Nonviolent Communication

by Hailey Byrne | April 2024

Many of us have likely experienced the uncomfortable feeling of having to initiate or engage in a difficult conversation with family, friends, coworkers, or even partners. Nonviolent communication is a great tool that can be used in order to foster connection, understanding, and harmony during difficult conversations. Below, we will discuss the basics of nonviolent communication.

The Four Components of Nonviolent Communication
1. Observations: What we see or hear. Often a trigger for our reactions. The goal is to describe specifically what we are reacting to. It is often more helpful to say something such as “I noticed when you walked in today you did not say hello.” Compared to “you are rude.”

2. Feelings: Our emotional experience and physical sensations. They arise when our needs are or are not met. Some examples of feelings that may come up when our needs are met include: affectionate, confident, safe, and thankful. Examples of feelings that we may experience when our needs are not met include: afraid, annoyed, angry, or confused.

3. Needs: Our core values. There are some needs that are universal such as food and shelter. However, others may be unique for each person. Some other examples of needs include: comfort, acceptance, love, security, freedom, and laughter. We want to ensure that we differentiate needs from strategies. For example, a need someone may have might be for connection. However, a strategy to meet that need would be watching a movie with a loved one.

4. Requests: Requests are made in order to meet our needs and occur when we identify a specific action and see if others are willing to participate. When making requests, we must accept that the other person has the option to say “no.” We want to ensure that we use requests rather than demands. For example, a demand would be “you need to take your shoes off when you come into the house.” However, a request would sound something like “would you be willing to take your shoes off when you come into the house?”

Putting it all together
Moving forward, I challenge you to think about how you are feeling in the presence of others and what needs may or may not be being met. If you want to avoid conflict with someone who may not be meeting your needs, try utilizing nonviolent communication as a way to make a request for change. The following guide shows how to set up a request using specific observations, feelings, and the identification of needs.

When I see/hear ______________ I feel ______________ Because my need for is/is not met ______________ Would you be willing to _______________?

Kashtan , I., & Kashtan , M. (n.d.). Basics of Nonviolent Communication. BayNVC .
What is NVC?. Center for Nonviolent Communication. (n.d.).