Nonviolent Communication™ (NVC)

The legacy of Marshall Rosenberg
In the 1960s an American clinical psychologist by the name of Marshall Rosenberg, influenced by the work of Carl Rogers and inspired by the non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi, began developing a new approach to resolving conflict, which he tested in his work with the civil rights movement in his home city of Detroit.  The basic principles and methods of NVC™ are simple to describe and learn, although Rosenberg did not elaborate or publish them in book form until 1999’s Nonviolent Communication: A language of compassion, later revised as  Nonviolent Communication: a language of life (2003)As Dr. Rosenberg collaborated with educators, trainers and colleagues all over the world, new teaching tools and applications for the NVC model continued to be developed, and its reach extended from conflict resolution into fields such as personal growth, therapy, education, social work, business management and social change. By the time of Rosenberg’s death in 2015, it is said that  A Language of Life had been translated into 30 languages and had sold over one million copies world-wide.

Dr. Rosenberg founded and for many years directed the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) as a training and certification organisation to promote and support the dissemination of NVC. CNVC has trademarked the terms ‘NVC’ and ‘Compassionate Communication’ and licenses ‘certified trainers’ from its head office in New Mexico, but there are many local and regional NVC groups all over the world and there is great variety in how the NVC model is presented and elaborated. Typically it is trainers and workshop facilitators out in the field, whether certified or independent, who come up with innovative new approaches for presenting the NVC model and enhancing its ability to bring about positive change in people’s lives. As a result, the NVC toolbox grows and adapts, and the overall emphasis continues to shift and diversify. For example, in many situations where NVC is taught or shared today, the focus may be more on ‘presence with a process’ than on trying to change anything or resolve a specific issue. NVC practitioners have also made links with disciplines such as Focusing, Mindfulness, Contact Improvisation and Voice Dialogue, and have found points of connection with many of the world’s spiritual traditions.

Why non-violent?
Thanks to its wide dissemination and adoption by different kinds of practitioners in different fields of activity, it gets harder to define what NVC actually ‘is’; and at the same time the term ‘non-violent’ can be confusing, as most people associate ‘violence’ with the use of physical force. It’s typically not obvious to the uninitiated that ‘normal’ everyday communication generally does indeed involve a form of violence, whether arms or voices are raised or not: in its implied or expressed labelling, criticising and judging of ourselves and others. Moreover, ‘violent’ and ‘non-violent’ are themselves just the kind of dualistic label or judgment we are trying to avoid in NVC! It’s two short steps from saying “I do Nonviolent Communication” to “You do violent communication” to “You are a violent person (and I am not)”!

An alternative name
Thus, I am happy to adopt the similar but less ‘loaded’ name Needs-based Communication’ (NbC), even if that also requires some explanation, as its brings us back to what I see as the core issue of NVC: that all we say and write and think and do is related to human needs, whether we ask in one way or another for our own needs to be met, or offer to help someone else with meeting their needs. I also enjoy the flexibility of being able to use the same acronym for Needs-based Connection, Needs-based Consciousness and Needs-based Coaching, which are all aspects of the same process. In applying NbC in all its flavours, I naturally model some aspects of NVC better than I do others, at the same time as adding other material and insights from my own life experiences and learnings. I hope sincerely that my ‘NbC’ version of NVC brings inspiration, support and growth, but if it does not, then I trust that at least no-one will think any the less of the amazing insights and achievements of Marshall Rosenberg, or of NVC as it is taught by CNVC approved trainers.

Learn or review the basic NVC model

(Some other names used by different trainers for what is essentially NVC include: Compassionate Communication, Mindful Communication and Connecting Communication).