In the core of the nonviolent communication driven by compassion are two elements:

EMPATHY which allows us to feel and recognise what is alive – first inside ourselves, and then expanding to feel in tune with another person. Learning the vocabulary of feelings and needs might be helpful to practice the skill of recognising different emotional-cognitive states, being able to name them also for the others.

HONESTY, which means that NVC is not about being nice but being honest. Honest with what is present and alive in you in the moment – not in the past nor in the imagined future. Honest in admitting that you might feel hurt or uncomfortable, honest in setting limits and being assertive, honest in noticing own anger and blocks for empathy. Only this way we may build a connection – with oneself, and then with others.


The model itself consists of 4 (5) steps:

0.Acknowledging judgments – as a natural tendency for humans. We may accept that and try to leave the judgments beside to move to the next step.

1.Observation and facts (vs judgments) – when we leave the point of evaluation and the attitude to “know what is good and what is bad for me”, we can notice the simple facts, which all the sides of the communication process can agree on. Free from interpretation, facts create a common background.

2.Feelings (vs thoughts) – they serve as a signal that our needs are met or unmet, and push to reflect on what it is that I need in that specific moment. You may find the list of feelings and evaluative words confused with feelings in the useful resources section.

3.Needs (vs strategies) – looking at the needs, and asking people around, we may realise that most of them are universal, and the most fundamental for humans are the needs to be noticed and appreciated. It means that just noticing that the other person is going through some feelings and asking what they need, already creates a connection. Thus, what separates us are not the needs but the strategies we choose, consciously or not, to meet them. The strategies may be in conflict, while we might discover that we are actually fighting to meet the same need. You may find the list of needs in the useful resources section.

4.Requests (vs demands) – positive, supporting concrete actions or connection, can be asked to another person as well as to yourself. A request is done with an attitude that “no” is a possible answer and is still accepted.

Here follows an example of how those steps could be transferred into a full statement, taking the responsibility first for myself as the closest person with whom I am in a relation:

When I see that______________

I feel ______________

because my need for ________________ is/ not met.

Would you be willing to __________________?


Communication that blocks compassion – the four D’s

DIAGNOSIS is a moralistic judgment to categorise what is “good” and what is “bad”, which means those actions or people might be excluded. The idea in the NVC model is different, to include and connect. Instead of giving a diagnosis we might ask questions: What serves the connection? Why do I have a difficulty to be connected with myself and the others? Here we open the space for needs and feelings.

DENIAL OF RESPONSIBILITY is when we use the language of “have to” and “should”. It creates an impression of no responsibility for or influence on reality, creating a mind trap of no responsibility for creating a connection. Instead, we could use a statement: I choose to ___________ because I want ____________.

DEMAND which doesn’t accept “no” as an answer and is closed for alternative solutions. After forming a demand it is hard to listen more to the other person, as the focus stays on the demand, which is a ready answer closing our curiosity for the other person.

DESERVE, which creates a condition that for me to get what I want I have to deserve it. It is strongly connected to judgment and diagnosis – which actions or people are good and deserve a reward, which is bad and deserve punishment. It can also remove the responsibility from ourselves for violence in that second case.


The information presented here, explaining briefly the model of Nonviolent Communication, draws from the work of Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. as presented in his book, “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life”, as well as from the “NVC Instruction Guide” by Jiva Minske, a shortcut through the model and its application.

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