What is Nonviolent Communication?




The basic principals of NVC are:

  • All human beings share the same needs: We all have the same needs, although the strategies we use to meet these needs may differ. Conflict occurs at the level of strategies not at the level of needs
  • All actions are attempts to meet needs: Our desire to meet needs, whether conscious or unconscious, underlies every action we take. We only resort to force, manipulation or other actions that do not meet our own or others needs when we do not recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs
  • Feelings point to needs being met or unmet: Our feelings arise directly out of our experience of whether our needs seem to our met or unmet in a given circumstance. When our needs are met, we may feel happy, satisfied, peaceful etc. When our needs are unmet, we may feel sad, scared, frustrated etc.
  • All human beings have the capacity for empathy: We have an innate capacity for empathy, though not always the knowledge of how to access it.
  • Human beings meet needs through independent relationships: Though some needs are met principally through the quality of our relationship with ourselves, we meet many of our needs through our relationships with other people-both in personal and work life.
  • Human beings change: By virtue of the constantly unfolding nature of needs and strategies to meet them, all of us are dynamic processes, not static entities.
  • Choice is internal: Regardless of the circumstances, we can reset, and make conscious choices based on awareness of needs of all involved.
  • Violence is a tragic expression of unmet needs
  • Each of us has remarkable inner resources if we are given empathy to get in touch with them



 The basic model for NVC  is really quite straightforward and simple. It is a process that combines four components with three parts. While the four components are specific ideas and actions that fit into the form and the model of NVC, the three parts provide a solid foundation for NVC as well as for living non-violently. They are the basis for Marshall’s ideas of giving and receiving from the heart. These brief definitions will be expounded further in the sections below.

Four Components

  1. Observation: Observation without evaluation consists of noticing concrete things and actions around us. We learn to distinguish between judgment and what we sense in the present moment, and to simply observe what is there.
  2. Feeling: when we notice things around us, we inevitably experience varying emotions and physical sensations in each particular moment. Here, distinguishing feelings from thoughts is an essential step to the NVC process.
  3. Needs: All individuals have needs and values that sustain and enrich their lives. When those needs are met, we experience comfortable feelings, like happiness or peacefulness, and when they are not, we experience uncomfortable feelings, like frustration. Understanding that we, as well as those around us, have these need is perhaps the most important step in learning to practice NVC and to live empathically.
  4. Request: To make clear and present requests is crucial to NVC’s transformative mission. When we learn to request concrete actions that can be carried out in the present moment, we begin to find ways to cooperatively and creatively ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

Three Parts

  1. Empathic receiving: Receiving from the heart creates a means to connect with others and share experiences in a truly life enriching way. Empathy goes beyond compassion, allowing us to put ourselves into another’s shoes to sense the same feelings and understand the same needs; in essence, being open and available to what is alive in others.
  2. Honest self – expression: Giving from the heart has its root in honesty. Honesty begins with truly understanding ourselves and our own needs, and being in tune with what is alive in us in the present moment.
  3. Self – empathy: When our needs are not met, we experience unpleasant feeling of pain, frustration, irritation, sadness and with self – empathy we learn to embrace them as just another manifestation of life. This gives us the means to remain present to and aware of our own needs and the needs of others even in extreme situations that are often difficult to handle. When we learn to give ourselves empathy, we can start to break down the barriers to communication that keeps us from connecting with others.


NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that each of our actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs.

People who practice NVC have found greater authenticity in their communication, increased understanding, deepening connection and conflict resolution. NVC utilizes a language where  we can express our inner world , our feelings and needs. This in its turn will help us understand the inner world, feeelings and needs of others.