NVC™ model overview

The basic process of NVC consists of 4 components:


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 recognition or fulfilment
Request*: suggestion for specific action aimed at meeting those needs

*Each of these key concepts is defined in a specific way: read more about that by clicking on the words

In the linear version of the process, we make a clear, neutral observation of what happened in the outside world, we connect with the feelings that arise in us in response, 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 distinct ways:

  • In self-expression, we use the 4 components to describe our own experience and our longings to another person.
  • In listening empathically, we hear and receive 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 primary intention is to connect, whether with oneself or another.

This model sounds very simple, and in many ways it is. And, for most of us it’s not so easy to apply in daily life; it takes practice. The OFNR steps offer a framework for retraining our habitual ways of thinking and reacting. However they are 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 rehearsing 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 directly with human needs without having to ‘translate’ everything in our heads, and then we can express ourselves with clarity and honesty in the outside world as well as becoming excellent listeners. ‘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 that I know of. And even with many years of practice, when faced with a difficult situation, most of us still benefit greatly from going back to basics: making clear Observations, becoming aware of our Feelings and going inside to find our Needs, before making any Request. For more depth on this, follow the links to the individual components …. For more thoughts about learning the language of NVC, go here