mixing in any evaluation. Read more

When we combine observation with evaluation, people are apt to hear criticism. Read more

The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once remarked that observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence. Read more

For most of us, it is difficult to make observations, especially of people and their behavior, that are free of judgment, criticism, or other Read more

Distinguishing Observations From Evaluations The following table distinguishes observations that are separate from evaluation from those that have evaluation mixed in. Read more

Words like frequently and seldom can also contribute to confusing observation with evaluation. Read more

The first component of NVC entails the separation of observation from evaluation. When we combine observation with evaluation, others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying. Read more

Instead, observations are to be made specific to time and context, for example, “Hank Smith has not scored a goal in twenty games,” rather than “Hank Smith is a poor soccer player.” Read more

NVC in Action “The Most Arrogant Speaker We’ve Ever Had!” Read more

4 Identifying and Expressing Feelings

4 Identifying and Expressing Feelings Read more

The first component of NVC is to observe without evaluating; the second component is to express how we are feeling. Read more

Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts. Read more

In general, feelings are not being clearly expressed when the word feel is followed by: Words such as that, like, as if: “I feel that you should know better.” “I feel like a failure.” “I feel as if I’m living with a wall.” The pronouns I, you, he, she, they, it: “I feel I am constantly on call.” “I feel it is useless.” Names or nouns referring to people: “I feel Amy has been pretty responsible.” “I feel my boss is being manipulative.” Read more

Distinguish feelings from thoughts. Read more

in the English language, it is not necessary to use the word feel at all when we are actually expressing a feeling: we can say, “I’m feeling irritated,” or simply, “I’m irritated.” Read more

Distinguish between what we feel and what we think we are. Read more

In NVC, we distinguish between words that express actual feelings and those that describe what we think we are. Read more

Distinguish between what we feel and how we think others react or behave toward us. Read more

The second component necessary for expressing ourselves is feelings. By developing a vocabulary of feelings that allows us to clearly and specifically name or identify our emotions, we can connect more easily with one another. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts. NVC distinguishes the expression of actual feelings from words and statements that describe thoughts, assessments, and interpretations. Read more

5 Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings

5 Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings Read more

The third component of NVC entails the acknowledgment of the root of our feelings. NVC heightens our awareness that what others say and do may be the stimulus, but never the cause, of our feelings. We see that our feelings result from how we choose to receive what others say and do, as well as from our particular needs and expectations in that moment. With this third component, we are led to accept responsibility for what we do to generate our own feelings. Read more

Four options for receiving negative messages: 1. blame ourselves. Read more

blame others. Read more

sense our own feelings and needs. Read more

We might for example ask, “Are you feeling hurt because you need more consideration for your preferences?” Read more

sense others’ feelings and needs. Read more

It is helpful to recognize a number of common speech patterns that tend to mask accountability for our own feelings: Read more

Use of impersonal pronouns such as it and that: Read more

The use of the expression “I feel (an emotion) because … ” followed by a person or personal pronoun other than I: Read more

Connect your feeling with your need: “I feel … because I need …” Read more

The basic mechanism of motivating by guilt is to attribute the responsibility for one’s own feelings to others. Read more

Judgments, criticisms, diagnoses, and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our needs. If someone says, “You never understand me,” they are really telling us that their need to be understood is not being fulfilled. Read more

When we express our needs indirectly through the use of evaluations, interpretations, and images, others are likely to hear criticism. And when people hear anything that sounds like criticism, they tend to invest their energy in self-defense or counterattack. Read more

If we express our needs, we have a better chance of getting them met. Read more

most of us have never been taught to think in terms of needs. We are accustomed to thinking about what’s wrong with other people when our needs aren’t being fulfilled. Read more

“What is it you are needing and what would you like to request from one another in relation to those needs?” Read more

It has been my experience over and over again that from the moment people begin talking about what they need rather than what’s wrong with one another, the possibility of finding ways to meet everybody’s needs is greatly increased. Read more

The following are some of the basic human needs we all share: Read more

If we don’t value our needs, others may not either. Read more

In our development toward a state of emotional liberation, most of us experience three stages in the way we relate to others. Read more

Stage 1: In this stage, which I refer to as emotional slavery, we believe ourselves responsible for the feelings of others. Read more

Stage 2: In this stage, we become aware of the high costs of assuming responsibility for others’ feelings and trying to accommodate them at our own expense. When we notice how much of our lives we’ve missed and how little we have responded to the call of our own soul, we may get angry. Read more

Stage 3: At the third stage, emotional liberation, we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear, guilt, or shame. Our actions are therefore fulfilling to us, as well as to those who receive our efforts. We accept full responsibility for our own intentions and actions, but not for the feelings of others. Read more

6 Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life Open in Kindle

How do we express our requests so that others are more willing to respond compassionately to our needs?

Use positive language when making requests. Open in Kindle

It was a painful lesson about what can happen when I only identify what I don’t want to do, without clarifying what I do want to do. Open in Kindle

Often, the use of vague and abstract language can mask oppressive interpersonal games. Making requests in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want. Open in Kindle

Depression is the reward we get for being “good.” Open in Kindle

we may express our discomfort and incorrectly assume that the listener has understood the underlying request. For example, a woman might say to her husband, “I’m annoyed you forgot the butter and onions I asked you to pick up for dinner.” While it may be obvious to her that she is asking him to go back to the store, the husband may think that her words were uttered solely to make him feel guilty. When we simply express our feelings, it may not be clear to the listener what we want them to do. Open in Kindle

Requests may sound like demands when unaccompanied by the speaker’s feelings and needs. The clearer we are about what we want, the more likely it is that we’ll get it. To make sure the message we sent is the message that’s received, ask the listener to reflect it back. Open in Kindle

Empathize with the listener who doesn’t want to reflect back. Open in Kindle

After we express ourselves vulnerably, we often want to know (1) what the listener is feeling; Open in Kindle

(2) what the listener is thinking; or Open in Kindle

(3) whether the listener would be willing to take a particular action. Open in Kindle

In a group, much time is wasted when speakers aren’t certain what response they’re wanting. Conversations often drag on and on, fulfilling no one’s needs, because it is unclear whether the initiator of the conversation has gotten what she or he wanted. Open in Kindle

Our requests are received as demands when others believe they will be blamed or punished if they do not comply. When people hear a demand, they see only two options: submission or rebellion. Either way, the person requesting is perceived as coercive, and the listener’s capacity to respond compassionately to the request is diminished. Open in Kindle

To tell if it’s a demand or a request, observe what the speaker does if the request is not complied with.

It’s a demand if the speaker then criticizes or judges.

It’s a demand if the speaker then lays a guilt trip. Open in Kindle

It’s a request if the speaker then shows empathy toward the other person’s needs. Open in Kindle

When we give people labels, we tend to act in a way that contributes to the very behavior that concerns us, which we then view as further confirmation of our diagnosis. Open in Kindle

The fourth component of NVC addresses the question of what we would like to request of each other to enrich each of our lives. We try to avoid vague, abstract, or ambiguous phrasing, and remember to use positive action language by stating what we are requesting rather than what we are not. Open in Kindle

7 Receiving Empathically Open in Kindle

Now we turn from self-expression to apply these same four components to hearing what others are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting. We refer to this part of the communication process as receiving empathically. Open in Kindle

The two parts of NVC: 1. expressing honestly 2. receiving empathically Open in Kindle

Empathy: emptying our mind and listening with our whole being Open in Kindle

**Ask before offering advice or reassurance. **

It is often frustrating for someone needing empathy to have us assume that they want reassurance or “fix-it” advice. Open in Kindle

While we may choose at times to sympathize with others by feeling their feelings, it’s helpful to be aware that during the moment we are offering sympathy, we are not empathizing. Open in Kindle

Intellectual understanding blocks empathy. Open in Kindle

No matter what others say, we only hear what they are (1) observing, (2) feeling, (3) needing, and (4) requesting. Listen to what people are needing rather than what they are thinking. Open in Kindle

NVC suggests that our paraphrasing take the form of questions that reveal our understanding while eliciting any necessary corrections from the speaker. Questions may focus on these components: what others are observing: “Are you reacting to how many evenings I was gone last week?” how others are feeling and the needs generating their feelings: “Are you feeling hurt because you would have liked more appreciation of your efforts than you received?” what others are requesting: “Are you wanting me to tell you my reasons for saying what I did?” Open in Kindle

When asking for information, first express our own feelings and needs. Reflect back messages that are emotionally charged. Paraphrase only when it contributes to greater compassion and understanding. Open in Kindle

When we paraphrase, the tone of voice we use is highly important. When hearing themselves reflected back, people are likely to be sensitive to the slightest hint of criticism or sarcasm. They are likewise negatively affected by a declarative tone that implies that we are telling them what is going on inside of them. If we are consciously listening for other people’s feelings and needs, however, our tone communicates that we’re asking whether we have understood—not claiming that we have understood. Open in Kindle

all criticism, attack, insults, and judgments vanish when we focus attention on hearing the feelings and needs behind a message. The more we practice in this way, the more we realize a simple truth: behind all those messages we’ve allowed ourselves to be intimidated by are just individuals with unmet needs appealing to us to contribute to their well-being. Open in Kindle

Behind intimidating messages are merely people appealing to us to meet their needs. A difficult message becomes an opportunity to enrich someone’s life. Open in Kindle

**Paraphrasing tends to save, rather than waste, time. **Studies in labor-management negotiations demonstrate that the time required to reach conflict resolution is cut in half when each negotiator agrees, before responding, to accurately repeat what the previous speaker had said. Open in Kindle

When we stay with empathy, we allow speakers to touch deeper levels of themselves. We know a speaker has received adequate empathy when (1) we sense a release of tension, or (2) the flow of words comes to a halt. Open in Kindle

Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. We often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being. Open in Kindle

Set of exercises about the verbal expression of empathy


8 The Power of Empathy Open in Kindle

Empathy allows us “to reperceive [our] world in a new way and to go on.” Open in Kindle

It’s harder to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status, or resources. Open in Kindle

The more we empathize with the other party, the safer we feel. Open in Kindle

In situations of pain, I recommend first getting the empathy necessary to go beyond the thoughts occupying our heads and recognize our deeper needs. Open in Kindle

We “say a lot” by listening for other people’s feelings and needs. Open in Kindle

The ability to offer empathy to people in stressful situations can defuse potential violence. Open in Kindle

Rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person, empathize. Open in Kindle

When we listen for feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters. Open in Kindle

It may be difficult to empathize with those who are closest to us. Open in Kindle

When we shine the light of consciousness on the feelings and needs behind someone else’s “no,” however, we become cognizant of what they are wanting that prevents them from responding as we would like. Open in Kindle

People are not aware that empathy is often what they are needing. Neither do they realize that they are more likely to receive that empathy by expressing the feelings and needs that are alive in them than by recounting tales of past injustice and hardship. Open in Kindle

To bring a conversation back to life: interrupt with empathy. Open in Kindle

Another way to bring a conversation to life is to openly express our desire to be more connected, and to request information that would help us establish that connection. Open in Kindle

What bores the listener bores the speaker too. Open in Kindle

Speakers prefer that listeners interrupt rather than pretend to listen. Open in Kindle

Empathize with silence by listening for the feelings and needs behind it. Open in Kindle

As listeners, we don’t need insights into psychological dynamics or training in psychotherapy. What is essential is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment. Open in Kindle

**Empathy lies in our ability to be present. **Open in Kindle

9 Connecting Compassionately With Ourselves Open in Kindle

NVC’s most important use may be in developing self-compassion. We use NVC to evaluate ourselves in ways that engender growth rather than self-hatred. It is tragic that so many of us get enmeshed in self-hatred rather than benefit from our mistakes, which show us our limitations and guide us towards growth. Open in Kindle

If the way we evaluate ourselves leads us to feel shame, and we consequently change our behavior, we are allowing our growing and learning to be guided by self-hatred. Open in Kindle

In our language there is a word with enormous power to create shame and guilt. This violent word, which we commonly use to evaluate ourselves, is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that many of us would have trouble imagining how to live without it. It is the word should, as in “I should have known better” or “I shouldn’t have done that.” Most of the time when we use this word with ourselves, we resist learning, because should implies that there is no choice. Human beings, when hearing any kind of demand, tend to resist because it threatens our autonomy—our strong need for choice. We have this reaction to tyranny even when it’s internal tyranny in the form of a should. Open in Kindle

A similar expression of internal demand occurs in the following self-evaluation: “What I’m doing is just terrible. I really must do something about it!” Open in Kindle

We were not meant to succumb to the dictates of should and have to, whether they come from outside or inside of ourselves. And if we do yield and submit to these demands, our actions arise from an energy that is devoid of life-giving joy. Open in Kindle

Translating Self-Judgments and Inner Demands Open in Kindle

Our challenge then, when we are doing something that is not enriching life, is to evaluate ourselves moment by moment in a way that inspires change both (1) in the direction of where we would like to go, and (2) out of respect and compassion for ourselves, rather than out of self-hatred, guilt or shame. Self-judgments, like all judgments, are tragic expressions of unmet needs. Open in Kindle

NVC Mourning Open in Kindle

Mourning in NVC is the process of fully connecting with the unmet needs and the feelings that are generated when we have been less than perfect. It is an experience of regret, but regret that helps us learn from what we have done without blaming or hating ourselves. Open in Kindle

Self-Forgiveness Open in Kindle

I believe that human beings are always acting in the service of needs and values. The process of mourning and self-forgiveness frees us in the direction of learning and growing. In connecting moment by moment to our needs, we increase our creative capacity to act in harmony with them. Open in Kindle

**NVC self-forgiveness: connecting with the need we were trying to meet when we took the action that we now regret. **Open in Kindle

We are compassionate with ourselves when we are able to embrace all parts of ourselves and recognize the needs and values expressed by each part. Open in Kindle

Don’t Do Anything That Isn’t Play! Open in Kindle

I earnestly believe, however, that an important form of self-compassion is to make choices motivated purely by our desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame, duty, or obligation. Open in Kindle

We want to take action out of the desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame, or obligation. Open in Kindle

Translating “Have to” to “Choose to” Open in Kindle

With every choice you make, be conscious of what need it serves. Cultivating Awareness of the Energy Behind Our Actions As you explore the statement, “I choose to … because I want … ,” you may discover—as I did with the children’s car pool—the important values behind the choices you’ve made. I am convinced that after we gain clarity regarding the need being served by our actions, we can experience those actions as play even when they involve hard work, challenge, or frustration. Open in Kindle

Uncover one or several of the following motivations: Open in Kindle

Be conscious of actions motivated by the desire for money or approval, and by fear, shame, or guilt. Know the price you pay for them. Open in Kindle

The most dangerous of all behaviors may consist of doing things “because we’re supposed to.” Open in Kindle

10 Expressing Anger Fully Open in Kindle

The subject of anger gives us a unique opportunity to dive more deeply into NVC. Because it brings many aspects of this process into sharp focus, the expression of anger clearly demonstrates the difference between NVC and other forms of communication. Open in Kindle

Hurting people is too superficial. Open in Kindle

I would like to suggest that hitting, blaming, hurting others—whether physically or emotionally—are all superficial expressions of what is going on within us when we are angry. If we are truly angry, we would want a much more powerful way to fully express ourselves. Open in Kindle

Distinguishing Stimulus From Cause Open in Kindle

The first step to fully expressing anger in NVC is to divorce the other person from any responsibility for our anger. We rid ourselves of thoughts such as, “He (or she or they) made me angry when they did that.” Such thinking leads us to express our anger superficially by blaming or punishing the other person. Open in Kindle

We are never angry because of what others say or do. Open in Kindle

We say: “You make me angry.” “You hurt me by doing that.” “I feel sad because you did that.” We use our language in many different ways to trick ourselves into believing that our feelings result from what others do. The first step in the process of fully expressing our anger is to realize that what other people do is never the cause of how we feel Open in Kindle

Anger is a result of life-alienating thinking that is disconnected from needs. It indicates that we have moved up to our head to analyze and judge somebody rather than focus on which of our needs are not getting met. Open in Kindle

Rather than agreeing or disagreeing about what people are for murdering, raping, or polluting the environment, I believe we serve life better by focusing attention on what we are needing. Open in Kindle

When we judge others, we contribute to violence. Open in Kindle

Instead of engaging in “righteous indignation,” I recommend connecting empathically with our own needs or those of others. This may take extensive practice, whereby over and over again, we consciously replace the phrase “I am angry because they … ” with “I am angry because I am needing … ” Open in Kindle

I could not have received a more powerful lesson to help me see that it’s not what the other person does, but the images and interpretations in my own head that produce my anger. Open in Kindle

Stimulus versus Cause: Practical Implications I emphasize the distinction between cause and stimulus on practical and tactical as well as on philosophical grounds. Open in Kindle

When we become aware of our needs, anger gives way to life-serving feelings. Open in Kindle

Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment. Open in Kindle

We recall four options when hearing a difficult message: 1. Blame ourselves 2. Blame others 3. Sense our own feelings and needs 4. Sense others’ feelings and needs Open in Kindle

Judgments of others contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies. Open in Kindle

If we want to protect the environment, and we go to a corporate executive with the attitude, “You know, you are really a killer of the planet, you have no right to abuse the land in this way,” we have severely impaired our chances of getting our needs met. Open in Kindle

Four Steps to Expressing Anger Open in Kindle

  1. Stop. Breathe. 2. Identify our judgmental thoughts. 3. Connect with our needs. 4. Express our feelings and unmet needs. Open in Kindle

The more we hear them, the more they’ll hear us. Open in Kindle

Stay conscious of the violent thoughts that arise in our minds, without judging them. Open in Kindle

I had a major conflict with what went on in his head, but I’ve learned that I enjoy human beings more if I don’t hear what they think. Open in Kindle

When we hear another person’s feelings and needs, we recognize our common humanity. Open in Kindle

Our need is for the other person to truly hear our pain. Open in Kindle

People do not hear our pain when they believe they are at fault. Open in Kindle

For those of you wishing to apply NVC, especially in challenging situations of anger, I would suggest the following exercise. As we have seen, our anger comes from judgments, labels, and thoughts of blame, of what people “should” do and what they “deserve.” List the judgments that float most frequently in your head by using the cue, “I don’t like people who are … ” Collect all such negative judgments in your head and then ask yourself, “When I make that judgment of a person, what am I needing and not getting?” In this way, you train yourself to frame your thinking in terms of unmet needs rather than in terms of judgments of other people. Open in Kindle

Practice translating each judgment into an unmet need. Take your time. Open in Kindle

11 Conflict Resolution and Mediation Open in Kindle

resolving conflicts involves all the principles I outlined previously in this book: observing, identifying and expressing feelings, connecting feelings with needs, and making doable requests of another person using clear, concrete, positive action language. Open in Kindle

The parties also need to know from the start that the objective is not to get the other side to do what they want them to do. And once the two sides understand that, it becomes possible—sometimes even easy—to have a conversation about how to meet their needs. Open in Kindle

Creating a connection between people is the most important thing. Open in Kindle

Notice that I use the word satisfaction instead of compromise! Most attempts at resolution search for compromise, which means everybody gives something up and neither side is satisfied. NVC is different; our objective is to meet everyone’s needs fully. Open in Kindle

NVC Conflict Resolution versus Traditional Mediation Open in Kindle

When you make the connection, the problem usually solves itself. Open in Kindle

Fundamentally, needs are the resources life requires to sustain itself. We all have physical needs: air, water, food, rest. And we have psychological needs such as understanding, support, honesty, and meaning. I believe that all people basically have the same needs regardless of nationality, religion, gender, income, education, etc. Open in Kindle

In a conflict, both parties usually spend too much time intent on proving themselves right, and the other party wrong, rather than paying attention to their own and the other’s needs. And such verbal conflicts can far too easily escalate into violence—and even war. Open in Kindle

In order not to confuse needs and strategies, it is important to recall that needs contain no reference to anybody taking any particular action. On the other hand, strategies, which may appear in the form of requests, desires, wants, and “solutions,” refer to specific actions that specific people may take. Open in Kindle

Instead of expressing needs, they were doing analysis, which is easily heard as criticism by a listener. As mentioned earlier in this book, analyses that imply wrongness are essentially tragic expressions of unmet needs. Open in Kindle

Intellectual analysis is often received as criticism. Open in Kindle

When we don’t know how to directly and clearly express what we need, but can only make analyses of others that sound like criticism to them, wars are never far away—whether verbal, psychological, or physical. Open in Kindle

Sensing Others’ Needs, No Matter What They’re Saying Open in Kindle

If we really want to be of assistance to others, the first thing to learn is to translate any message into an expression of a need. Open in Kindle

So this is our work: learning to recognize the need in statements that don’t overtly express any need. It takes practice, and it always involves some guessing. Once we sense what the other person needs, we can check in with them, and then help them put their need into words. If we are able to truly hear their need, a new level of connection is forged—a critical piece that moves the conflict toward successful resolution. Open in Kindle

Criticism and diagnosis get in the way of peaceful resolution of conflicts. Open in Kindle

When people are upset, they often need empathy before they can hear what is being said to them. Open in Kindle

The more experience I have gained in mediating conflicts over the years and the more I’ve seen what leads families to argue and nations to go to war, the more convinced I am that most schoolchildren could solve these conflicts. If we could just say, “Here are the needs of both sides. Here are the resources. What can be done to meet these needs?,” conflicts would be easily resolved. But instead, our thinking is focused on dehumanizing one another with labels and judgments until even the simplest of conflicts becomes very difficult to solve. Open in Kindle

Using Present and Positive Action Language to Resolve Conflict Open in Kindle

A present language statement refers to what is wanted at this moment. For example, one party might say, “I’d like you to tell me if you would be willing to—” and describe the action they’d like the other party to take. The use of a present language request that begins with “Would you be willing to …” helps foster a respectful discussion. If the other side answers that they are not willing, it invites the next step of understanding what prevents their willingness. On the other hand, in the absence of present language, a request such as “I’d like you to go to the show with me Saturday night” fails to convey what’s being asked of the listener at that moment. Open in Kindle

We can further clarify the request by indicating what we may want from the other person in the present moment, “Would you be willing to tell me how you feel about going to the show with me Saturday night?” The clearer we are regarding the response we want right now from the other party, the more effectively we move the conflict toward resolution. Open in Kindle

Using Action Verbs Open in Kindle

focus on what we do want rather than what we do not want. Talking about what one doesn’t want can easily create confusion and resistance among conflicting parties. Open in Kindle

Action language requires the use of action verbs, while also avoiding language that obscures, or language that can readily be inferred as an attack. Open in Kindle

Translating “No” Open in Kindle

When entering a conflict process as mediator, a good place to start might be to assure the people in conflict that we are not there to take sides, but to support them in hearing each other, and to help guide them to a solution that meets everyone’s needs. Open in Kindle

Remember: It’s Not About Us At the beginning of the chapter, I emphasized that the objective is not to get the other person to do what we want them to do. Open in Kindle

Use role-play to speed up the mediation process. Open in Kindle

As we apply a literacy of feelings and needs, we are not thinking about the issues, but simply putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, trying to be that person. Open in Kindle

Role-play is simply putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Open in Kindle

Interrupting Sometimes mediations get heated, with people shouting at or talking over one another. To keep the process on track under such circumstances, we need to get comfortable with interrupting. Open in Kindle

We might view our role as that of a translator—translating each party’s message so as to be understood by the other. Open in Kindle

It’s important to remember that the purpose of interrupting and grabbing people’s attention back in this way is to restore the process of making observations, identifying and expressing feelings, connecting feelings with needs, and making doable requests using clear, concrete, positive action language. Open in Kindle

The purpose of interrupting is to restore the process. Open in Kindle

12 The Protective Use of Force Open in Kindle

In some situations, however, the opportunity for such dialogue may not exist, and the use of force may be necessary to protect life or individual rights. Open in Kindle

If we do, NVC requires us to differentiate between the protective and the punitive uses of force. Open in Kindle

The intention behind the protective use of force is to prevent injury or injustice. The intention behind the punitive use of force is to cause individuals to suffer for their perceived misdeeds. Open in Kindle

When we exercise the protective use of force, we are focusing on the life or rights we want to protect, without passing judgment on either the person or the behavior. Open in Kindle

Punitive action, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that people commit offenses because they are bad or evil, and to correct the situation, they need to be made to repent. Their “correction” is undertaken through punitive action designed to make them (1) suffer enough to see the error of their ways, (2) repent, and (3) change. In practice, however, punitive action, rather than evoking repentance and learning, is just as likely to generate resentment and hostility and to reinforce resistance to the very behavior we are seeking. Open in Kindle

Fear of corporal punishment obscures children’s awareness of the compassion underlying their parents’ demands. Open in Kindle

Punishment also includes judgmental labeling and the withholding of privileges. Open in Kindle

When we fear punishment, we focus on consequences, not on our own values. Fear of punishment diminishes self-esteem and goodwill. Open in Kindle

Two Questions That Reveal the Limitations of Punishment Open in Kindle

Question 1: What do I want this person to do? Question 2: What do I want this person’s reasons to be for doing it? Open in Kindle

13 Liberating Ourselves and Counseling Others Open in Kindle

We can apply NVC to resolve the internal conflicts that often result in depression. In his book The Revolution in Psychiatry, Ernest Becker attributes depression to “cognitively arrested alternatives.” This means that when we have a judgmental dialogue going on within, we become alienated from what we are needing and cannot then act to meet those needs. Depression is indicative of a state of alienation from our own needs. Open in Kindle

Focus on what we want to do rather than what went wrong. Open in Kindle

Defuse stress by hearing our own feelings and needs. Open in Kindle

Defuse stress by empathizing with others. Open in Kindle

I empathized with clients instead of interpreting them; I revealed myself instead of diagnosing them. Open in Kindle

I explained to the psychiatrist that NVC urges me to ask myself the following questions rather than think in terms of what is wrong with a patient: “What is this person feeling? What is she or he needing? How am I feeling in response to this person, and what needs of mine are behind my feelings? What action or decision would I request this person to take in the belief that it would enable them to live more happily?” Because our responses to these questions would reveal a lot about ourselves and our values, we would feel far more vulnerable than if we were to simply diagnose the other person. Open in Kindle

14 Expressing Appreciation in Nonviolent Communication Open in Kindle

I define judgments—both positive and negative—as life-alienating communication. Open in Kindle

Compliments are often judgments—however positive-of others. Open in Kindle

Express appreciation to celebrate, not to manipulate. Open in Kindle

The Three Components of Appreciation NVC clearly distinguishes three components in the expression of appreciation: the actions that have contributed to our well-being the particular needs of ours that have been fulfilled the pleasureful feelings engendered by the fulfillment of those needs Open in Kindle

Saying “thank you” in NVC: “This is what you did; this is what I feel; this is the need of mine that was met.” Open in Kindle

Receive appreciation without feelings of superiority or false humility. Open in Kindle

We tend to notice what’s wrong rather than what’s right. Open in Kindle

The Four-Part Nonviolent Communication Process Open in Kindle


What I observe (see, hear, remember, imagine, free from my evaluations) that does or does not contribute to my well-being: “When I (see, hear) … ”

What you observe (see, hear, remember, imagine, free from your evaluations) that does or does not contribute to your well-being: “When you see/hear … ” (Sometimes unspoken when offering empathy)


How I feel (emotion or sensation rather than thought) in relation to what I observe: “I feel … ”

  1. How you feel (emotion or sensation rather than thought) in relation to what you observe: “You feel …”


What I need or value (rather than a preference, or a specific action) that causes my feelings: “ … because I need/value … ”

  1. What you need or value (rather than a preference, or a specific action) that causes your feelings: “ … because you need/value …”


The concrete actions I would like taken: “Would you be willing to … ?”

The concrete actions you would like taken: “Would you like … ?” (Sometimes unspoken when offering empathy)

Some Basic Feelings We All Have Open in Kindle

Feelings when needs are fulfilled


Feelings when needs are not fulfilled

Angry, Annoyed, Concerned, Confused, Disappointed, Discouraged, Distressed, Embarrassed, Frustrated, Helpless, Hopeless, Impatient, Irritated, Lonely, Nervous, Overwhelmed, Puzzled, Reluctant, Sad, Uncomfortable

Some Basic Needs We All Have Open in Kindle





Physical Nurturance


Spiritual Communion