nonviolent communication-empathy (NVC)
Book Review, Self-Care

Learning NVC: The best decision I almost didn’t made

“All that has been integrated into NVC [Nonviolent Communication]  has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions.” — Marshall B. Rosenberg, Phd

nonviolent communication-empathy (NVC)

Would NVC really be useful for me?

I was like most people the first time I heard about NVC. I heard, “Nonviolent Communication,” and thought, “That’s nice… for you.” Most people figure they’re (mostly) not violent, so why bother spending time learning how to be communicate nonviolently? And like most people, I passed on it the first time a friend invited me along to her practice group. It wasn’t until I moved a thousand miles from anyone I knew, and had ‘nothing better’ to do with my time, did I decide to go to my first practice group in Taos, NM. Nine years later, I realize learning NVC was the best decision I almost didn’t make– for my peace of mind, my health, and for my relationships and interactions with any and all human beings. It’s now one of the techniques I recommend to patients most regularly — that’s how big of an impact its had on my life.

How does practicing NVC help?

Increased Peace of Mind

Probably the biggest insight I’ve gained from Nonviolent Communication, also known as Compassionate Communication, is the understanding that everything we do, and everything we feel, is a reflection of our needs being or not being met. That means there is no [true] emotion that is too ‘unreasonable.’ There is no action too ‘egregious,’ or person too ‘evil’ for either. With no perceived demons, there can be peace of mind. In today’s political climate, holding this perspective is an invaluable tool for staying present, open and engaged.

Increased Wellbeing

Over the years I’ve been practicing, I think the biggest paradigm shift for me was to learn that in NVC: Having needs doesn’t make someone ‘needy.’ What if how you felt really mattered, and was perfectly acceptable? You got it. What if you simply needed what you needed, and that was OK? You got it. What if, out of this understanding, you could come to care for yourself — for what you really needed — without shame, guilt, or fear? You got it! Talk about a huge weight lifted! Nonviolent Communication is such a gift to one’s own wellbeing precisely because it separates our needs from our strategies [to get those needs met]. That means, you don’t have to change how you or someone else feels or needs to be able to be healthy and happy. Instead by listening to what we need, we can seek out the supportive conditions to our health and wellbeing. Mind-blowing, I know!

Heartfelt Connection

Once we’ve learned how to be open to the seemingly ‘unacceptable’ within ourselves and our world, the ultimate goal of Nonviolent Communication is to be able to connect with others from the heart. Could you imagine what the world would be like if everyone knew, and treated one another in such a way, that “everyone’s voice matters, and what is alive for each is sacred“? It’s no surprise NVC is used all around the world to settle everything from domestic to political disputes. It’s practiced by all types of folks in prisons, schools, health care, law, and social services.

Don’t let the name fool you

The biggest hurdle to Nonviolent Communication tends to be the name. Once you realize it’s not really about communication at all – but about how we connect with ourselves and others, you realize there is no self talk, no small talk, or conflict in which NVC doesn’t apply. There are few tools so vastly impactful!

Want to get started?

Awesome! Check out the Center for Nonviolent Communication‘s website. For a brief introduction to the work, I encourage you to read John Cunningham’s booklet, “Compassionate Communication and Empathy’s Awakening.” For anyone interested in self study, I’d recommend getting both founder Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and the accompanying workbook by Lucy Leu. For folks in Seattle interested to practice in a group setting, I’ll be leading a workshop covering the first eight chapters of Marshall Rosenberg’s book come March. I would love to see you there! I encourage you to register early as there are limited seats.



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