ODR 005 – NonViolent Communication

This episode is based on one of the most important books I have ever read: NonViolent Communication – A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg

Nonviolent Communication is one of the most powerful ways of speaking with people that I have ever come across. It eliminates useless strategies like judgment and proving yourself right and instead gives you absolutely tactical techniques to get the things you need for happiness for yourself and your interlocutor.

NVC is not a new, gimmicky set of dictum. It boils down the philosophies of Stoicism, the psychological approaches of CBT and cognitive psychology.

Marshall Rosenberg was a psychologist trained in the classical analytic, but found it unsatisfying and for the most part, unhelpful.

Speaking Giraffe vs. Speaking Jackal

NVC is not really a theory or a guide to behavior–it is a language!!!

Giraffes only hear feelings & needs, never thoughts

Jackal language is about judging, criticizing, analyzing, moralizing and accusing. When we feel unfairly treated, accused or when we want to impose our wishes, we tend to use the language of the jackal. Jackal language is separating. Giraffe language is unifying.


The System

There are essentially two major parts–The four component speech creation and emergency empathy

The Four Components

1. Observation without Evaluation

There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.
Shakespeare in Hamlet

Avoid generalization, only specifics (generally good to avoid the past as well)

Separate the observation from the evaluation or better yet, eliminate the evaluation

You are the most inconsiderate person–you are always late

J Krishnamurti: “observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence”

See page 30 for more on pitfalls in observing

2. Feeling

Internal emotional states vs. thoughts/judgment

If you can replace I feel with I think–then it is not a feeling

If I feel is followed by: that, like, or as if then it is not a feeling

If I feel is followed by a name or pronoun (whether he, you, or I), then it is not a feeling

Eliminate the feel–and see if it still works I feel sad to I’m sad works. I feel

Could you feel it alone on a desert island–Ignored is not a feeling, unimportant is not a feeling, resentment is not a feeling b/c they require another to judge/act. It is a thought about how someone else is judging us

p.45 has a list of positive and negative feelings

Stoicism/CBT–We are the only ones responsible for our feelings

We are responsible for everything we do (Replace I have to with I choose to)

Do not connect the feelings to the observations through cause and effect. They relate–they are not caused by.

When I observe X, I feel Y

Even break it down to good/bad

People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them –Epictetus

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” from “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

3. Needs

Rosenberg identifies human needs as safety, understanding, respect, warmth,
autonomy, etc. When needs are expressed indirectly through assessments
and behavioural diagnoses, people are likely to hear criticism and
behave defensively or start talking back.




To be Heard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


4. Requests

Make the request–would you mind repeating back what you heard me say–I want to make sure I am not causing any misunderstandings

Specific, Doable, Optional, Positive Language

not vague, sweeping, negative, or demands

If they refuse, then they must make a counter-request

Can you repeat back what I heard–I wasn’t as clear as I needed to be

You can never make anyone do anything!!!!

All conversation is transactional–when you think it is not, then it is usually b/c you are passively not acceding to the request

A request could be for the person to repeat back what they heard

I would like to know how you feel about what I just said

Or what they are thinking

Would you be willing…

Whatever is done is given with joy-never a sense of obligation or fear of punishment


Logistics of the 4-Parts

Rapidity / Laconic

Speed of Light-connect feeling to needs then immediately connect to request

40 words or less then check in with a request

  • When I see that __
  • I feel __
  • because my need for is/is not met.
  • Would you be willing to __?
  • Need to make NVC sound like normal language otherwise people begin to feel managed

My Take

  • Stop (Hand Out) (Stop the Amygdala Hijack)
  • Breathe (Hands Up & Down)
  • Space between Stimulus and Response from Victor Frankl. In the space between is our evaluation of events which creates feelings. Need to let go of this evaluation!
  • Emotions You are Feeling (Hand to Heart)
  • Your Needs or Wants (Hand to Head)
  • Your Request (Hand to Mouth)

Emergency Empathy and Empathic Listening

Self-empathy–When their Jackal language matches your inner jackals–that is the hardest to maintain giraffe ears

They are just (badly) expressing feelings and needs

Just ask–it is fine if you are wrong

Were you saying–give benefit of the doubt

Empathy for horrible acts–do you need to do this–only if you want communication and to effect change

A great tool for showing empathy is paraphrasing or the repeat-back. This means reflecting back what the other person just said in a way that demonstrates you understand, e.g., if your child says “I hate school!” then you can reply “Are you feeling sad because you’re not enjoying your classes?”
This type of question lets the person either agree that you understand, or they will clarify what they really meant. When you’re confronted by an angry person, this tool can be especially helpful. from: Nonviolent Communication Summary: 11 Best Lessons From Marshall B Rosenberg -)  Echos of Negotiation–Make paraphrasing a habit (Chris Voss)

Are you feeling X because you need Y

There is a reason that but is a homophone for butt, when you use it in conflict, it makes you an ass

Ask them to clarify their response in terms of a request

Do you want advice or for me to just hear you (just assume they don’t want advice until they tell you)

4 levels of response evolution

Blame yourself

Blame them

Communicate nonviolently

Care for their emotions and needs But never by putting yours aside Only if you can genuinely feel the space for it and your needs get met as well



moralistic judgments are a dead end

Compliments are just as bad as criticism

Evaluation is by Observations and feelings

What the person did

What needs that fulfilled

What that made you feel

do not give praise only appreciation when i see hear saw heard actions

NVC for Conflict Resolution

Your Needs

Their Needs

Verify you both understand eachothers




Keep a list

Righting down conversation

Roleplay–let them take your role. mediator pretends to be 1 side


Ask yourself what was your intention




do not make judgments

Someone cut you off–their kid is in the hospital

Anger=unmet needs

express feelings and needs

Scream nonviolent

I feel sad b/c I need!!

has imago active listening component

The Giraffe No

Explain the need that prevents you from saying yes immediately followed by a counter-request that embraces both people’s needs

How to hear no: receive with joy, express need that prevents, give a counter request

Overall Maxims

There are only feelings and needs

The only things people say of any use are Please and Thank You

We must value the other person’s needs as much as our own

NVC doesn’t equal NICE!!!! NVC is not about pushovers–assertive NVC

Doesn’t need to be rigid. You can abridge steps or communicate nonverbally–it doesn’t need to be rote. Intent is what matters

Vids to Watch

San Fran Seminar

Now on to the Podcast…

6 thoughts on “ODR 005 – NonViolent Communication”

  1. Micah Kremer


    Aside from being hilarious, this website helps to demonstrate some weakness and pitfalls of the NVC approach. Even so, I think the NVC method is quite powerful when used properly. “Be conservative with what you do. And liberal with what you receive from others.”

      1. Micah Kremer

        You’re right; the cartoons are for and by NVC folks. I think they can still illustrate some problems of that approach. For instance,
        The NVC approach, with its emphasis on syntax, grammar and word choice, seems to favor the well educated and can create an exclusivity that values those with a greater awareness of these grammatical and logical factors. There is also a real potential for people to hide their feelings in the process of empathy. Its been pointed out by many the amount of time and effort that is required in order to use this approach effectively. NVC is definitely a skill that takes practice to use well. I think those cartoons help to demonstrate these points as well as others, regardless of who wrote them or with what intention.

        1. yes NVC is the worst approach for all the reasons you mention except when compared to any alternative I have found.

          those lacking vocabulary and the ability to express themselves are screwed in any emotional conflict. The nice thing about NVC for this scenario is two-fold:
          1. It lays out a clear path to transcend a difficulty with expression. It can be as simple as:
          i saw you did this
          and I felt bad
          i need to feel good
          would you XXX
          there is no conflict system i have found that demands less vocab., grammar or syntax.
          2. For people who lack emotional communication prowess, NVC demands that the listener try to help them do the work with emotional empathy.

          you are going to have to help me understand the line:
          hide their feelings in the process of empathy.

          and to mirror the above, when it comes to effective conflict communication strategies, NVC is definitely the slowest except when compared to every other option I have looked in to. Read about Imago therapy if you want to see the slowest there is.

  2. Pingback: EMCrit 346 – COMMS Lab – Essentialb2c

  3. Pingback: EMCrit 346 – COMMS Lab – Cybermark Solutions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *