Enjoy Improved Relationships by Using Nonviolent Communication, Part II

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This is part two in my series on Nonviolent Communication.  You can find part one here.

Today we'll get acquainted with just what NVC is so that we can better understand the principles behind the process.  

I'm laying out this overview using headings and bullet points, rather than rambling on in a narrative style.  My hope is that I will better convey the "meat" of the important points of NVC to you  - but be sure to let me know if you have any questions along the way!

And don't worry, we'll be unpacking this information even further in future posts in this series, so get ready for all the wonderful information yet to come!


The purpose of NVC is to help us connect with ourselves and others in a way that makes compassionate giving natural.

What do I mean by compassionate giving?  That's when we do something for someone else where our sole intention is to enrich life (as opposed to getting a reward or avoiding punishment).

2 Foundational Questions of NVC

  • How are you?  
  • What would make life more wonderful?  

How are you?
This is a fundamental question asked in cultures worldwide.  We have a desire to share what's alive in us, to describe our feelings and needs, and to discuss life in action.

What would make life more wonderful?
We also long to share what's good - or not - in our lives.  We want our lives and relationships to improve and NVC teaches how we can shift away from demanding things of others and towards presenting our requests as an opportunity or gift.

2 Facts You Must Understand

  • We can't make other people feel a certain way (whether happy or sad, it's just not something we can control). 
  • Although we're not responsible for the feelings of others, we are responsible for how we react to others (no more playing the blame game in life!)

Destructive Methods of Communication

1.  Judgements
  • Right versus wrong: seen when we label, classify, or analyze others
  • People respond to judgements out of fear, guilt, or shame instead of desires of their heart
  • Judgements take human needs and categorize them as good or bad and deserving of reward or punishment (which reinforces violence)
  • Judgement still has a place in NVC, but NVC judges from the standpoint of whether life is being served or not and seeks connections that contribute to the well-being of others
2.   Making comparisons between self and others
  • This unhealthy practice never truly builds up life - if you compare yourself to Mozart, who played 3 instruments and began composing by the age of 5, then you've already failed
  • If you don't come out as a failure in your comparison with someone else, then how does that enrich the life of the other person?
3.  Denial of responsibility
  • Again, we're responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions
  • Think of statements like "You make me feel ____" or, "I have to ____"
  • I use a form of that second statement all the time - "I have to drive the speed limit, because it's the law!"  Instead, I need to realize that I choose to drive the speed limit, because I want to drive safely (or avoid a ticket!)
  • You may say you have to do something at work because your boss tells you to, but really, you choose to do it so that you can keep your job!
4.  Demands
  • These can be both implicit or explicit
  • You can spot a demand because there's always a punishment if you don't do whatever is requested
  • Remember, we can't make anyone do anything, but we can make others wish they had!
  • Using the term "deserves" ("I deserve this ice cream after all that hard work" or "He deserves to lose friends because he was nasty towards me") means you're using a reward/punishment economy and people should change not for rewards or punishment, but to enrich life
  • When considering demands, you need to ask two questions:
    • What would I like the other person to do differently? 
    • What do I want the reasons to be for them to do it?
  • Beware of using praise and compliments as rewards to get people to do what you want them to! 
Now that we have an idea of what NVC is about (as well as information on common destructive communication tools), we can dive in to the mechanics of the NVC process.  Look for my next post in this series to learn about these helpful steps.

    NVC concepts can make such a difference in how you view yourself and others.  Feel free to ask any questions regarding NVC you might have in the comments - and don't forget to sign up to receive Syncopated Mama blog updates by email, so you don't miss a single installment of this series!

    Keep reading!  Find Part 3 of my NVC series here!

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