Nonviolent NZ Communities

Bringing Authentic and Compassionate Communication to Individuals, Communities and Organisations 

Based on the work of Marshall B. Rosenberg and the Centre of Nonviolent Communication and

Daniel Goleman and Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations

Key Assumptions and Principles of NVC

I. Assumptions Underlying the Practice of Nonviolent Communication

  1. Universality of Human Needs: We all have the same needs. Where we differ from each other is in our strategies to meet needs. Conflicts occur at the level of strategies, not needs.
  2. Feelings Result from Needs Being Met or Unmet: Our feelings are directly related to our needs. When our needs are met, we feel happy, satisfied, excited, etc. When our needs are not met, we feel sad, scared, angry, etc.
  3. Actions Result from Needs: Our actions are motivated by a desire to meet needs. We would prefer to meet needs in ways that don’t harm others if we recognize a path of action that will also meet our own needs. Even when we resort to violence, we are still attempting to meet needs, however tragically.
  4. Natural Giving: It is deeply inherent in the nature of human beings that we enjoy contributing to others, and will do so if we can trust that we can choose not to contribute without suffering consequences.
  5. Sufficiency: Though in individual situations it appears that there isn’t enough to meet everyone’s needs, there is no inherent scarcity for meeting everyone’s basic needs; through dialogue and connection we can meet more people’s needs more peacefully.

II. Key Principles of Nonviolent Communication

We choose to act in line with the following principles because we believe that using this approach we are more likely to contribute to a world where everyone’s needs are attended to peacefully.

  1. Responsibility for Our Feelings: We aim to move away from blaming ourselves or others for our feelings, by connecting our feelings to our own needs. This recognition empowers us to take action to meet our needs instead of waiting for others to change.
  2. Responsibility for Our Actions: We aim to recognize our choice in each moment, and take action based on seeing how it would meet our needs to do so; we aim to move away from taking action based on fear, guilt, shame, the desire for reward, or any “should” or “have to”.
  3. Prioritizing Connection: We aim to focus on connection instead of immediate solutions, and to trust that connecting with our own and others’ needs is more likely to lead to creating solutions that meet everyone’s needs.
  4. Equal Care for Everyone’s Needs: We aim to make requests and not demands; when hearing a “No” to our request, or when saying “No” to another’s request, we aim to work towards solutions that meet everyone’s needs, not just our own, and not just the other person’s.
  5. Self-Expression: When expressing ourselves, we aim to speak from the heart, expressing our feelings and needs, and making specific, do-able requests rather than demands.
  6. Empathic Hearing: When we hear others, we aim to hear the feelings and needs behind their expressions, even when they express judgments or demands.
  7. Protective Use of Force: We aim to use force only to protect, not to punish others or get our way without the other’s agreement and only in situations where the principles above were not sufficient to meet immediate needs for safety. We aim to return to dialogue as soon as safety is re-established.

NVC Quick Reference Guide

Observations: Description of what is seen or heard without added interpretations. For example, instead of “She’s having a temper tantrum,” you could say “She is lying on the floor crying and kicking.” If referring to what someone said quote as much as possible instead of rephrasing.

Feelings: Our emotions rather than our story or thoughts about what others are doing. For example, instead of “I feel manipulated,” which includes an interpretation of another’s behavior, you could say “I feel worried.” Avoid the following phrasing: “I feel like . . . “ and “I feel that…” – the next words will be thoughts, not feelings.

Needs: Feelings are caused by needs, which are universal and ongoing and not dependent on the actions of particular individuals. State your need rather than the other person’s actions as the cause. For example, “I feel annoyed because I need support” rather than “I feel annoyed because you didn’t do the dishes.”

Requests: Doable, immediate, and stated in positive action language (what you want instead of what you don't want). For example, “Would you be willing to come back tonight at the time we’ve agreed?” rather than “Would you make sure not to be late again?” By definition, when we make requests we are open to hearing a “no,” taking it as an opportunity for further dialogue.

Empathy: In NVC, we empathize with others by guessing their feelings and needs. Instead of trying to “get it right,” we aim to understand. The observation and request are often dropped.

Self-Empathy: In self-empathy, we listen inwardly to connect with our own feelings and needs. It is that connection which enables us to choose our next step: expressing ourselves to others, or receiving them with empathy.