NVC™ model overview

The basic process of NVC consists of 4 components:

OBSERVATION FEELINGS NEEDS REQUEST

Observation: what happened, stripped of any interpretations or assumptions
Feelings: energy moving in the emotional body in response to what happened
Needs: inner qualities or longings which are seeking expression or recognition
Request: suggestion for specific action aimed at meeting those needs

In the basic linear version of the process, we make a clear, neutral observation of what happened in the outside world, we connect with the emotional feelings that arise in response in our inner world, we identify the underlying needs which relate to and inspire those feelings, and we make a request for an action which will satisfy those needs.

This four-step process may be applied in three different ways:

  • In self-expression, we use the 4 components to describe our own experience and our hopes to another person.
  • In listening empathically, we hear the 4 components from another NVC speaker, or if the speaker does not know NVC, we guess them based on what s/he is saying and offer them as suggestions, often refining our guesses several times until the other person is satisfied s/he has been heard.
  • In self-empathy we listen empathically to what is alive in ourselves, using the same 4 steps.

In all modes the intention is to connect, whether with oneself or another.

This model sounds very simple, and in many ways it is. Of course, like any new language we learn, it takes practice to apply it in real life, and that is maybe not so easy. The OFNR steps offer a framework for retraining our habitual ways of thinking and reacting. However it is not intended as a prescription for everyday conversations, especially with non-speakers of the NVC language.  If you try to do that, you will sound like an ‘NVC robot’, and that will not bring you connection at all! The idea is to internalise the framework by practising and extending it in workshops and practice groups until a new way of thinking becomes second nature. After a while we are able to connect intuitively with human needs without having to ‘translate’ everything in our heads, and then we can express ourselves in ‘street NVC’ in the outside world. ‘Street NVC’ very rarely includes all 4 steps of the model, and may not include any of them explicitly!

One trap which many NVC students fall into is wanting to sound smooth and natural with the language without doing the work of fully internalising the basic steps. However, there’s no short cut I know of to making clear Observations, becoming aware of our Feelings and going inside to find our Needs, before making any Request. And there may be some distractions along the way….