More intentionally using Non-Violent Communication

My wife and I are using the essence of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) more these days.

I learned it 15-20 years ago in Oregon – read books, went to workshops, and also a weekly practice group.

It’s amazing what it does. Situations that could escalate because of poor communication, hurt, and fear, now lead to closer connection and intimacy.

It seems so simple. It is simple when we do it.


What’s the essence of NVC?

It’s been a while since I heard or read anything about it so it’s filtered by time and what I find interesting.

To me, it’s to use some version of “I feel… because…” and to be as sincere as possible.

For me, I find fear under almost anything – anger, frustration, sadness, and so on. So I may say “I feel angry because… and really, I feel fear, I am scared because….”.

Similarly, when I say “because….” I can mention a trigger in the situation, and I may also add what’s really going on which is a painful belief I have or an old emotional issue.

So for me, it often takes the form of: “I feel X because of Y, and it’s really fear because of this painful belief and this old issue from childhood”.

This is not about a specific language or formula. It’s more about being aware of (a) what I feel and (b) some things about why, and then communicating it in whatever way is real and seems helpful in the situation. The “I feel… because…” formula may be a good support at first and in more charged situations, and as we get more used to it, it becomes more organic and we find our own way with it.

This tends to defuse the situation. The other may say “thank you” and share what they feel and what triggered it.


The other essence of NVC for me is to differentiate needs and strategies to meet those needs. We can get overly focused (and obsessed) with a particular strategy without recognizing or exploring other strategies that may work as well or better. We may also not be very aware of what the need is.

So I can first identify my need and then explore a range of strategies to meet that need. That makes it easier for two or more to find strategies that work for both or everyone.

I find that my needs are usually quite essential and universal. At one level, it may be food, water, shelter, rest. And at another level, safety, love, being seen and understood, and so on.

Image by me and Midjourney

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What’s the underlying and innocent wish behind it?

What’s the underlying and innocent wish behind the thought?

I have found this to be a very helpful question in inquiry.

There is often an underlying and innocent wish behind a thought, and behind taking it as true.

And it feels good to see it and acknowledge it. It’s a relief.

I see it’s innocent. I see I can find what I wish for in other ways.

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Emotions, Needs & Stories

For a while, I have been curious about the relationship between Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and The Work.

I went to a workshop with Marshall Rosenberg a while back, and also did a NVC class, and found it intriguing and quite useful – especially the distinction between needs and strategies to meet those needs.

What I didn’t want to see for a while is that there may not be any relationship between NVC and The Work. The Work seems to undercut everything that NVC is about.

Doing inquiry for a while, it becomes clear that emotions is a story, and needs is a story as well. There is no substance in either.

I am hurt. I need love. I feel angry. I need food. I am sad. I need appreciation.

They are all stories, and so obviously so.

I may not have food, and may die from the lack of it, but I still don’t need food. It is impossible for me to need anything.

I may not receive appreciation (according to my story about it), but I still don’t need it.

There may be sensations and then a label on it – hurt, anger, sadness, exhilaration, but those are only stories too. There is a sensation, and that is all. It is impossible for me to know what it is about. And staying with a sensation without the story, it changes to the point where it is impossible to place any label on it even if I wanted to.

It is so simple. So clear. So much ease.