American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg developed nonviolent communication (NVC) in the 1960s. It is a tool for communicating during challenging situations and built on the concept that everyone is capable of compassion and finding solutions to conflict. 

The Four Components of Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent communication includes four components:

  • Observation 

  • Feelings

  • Needs

  • Requests

Observation refers to using your senses to determine what is happening. The observation should be factual, kept in context, and be free from criticism or assumptions. 

Feelings make up the next component and Rosenberg distinguishes them from thoughts. Feeling relate to needs while thoughts involve judgments.  "My boss will think I'm a failure if I'm late," is a thought created from an assumption, "I feel stressed when I'm late to work," is a feeling related to a need. 

The third component is an understanding of our needs. When we communicate nonviolently, we operate on the knowledge that all humans have the same needs, even though our fulfillment strategies may differ. 

Requests are distinct from demands. A demand involves the expectation of fulfillment; a request comes with respect for the other person's potential needs. 

How Do We Use Nonviolent Communication? 

Effective NVC has three modes; the first is self-compassion. Nonviolent communicators have an understanding of their feelings and needs and reflect on them. 

The second mode is empathy. A nonviolent communicator reflects on others' needs, feelings, and requests during communication.

The last mode is authentic expression. It requires the engagement of the four components: observation, feelings, needs, and requests. 

Why Is Nonviolent Communication Useful?

NVC provides guidelines that steer us towards compassionate understanding instead of conflict and empowers us to have positive connections with other human beings.