Non-Violent Communication for Healing Conflict

Updated: Oct 9, 2019



Most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, shame, etc.

These "violent" modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying needs, feelings, perceptions, and requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.

Psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication shared that certain ways of communicating alienate people from the experience of compassion.

Communication that Blocks Compassion

1. Judgments: Moralistic judgments impose wrongness or badness onto people who don't act in harmony with your values. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticisms, comparisons, and diagnoses are all forms of judgment.

The use of moralistic judgments is an impersonal way of self-expression that does not reveal what is going on internally. Attention is focused instead on determining what is wrong with another rather than on what you value, want and need - and are not getting.

2. Threats: Demands implicitly or explicitly threaten others with blame or punishment if they fail to comply with what you want.

3. Lack of Accountability: Denial of responsibility happens via language that obscures awareness of personal responsibility. You will deny responsibility for your actions when you attribute their cause to vague impersonal forces, your condition, diagnosis, personal or psychological history, the actions of others, the dictates of authority, group pressure, institutional policy, rules, and regulations, gender roles, social roles, age roles, or uncontrollable impulses.

4. Comparing: Making comparisons between people is a form of judgment.

5. Lack of Deserving: A premise of deserving, that certain actions merit reward while others merit punishment.

Non-Violent Communication

1. Observe Neutrally The NVC process begins with neutral observation. In conversations, this is most easily done by recapping what someone has done or said, without becoming emotional. That means not attaching any judgments or personal triggers.

"When I (see, hear, remember)....."

2. Describe Your Emotions

Clearly and vulnerably describe and express only your own emotional turmoil, rather than translating your emotions into blame. Describe your feelings of concern, fear, heartbreak, rage, dismay, or confusion.

By contrast, “I feel like…” is typically used to express opinions, not feelings. “I feel misunderstood,” expresses ”You misunderstood me,” and lays subtle blame. “I feel hurt” is implies that the other person has done something wrong.

"I feel..."

3. Identify Unmet Needs

According to NVC teachings, all of the emotions we experience when we’re upset are connected to an unmet need, which is a requirement for contentment. Some primary human needs are connection, honesty, peace, kindness, respect, reciprocity, play, physical well-being, a sense of meaning, and autonomy.

"What I would like (need/value) is..."

4. Make a Request At a certain point in the conversation, it’s time to ask for concrete actions that would help satisfy your desires, wants, or needs. Request a specific action, free of demand. Requests are distinguished from demands in that you would be open to hearing a response of "no." If you make a request and receive a "no" it is recommended that you empathize with what is preventing the other person from saying "yes," before deciding how to continue the conversation.

"Would you be willing to...?

With love,

Shelley

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© 2020 by Shelley Klammer.