Non-Violent Communication: The Framework to Powerful & Compassionate Conversations
Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Last year, for the first time in my life, I went through a "friendship breakup".
It was with my best friend that I have known since the age of 9.
And like with any breakup... it hurts. A lot. I think of her, I dream of her, I take an hour to write her a text only to then delete it all... anyone who has been through that knows it's not easy.
This article isn't about the story of that breakup though. It's about a lesson that it reinforced for me:
Communication is what makes or breaks a relationship.
Any relationship: a friendship, a romantic relationship and even professional relationships.
See, as my friend and I were talking, she told me that I had (unwillingly) been doing something that had been bothering her for the past 2 years - and now, it was too late. She didn't want to try to fix it anymore.
While I felt sorry for the way that I had made her feel, I also asked: why am I only hearing about this now, if this has been bothering you for 2 years? I felt like, had I been given the chance sooner, maybe we wouldn't have gotten to a point where she just wanted to end our friendship.
I get it though - some conversations are difficult to have. I myself have a tendency to want to avoid conflict. I want for things to be easy and smooth and, when they are not, I have to give myself a real push to address it. But the point is: as hard as it can be sometimes, I do it. I rely on the tools that I have learned from Yogic Philosophy and Non-Violent Communication in the past decade to continue to work on and improve the way that I communicate - and this friendship breakup showed me, once again, how important it is to do this work.
The Non-Violent Communication framework that I use is based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, the father of NVC (I highly recommend his book: "Non-Violent Communication") - and it adds my own twist: two extra steps that I consider crucial.
The following 6 steps will help you to address any situation that triggers any type of difficult emotion for you. Whether it's a family member who doesn't respect your political opinions, a partner who never picks up their socks or a boss who doesn't respect your personal time, you can rely on these 6 steps to have a respectful, compassionate AND powerful conversation.
STEP #1: ACKNOWLEDGE
Acknowledge the person that you are having this conversation with. If you deemed it worth it to have the conversation in the first place, it means that you want the relationship that you have to continue and to improve, right?
Example: "you are my cousin and our family gatherings are really important to me"
Example: "I love you so much"
Example: "you are such a great boss and I really enjoy working with you"
STEP #2: VISION
Describe the vision that you have for your relationship.
Example: "I want for us to be able to openly discuss politics together"
Example: "I want for us to live in a harmonious way, where we feel comfortable and happy at home"
Example: "I want for us to work in the most effective way possible".
STEP #3: OBSERVE WITHOUT JUDGEMENT
In this step, observe the facts that have been bothering you WITHOUT judging or blaming the other person.
Example: "recently, I noticed that you've been mocking my political opinions"
Example: "sometimes, I notice that you don't pick up your stuff around the house".
Example: "in the past month, you have been calling me on my private phone outside of working hours".
STEP #4: DESCRIBE YOUR FEELING
Describe the way that the situation has been making you feel, without blaming the other person for the way that you feel. Remember: only YOU are responsible for your feelings - no one else.
Example: "this makes me feel disrespected".
Example: "this makes me feel unappreciated".
Example: "this makes me feel anxious".
STEP #5: DESCRIBE YOUR NEED
Marshall Rosenberg explains that every "negative" feeling is just the consequence of an unmet need. Ask yourself: what is the need that you have, that triggers you to feel the way that you have described in the previous step?
Example: "because I have a need to be free to voice my opinions"
Example: "because I need to feel like house chores are divided equally between the two of us"
Example: "because I have a need to disconnect from work and to be present with my loved ones"
STEP #6: MAKE A CLEAR REQUEST
The whole point of having the conversation in the first place is to come to a solution. So, what is your request? What do you want from the other person? Be as clear and specific as possible.
Example: "As of now, when we talk about politics, I would like for you to refrain from mocking me".
Example: "I would like for you to pick your stuff up around the house at the end of every day"
Example: "I would like for you not to call me on my private phone unless it is truly urgent".
STEP #7: "WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO DO THAT"?
This isn't about forcing anyone to do anything. You are simply voicing how the situation is making you feel and how you would like for it to change. That being said, the other person is entirely free to say YES, NO, or to propose another solution. If you cannot come to an agreement, then it will be up to you to decide how you move on from there. Perhaps it is time to end the relationship, or perhaps you can work on better accepting the situation - depending on the context.
Remember: it is your responsibility to bring up anything that bothers you. No one can read your mind. Like Brené Brown says: "Clear is Kind".
Any questions on this topic? Simply shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be delighted to answer.