Nonviolent Communication: Starting with Intention

by Bonita Ford. Creative Commons - Attribution 2010.

Since much of what I write is informed by my personal practice in Nonviolent-Compassionate Communication (NVC), I feel compelled to share about my understanding of NVC and why it is so powerful and enriching for me.

At its simplest, I would describe Nonviolent-Compassionate Communication as a practice where we are trying to connect deeply with another person and trying to find ways to meet both of our needs.  

When I first heard Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of NVC, say that one could practice NVC without speaking any words, I felt incredibly liberated and relieved. It is deeply important to me that respect, honesty and understanding be accessible to people, so it is a joy to remember that we can begin this journey with one step: intention.

To me, at the heart of NVC is an intention to connect with each other, to collaborate and cooperate, to enrich our relationships. 

If we enter a conversation with an intention of mutual respect and understanding, I believe we have already set the foundation for an interaction that is more likely to be satisfying to both parties. In my experience, I have found that staying in touch with this intention during a conflict can help me when I feel inclined to communicate from a reactive place, from judgment, blame or demands. Guided by the desire to create an atmosphere of trust, safety and honesty, a conflict can be transformed into a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other.

I'm not suggesting that it is enough just to want trust or honesty, and that the rest will follow with ease. However, I'm thinking of a few conversations, in which I used the steps/elements of NVC (observation, feeling, need and request) and forgot about my intention, compared to some conversations where I was fully aware of my intention, without speaking NVC. It is clear to me that in the latter, I experienced more satisfaction and connection, than I did in the former. I truly believe that our intentions shape our communication. Even before our words come out, at a very subtle level, which might be present in our tone of voice or body language, we convey to the other person that "I value you and what is important to you. I want to find a solution that we are both comfortable with."

Can we be the change before we try to speak it? Starting with one small inner step...

Read NVC: An Attitude of Cooperation in Activism & Environmentalism.

Read NVC: The Alchemy of Feelings & Needs in Personal & Social Transformation.

Please check out our workshops on NVC.



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