– Marshall Rosenberg
We believe that all human beings value connection, both with themselves and in their relationships with others. We observe, however, that many people lack a sense of self-connection and that much, if not most, communication between people does not result in closer connection, but rather tends to create distance and alienation.
For us, NVC has two aspects. First, it is a language that guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. (We define needs as qualities of the heart that appear to us as longings or yearnings, such as the need for safety, connection or beauty.) NVC trains us to observe carefully, and to be able to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in any given situation.
Second, NVC is a value system which guides the way we try to live. The concept of nonviolence comes from Gandhi, who used the term to refer to our natural state of compassion, when violence has subsided from the heart. The philosophy of NVC is grounded in the assumption that all human beings share the same needs. This idea allows us to replace our old patterns of defending, withdrawing or attacking in the face of judgment and criticism, and to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light. Resistance, defensiveness and violent reactions are minimized. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt and needed, rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion.
Through its emphasis on deep listening – to ourselves as well as to others – NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. When we understand and acknowledge our needs, we develop a shared foundation for much more satisfying relationships.
We are grateful to Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life) for much of what is presented here.