What is NVC

We are parents whose lives have been transformed by receiving empathy as defined by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).  He founded the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) in 1984.

NVC is a learnable process for communicating with honesty, empathy, power with and compassion. It raises awareness of what it is we say and do that disconnects us from each other, and shows how to replace this with communication that connects us.

Nonviolent Communication is based on historical principles of nonviolence (ahimsa) — the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart. NVC reminds us what we already instinctively know – how good it feels to authentically connect to another human being.  With NVC we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our own limitations, compassion,and acceptance of what we cannot change. This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute, every day.  NVC can be seen as both a spiritual practice that helps us see our common humanity, using our power in a way that honors everyone’s needs, and a concrete set of skills which help us create life-serving families and communities.  The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

The Key assumptions and principles of NVC are:

1.  Human Needs (or values) are Universal. We all have the same needs such as consideration, to be heard, to know we matter, respect, trust, and integrity.  Where we differ from each other is in our strategies to connect/meet needs. Conflicts occur at the level of strategies, not Needs.  (See Resources for a List of Universal Human Needs).

2.  Actions Result from Needs.  In other words, everything we say or do is to connect, or is motivated by, a Universal Need.  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.

3.  Feelings are the result of Needs. Feelings result from the recognition and attention to needs met or not.  Our feelings are directly related to our needs, therefore, we take responsibility for our feelings.  No one “makes” us feel. When our needs are attended to, we feel happy, satisfied, excited, etc.  When our needs are not attended to or recognized, we feel sad, scared, or angry.

4.  Natural Giving:  It is deeply inherent in the nature of humans we enjoy contributing to others, we are naturally compassionate.  And we will contribute to others if we can trust we can choose to contribute without suffering consequences.

5.  Sufficiency:  Though in individual situations it appears 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.  And we can show our equal care for everyone’s needs.

(See Resources for Key Principles of Nonviolent Communication).

The four parts of Nonviolent Communication Language are:

Observations:  Description of what is seen or heard without added interpretation or judgment.

Feelings:  Our emotions or body sensations rather than a story or thoughts about a situation.

Needs:  Universal values rather than a specific way to meet needs.  Needs are not based on a person, place, or thing.

Requests:  Asking concretely and clearly for what we want (instead of what we don’t want) rather than making a demand.

Expression Example:

When I see/hear….

I feel…

Because I need….

Would you be willing to….?

For Honest Expression:  “When I see the 5 pairs of shoes in front of the door, I feel frustrated because I value (or need) safety and consideration.  Would you be willing to

  1.     tell me what you heard is important to me? or
  2.     what’s going on for you right now? or
  3.     tell me now when you can put the shoes in a place that works for both of us?”


Empathy Example:

When you see/hear…

Are you feeling…

Because you Need…

(Would you like….)

For Empathy:

“So, when you heard your friend say ‘I really don’t want to see you again!’, were you feeling hurt because you really value consideration and friendship?  Is that it? (Stay with guessing feelings and needs).  Were you feeling sad because you wanted trust and communication?  And to be seen for how you were trying?”  Eventually, you might be able to ask “Would you be willing to brainstorm about what you’d like to do now to meet those needs?”

NVC as an Approach to Parenting

The decision to parent with NVC is grounded in a commitment to nurturing trust and connection within the parent-child relationship.  With NVC, parents can experience:

  • compassion both toward their children and toward themselves,
  • express themselves with power and care,
  • find strategies for daily living that are more likely to meet everyone’s needs,
  • increase trust that everyone’s needs matter even when we do not find strategies to meet everyone’s needs.

Parenting with NVC can help maintain children’s self-esteem while also allowing for guidance with living in alignment with our values while supporting resiliency, emotional intelligence, and self-responsibility. NVC consciousness is based on interdependence, shared power, and natural giving.  NVC in parenting is committed to the needs of children and parents, instead of prioritizing one over the other.

* taken from various sources and NVC trainers – The Center for Nonviolent Communication, Inbal Kashtan and Miki Kashtan, Elana Sabajon, and Bridgett Belgrave.