Peaceful People: Non-Violent Communication (NVC) &Why it Works

Communicating with others can be tricky, and while sometimes it feels like actions speak louder than words, typically the non-violent path is far more effective and beneficial. Read on to find out what NVC is and why it works.

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Do you know what NVC or non-violent communication is? Communicating with others is rarely an easy task. Whether you are trying to get your point across to coworkers, neighbors, friends or relatives, finding the words to represent how you feel can be tricky. And getting others to listen can be even harder. While sometimes it might feel like actions speak louder than words, violence is not the answer. Well-intentioned, smart and non-violent communication is the key to effectively expressing what you think and feel, while also creating a safe community and a peaceful state of co-existence.

So what exactly is non-violent communication? “Nonviolent Communication is based on the principles of nonviolence–the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart.” It’s based on the theory that people are good and compassionate by nature, and they learn violent behavior from their surroundings. If we, as people, can steer our actions away from the violent path, and instead focus on developing a deeper connection and understanding of others, the world will be a much better place.

The way of communication

Two women in conversation

To put it in even simpler terms, imagine you are telling your toddler to use his words to ask nicely for a toy, instead of kicking, screaming and pushing you until you listen. It’s as simple as that. Practicing NVC for effective communication seems like such a no-brainer, and yet our emotions, our frustrations and our inability to find the right words to communicate what we are trying to say all make it incredibly challenging.

But it’s also a crucial part of resolving conflicts in your own home and around the globe. Non-violent communication can save friendships and marriages, it can foster a sense of confidence and joy in our kids, and it can uplift and empower an entire community. The process of non-violent communication was developed in the 1960’s by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. who believed that “what others do may be a stimulus of our feelings, but no the cause.”

How does this communication work?

friends in conversation

He based all of his teachings and self-help books on the notion that if we focus on what is right and wrong, as opposed to what has been done to us and how others have behaved, then we will be able to thrive and live to our full potential. So how does NVC even work? And if it’s such an obviously superior way of communicating, why doesn’t everyone do it? Let’s talk about the how first.

The first step to non-violent communication is to take note of what is happening around you, simply by observing, not by judging. Step 2 is to consider how those observations make you feel, and step 3 is to decide what you need based on your values and emotions. The last step is the most crucial one—you need to learn to clearly request what you would like without demanding, the key words being “clearly request.”

the tone of voice


You don’t need to use force, attitude or anger to get your point across, you need to simple ask nicely for what you need to enrich your life. But you need to be concise and to the point. So why does non-violence work for effective communication? For starters, violence is often matched by more violence. If you use physical force to get your message across–whether you are communicating with one person or a group—your opponents and your listeners will most likely stop listening and start fighting back. It’s human nature to defend yourself when you feel you are in danger, and that violent showdown rarely ends in success for either party.

In a Ted Talk in 2013, (recounted in an article for the Washington Post), political scientist Erica Chenoweth explains that when she looked at violent versus non-violent resistance in the past 100+ years, she found that there was a much higher rate of success from the nonviolent efforts. Her findings support that “using violence also tends to reduce public support for an uprising.”

changes in life


Beyond the benefits of nonviolence on a larger scale, in the context of your home, your family life or your career, nonviolence can also lead to life-changing benefits. First of all, it can lead to environments and relationships built on trust and cooperation rather than conflict and frustration. It can help you stop communicating by criticism and blame and instead focus your energy on compassion and understanding.

You and your loved ones will feel safer, more appreciated and more respected, allowing you to communicate in a healthier and more effective way. You will be able to meet your own needs and the needs of others without resorting to forceful tactics to get things done, and above all, you’ll feel more fulfilled, peaceful and happy on a daily basis. And while it might not be easy, at the end of the day don’t we all want to spend our life filled with joy, understanding and accomplishment rather than judgment, fear, anger and stress?

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