Non Violent Communication (N.V.C.) is a simple form of communication that takes some practice to get good at and to understand and yet once learnt it has the potential to bring a lot of fulfilment to communication situations. Why? Because it actually just clarifies what is happening in us internally and offers a formula for both the speaker and the listener in any situation to be able to express themselves better and to be able to hear the needs of others better.
It is the purest form of communication because it has the potential to lead us into honesty and clarity which is where communication happens most effectively.
Why would this sort of communication be any more desirable than what anyone is currently doing? Because so much of our communication is unconscious people can at times start getting their needs met through manipulation, bullying, attacking, withdrawing, using sarcasm and other unhelpful styles.
In N.V.C. resistance, defensiveness and violent reactions are minimised and we start to focus on what we and the other perceives, feels and needs. Deep listening is involved and so not only clearer communication occurs but also respect, empathy understanding and attentiveness can result.
How it works:
There are 4 steps in the articulation of a need. It goes like this:
We observe what is happening around us or with the person we are with. We notice how we are feeling. A feeling is 'angry,' 'lonely' or 'disappointed' NOT 'disrespected,' 'ignored' or 'used' as these are states of being and not feelings – this is a subtle but important point.
This is because feelings are real you know you are having them. States are possible ways of being regarded by another that we make up about a given situation. Then rather than react to our feeling we became clear about what the feeling is telling us so we can uncover our need. And once we know the need we can make a request.
So this might look like this example:
I have a flatmate who leaves early for work in the morning but makes a lot of noise and wakes me up. So the observation is his noise making in the morning. I notice I feel annoyed and frustrated because I have a need to get a certain amount of sleep to function well each day and so my request becomes.
'When I hear you making noise in the morning when I am still trying to sleep I feel annoyed and I have a need to get a good night's sleep so I can function properly. I would like to ask you to be quieter in the mornings.
Maybe some of us already do this – "Great," but often in relationships certain feelings and other dynamics exist that get us being reactive, sarcastic, abusive and so on however if we can stick to this formula no matter what the situation we have a better chance of getting our needs met.
The person we are talking to may not always be able to meet our needs but at least we honour ourselves by asking and if they cannot meet our needs and we are feeling impacted enough by the behaviour we then have a choice to look for another solution or engage in further nonviolent communication if the other party is willing. The hope is that by listening, identifying feelings and establishing needs or identifying them in the other we bring compassion into the mix.
It is important also to notice too that this model works when you notice someone being reactive to you or someone who is trying to sort out a problem with you and they are asking it using unhelpful, abusive or dysfunctional approaches. The listener in this case tries to guess what the other is feeling and also the need of the other person. The gift in this is that the other realises that you are trying to work with them and also they have then the option of correcting you to establish what they are feeling and also their need. It doesn't matter if you get it 'wrong' – given enough time and space they will get it right. You might say in another situation with the flatmate when you notice his frustration around my not putting the garbage out:
'Are you feeling irritated because you have a need for the garbage to go out on Tuesday night and I haven't been doing it? They will either agree or disagree and hopefully restate the truth for them.
Ultimately N.V.C. works to create deeper care and understanding in relationships and this includes friendships, romantic relationships, work relationships, organisational areas, schools, families and in any given conflict area.
We all have needs. If we have never done much work on ourselves we are often not always clear what our personal needs are but the clue or the key is always in our feelings. Feelings will always tell us one of two or maybe two of two things at any moment – that is what our needs are as well as if we are having a boundary violated.
Next time you are experiencing a strong emotion in relationship to another try some N.V.C. or if you notice someone reacting strongly to you – try it and see if you can find a solution in a different way than you normally would have.