11 November 2011

The tricky nature of Nonviolent Communication



Yesterday I attended a full day workshop on Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication.

The basic premise is that we should listen empathically and express from the heart.

In brief, there is a recommended 4-step process that we should endeavour to adhere to when in communication, particularly when somebody says something that we find difficult to hear.


  1. Observations - express what you observe rather than your evaluation of it. "I hear that your voice is raised..." rather than "you're having a go at me"
  2. Feelings - Express your feelings in response to what you observe as emotions or sensations rather than thoughts. "I feel criticised" - "criticised" is not an emotion, nor is abandoned, let down etc. They are evaluations of what others are doing to us. Emotions and sensations are e.g. angry, irritated, frustrated.
  3. Needs - inform of what your need is - which need is not being met e.g. "because I need to feel appreciated"
  4. Requests - making a concrete request for something that would enrich life without demanding "would you be willing to...?"
Adhering to these basics proved tricky for all of us, many of us trained counsellors. For me it is easy to follow in the therapeutic relationship but when it comes to those nearest and dearest, where heightened emotions are involved, then the lure of leaping to defending myself is incredibly strong.

Fortunately, it has been mooted that a NVC practice group will commence in the new year, kicking off with a 6 week, pre-designed structure developed by Rosenberg for this purpose.

My struggle is that although I am very much in favour of the philosophy behind NVC, I am aware that it has, for me, a slightly cult-ish feel about it, with a very charismatic individual heading it up (Rosenberg himself). 


3 comments:

Amanda Williamson said...

Wondering whether Blogger is the right blogsite if leaving comments is not particularly straightforward...

Ray Taylor said...

Hi Amanda,

You'd also be very welcome to join us on www.NVCpractice.com

Yes taking responsibility for compassion in a conflict where you yourself are involved is extremely difficult, and a defensive reaction is understandable and sometimes even wise.

There is an excellent workbook for practice groups by a Buddhist called Lucy Leu (not Rosenberg), and mediating a conflict in which you are a participant comes after chapter 13.

Anger is chapter 10 and we have a joke that in practice groups you can't get angry before chapter 10!

The 4 ingredients are (I believe) secondary to intention/attention and the 3 modes:

Mode 1: self-empathy, Mode 2: empathy for the other and Mode 3: expression/action

I find that counsellors struggle with shifting out of mode 2, and if they come from a Freudian or psychodynamic background they tend to find it difficult to let go of those perspectives, even temporarily. NVC is designed to be used outside of the clinical context. That's not to say it isn't helpful for counsellors, but it's probably more for counsellors who have a clear objective for which NVC is a good fit. For couples, I strongly recommend the work of John Gottman and Steven Stosny, as well as NVC.

Rosenberg is virtually retired now, with no successor likely to be identified ever, and though the language has some jargon, I value the rather chaotic NVC network precisely because it doesn't function as a cult.

Commenting seems straightforward enough for me (though I have a Blogger blog and want to shift to Wordpress)

Amanda Williamson said...

Thanks for your interesting comment, Ray. I have messaged you privately via your Facebook account.

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