4.1 Communication Framework I: Non-Violent Communication

4.1 Communication Framework I: Non-Violent Communication

The Origin of the Term Nonviolent Communication

“If we want to be compassionate, we must be conscious of the words we use. We must both speak and listen from the heart.”[1]  This quote was used by Marshall Bertram Rosenberg, the author of books that deal with nonviolent communication. Marshall B. Rosenberg was an American psychologist, teacher, author and mediator as well. He developed the method of nonviolent communication (NVC) in the early 1960s, which is basically about resolving conflicts between people. Rosenberg also founded the centre for nonviolent communication – an international non-profit organisation. He died at the age of 80 in 2015. He is the author of many books, for example:

  • Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
  • Living Nonviolent Communication: Practical Tools to Connect and Communicate Skillfully in Every Situation
  • Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion
  • A Model for Nonviolent Communication

NVC is based on the premise that all people are capable of compassion and empathy and that people resort to violence or behaviour that is harmful to others only if they are unable to find more effective strategies to meet their needs.

Violent and Nonviolent Communication

Let’s start with the difference between violent and nonviolent communication. Violent communication results in limitation of liberty, causing hurt and harm, diminishing a person’s worth. A person whose communication is violent often uses coercive and manipulative language, which evokes feelings of shame, blame, obligation, fear or guilt in other people. On the other hand, nonviolent communication is communication where we learn to hear our needs and other people’s needs. It creates compassion, maximises liberty and helps us to understand the relationship between feelings and needs. Nonviolent communication is the integration of consciousness, language, communication and means of influence.

Four Components of Nonviolent Communication and Examples

The NVC model consists of four components. The first component is Observation. In nonviolent communication, we prefer to describe Observation without evaluation. We state the facts without judgement. We use, for example, adverbs and adjectives in ways that do not indicate an assessment. Do not say, “Thomas does not fulfil his work duties on time,” but “Thomas did not complete the last three work tasks on time”. For more examples, visit this webpage: https://awarenessagents.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/image-41.png

The second component is Feelings. It is important to be able to express our feelings (happy, irritated etc.), but we should distinguish between feelings and thoughts. Rosenberg underlines the difference between feelings and thoughts.

Needs are the third component of NVC. Each of us has needs and values that sustain and enrich our lives. When those needs are met, we experience pleasant feelings; when they are not met, we experience uncomfortable feelings. Rosenberg says there are four ways to react to a negative message – blaming ourselves, blaming others, sensing and understanding our feelings and needs, and sensing and understanding others’ feelings and needs.

The last component, according to Rosenberg, is Requests. The aim is to create a crystal clear request. Be careful about demands: A request turns into a demand if people think they will be punished if they do not say “Yes” to your request. If someone rejects your request, accept the rejection and try to understand their reasons.


Reflective questions for the reader:

  1. Why should a mentor use positive and nonviolent communication when communicating with a mentee?
  2. What feelings do mentees feel when they are criticised or inculpated by mentors?


[1] Marshall B. Rosenberg Quotes and Sayings. Inspiringqutoes [online]. [cit. 2021-10-5]. Available from: www.inspiringquotes.us/author/1532-marshall-b-rosenberg