How to design and implement your non-violent communication process?

non violent communication

One of the first communication techniques any business decision-maker or team manager should learn is how to create and set up a non violent communication process within their organization. This is not an idealistic view but rather a pragmatic one: not antagonizing your team members is just the most effective way to achieve results. It cannot be perfectly done overnight though, non violent communication is a skill, and just like every skill, it needs to be nurtured through training. Yet, before learning how to set it up at work, let’s review together how it works and how it can be beneficial to your business

Product Manager – Coachyz
In this article
design and implement your non violent communication process

What is non violent communication?

Non-violent communication: definition and origins

Nonviolent Communication (NVC), pioneered by psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg (PhD), serves as a guiding framework to set empathetic connections and initiate constructive dialogue among individuals. The NVC process is based on the principles of empathy and understanding. It offers a four-stage process: observation, feelings, needs, and requests. But more on that in due time.

NVC is often compared to a language, quite understandably since it appears in the very title of the original book it was first introduced with : Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Puddledancer Press). Other names for NVC are compassionate communication or language of compassion. However, it is more akin to a holistic approach to interpersonal engagement, encouraging individuals to focus on mutual comprehension and fulfillment of needs rather than coercion or conflict.

Rosenberg, underscores NVC’s role as a pathway to compassion, emphasizing its capacity to redirect attention towards common goals. By prioritizing empathy and conscious expression of emotions and needs, non violent communication is all about setting a culture of mutual understanding and inclusion.

As you can see, this approach is heavily influenced by humanistic notions and values. Yet it doesn’t outright reject conflict and opposition but rather recognizes them as opportunities for deeper and more lasting understanding. Utilized both in clinical settings and public workshops, NVC empowers individuals to navigate conflicts, nurture relationships, and cultivate a more empathetic and harmonious society.

Non violent communication is used all over the world in several fields such as:

  • therapy and medicine;
  • education and parenting;
  • international relations (peace programs);
  • mediation (in litigation settlement for instance);
  • business and management which is the focus of this article.

The 4 key elements of the non violent communication method

As we mentioned before, non violent communication is a process that can be broken down into 4 basic steps: Observations, Feelings, Needs and Requests.

non-violent communication steps

1. Observations

In the first step of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), you express observations. You provide the factual basis for addressing conflicts or situations. These observations need to remain neutral, a description of what you have seen, heard, remembered, or imagined. No matter what you do, avoid at all costs adding any form of judgment or interpretation to your observations. If you do, you drastically increase the chance of defensiveness or misunderstandings from your counterpart. Observing is not evaluating.

By emphasizing specific observations tied to time and context, you establish a common ground for dialogue. Rather than making generalized or evaluative statements, with NVC, you express observations in a concrete and straight-to-the-fact manner.

For instance, instead of saying “You’re always late,” you might say, “During our meeting today, I noticed you arrived 15 minutes after the scheduled start time.”

2. Feelings

In the second step, NVC involves connecting the observation with the feelings it evokes within you. More specifically identifying, naming, and understanding those feelings, still without judgment nor evaluation. Your goal is to express your emotional experience and even physical sensations associated with your needs, whether these are met or unmet.

To effectively identify and express feelings, concentrate on words that describe your inner experience. For instance, saying “I feel joyful” accurately represents an inner experience, whereas “I feel like you’re ignoring me” might reflect an interpretation of someone else’s behavior. By expressing feelings, you continue the process of taking responsibility for your experience, which enhances the chance that others will respond in a way that fits both your needs.

It’s important to be able to tell apart genuine feelings from thoughts that masquerade as feelings. For example, saying “I feel abandoned” might actually reflect an interpretation of others’ actions rather than the genuine feeling of “hurt” or “loneliness” their behavior provokes. Similarly, using phrases like “I feel like…” or “I feel that…” may indicate evaluations rather than genuine feelings. Granted, there is a fine line between the two, but with time, the distinction gets easier to make.

Examples of genuine feelings include “I feel content,” “I feel disappointed,” “I feel anxious,” and “I feel exhausted.” By accurately identifying and expressing the feelings prompted by the observation, you create space for mutual respect and cooperation in communication.

3. Needs

In this step, you delve into your inner self to outline the needs behind your feelings. Needs, in the context of NVC, are universal and fundamental to all human beings, encompassing values and deepest human longings. Being able to pinpoint and name these needs not only enhance your relationship with yourself but also paves the way toward mutual understanding.

Another step, and yet another distinction you need to make: needs from strategies. Needs are universal and not tied to any particular circumstance for fulfilling them, whereas strategies are specific actions taken to meet those needs. To put it shortly, needs are related to values while strategies are part of an agenda. Needs represent the core values and deep desires driving your emotions. When you shift your focus to them, you gain a sense of empowerment and freedom, which sets you up for exploring alternative solutions.

For example, instead of saying “You should stop interrupting me,” which is a strategy aimed at meeting the need for respect, you might express the underlying need directly by saying, “I feel frustrated when I’m interrupted because I have a need for fluid communication.”

4. Requests

In the fourth and final step of non violent communication, you articulate actionable requests to address your aforementioned needs. These requests need to be presented positively and concretely, focusing on what you desire rather than what you wish to avoid.

When making a request, it’s essential to use language that is clear and specific. You want to formulate a doable request. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t leave your clothes on the floor,” which is negative and vague, you might say, “Could you please hang your clothes in the closet?” This communicates your need for a tidy space in a direct and respectful manner.

Requests are not demands: a request allows the other person the freedom to decline or suggest an alternative without facing repercussions. If someone agrees to your request out of fear, guilt, shame or coercion, it obviously undermines the trust and connection between you. On the contrary, the objective of making a request is to make room for mutual respect and cooperation, where both parties feel they can express their needs and preferences.

Overall example and caveats

Here is an example of how you could bring up something to another team member with non violent communication:

“During our conversation this morning, I noticed that you kept checking your phone while I was speaking. It made me feel a bit frustrated because I value hearing and being heard. Would you be willing to put your phone away or silence it when we’re having important discussions, so we can fully engage with each other?”

Of course the exact words depend on the circumstances and the people you are talking to but this is an example.

Broadly speaking, context does matter and even on a team management scale, there is no 100% winning rate formula. NVC is a process that sets the best conditions for effective communication but there is no guarantee. Even with the best intentions, egos can get in the way. However empathy greatly enhances the chances of success.

The benefits of a non violent communication process in a business structure

The prevalent role of empathy in NVC training

Along with active listening, empathy is one of the most powerful communication tools at your disposal when it comes to mutual understanding and conflict resolution.

Indeed, empathy is about connecting with others by reading their feelings and needs, demonstrating compassion, and acknowledging the importance of their experiences.

Through empathy, you meet your own needs for understanding and connection while also striving to meet the needs of others.

In empathic conversations, you shift both intention and attention toward a mutually beneficial solution, which leads to kindness, generosity, and creative solutions even in challenging situations.

Empathy begins with self-awareness. Some might even talk of self-empathy. Whatever the name it might always be useful to use the NVC process with yourself first before extending it to others through compassionate listening and supportive engagement.

Non violent communication process: benefits

Non violent communication offers numerous benefits across all kinds of professional settings. Firstly, it enhances work relationships since it strives for open communication, empathy, and understanding among team members.

As it stands, the non violent communication process is an effective conflict management solution. In the end, this contributes to creating a positive work environment characterized by trust, respect, and cooperation.

Moreover, NVC promotes employee engagement by providing individuals with the tools to express their needs and concerns constructively, leading to a greater sense of accountability and satisfaction in their work. As a result, productivity levels are boosted as employees feel motivated and supported in achieving their goals.

Furthermore, NVC encourages innovation and creativity by creating an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and encouraged. It also enhances leadership skills among managers and supervisors.

Overall, the adoption of NVC principles contributes to enhancing a company’s reputation as a workplace that prioritizes effective communication, collaboration, and employee well-being, leading to long-term success and growth.

How to set up a non violent communication process at work?

In theory, the non violent communication process is quite simple but in practice it turns out to be somewhat harder. Why? Simply because it involves some skills that need to be trained:

  • diplomacy;
  • sense of timing;
  • careful choice of words;
  • self awareness, etc.

So, to help you navigate NVC in an effective manner, there are certain best practices you need to learn and use.

dos and dont's

Be self-aware

As we saw, self-awareness is foundational to empathy which itself is the mainstay of the NVC process.

This is why you should take time to understand your own emotions, triggers, and needs before engaging in conversations. This is always a good thing to be able to recognize how our own biases and past experiences may influence our communication style.

Listen actively

Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the speaker. Focus on understanding their perspective without interrupting or formulating responses preemptively. Use nonverbal cues such as nodding and eye contact to show engagement. Active listening helps you understand and it gives confidence to your counterpart.

Show you care

Once again, empathy is the name of the game. It has to be genuine and it has to be expressed so that your team members have validation of their emotions and perspectives.

Express empathy and compassion towards your colleagues. Validate their feelings and experiences as legitimate, even if you don’t agree with them. Genuine care fosters trust and openness in communication. You don’t need to go above and beyond, brief non judgmental acknowledgments such as “I can see how it can be a problem” will work just fine.

Use “I” statements

Frame your statements using “I” instead of “you” to take ownership of your feelings and experiences. For example, say “I feel frustrated when deadlines are missed” instead of “You always miss deadlines.” Don’t use “we” either, as it could be perceived as an attempt to share responsibility or to speak for someone else.

Avoid criticism

Refrain from blaming or criticizing others, as playing the blame game can only lead to hostility and resentment. Instead, focus on problem-solving and constructive feedback approaches such as SBI feedback.

Check in on a regular basis

Speaking of which, schedule regular check-ins with team members to discuss progress, address concerns, and provide support. Open communication channels facilitate ongoing feedback and collaboration.

Steer clear of assumptions

Assumptions can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. If you are missing some information just ask for clarifications to ensure you are on the same page. Don’t try to fill in the blanks just by yourself. Also, learn to deal with binary questions.

Be respectful

This one might sound like a given but do treat others with respect and dignity, regardless of differences in opinion or hierarchy. Respectful communication is obviously the necessary foundation for a positive and inclusive work environment.

Seek common ground

Focus on shared goals and interests to find common ground during discussions. If you don’t put the emphasis on cooperation, the conversation might turn more to a struggle for personal interest than anything else.

Mind your body language

Pay attention to your nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and posture, as they can convey messages unintentionally. Maintain open and approachable body language to encourage honest communication. This is one of the hardest things to do in non-verbal communication as you sometimes have to undo decades of automatic body responses. That doesn’t mean you have to give up spontaneity altogether but try not to convey defensive emotions such as crossing your arms for instance.

Take cultural sensitivity into account

Be mindful of cultural differences and norms when communicating with colleagues from diverse backgrounds: respect cultural sensitivities and adapt your communication style accordingly.

Set clear expectations

This is aligned with the “No Assumptions” advice. You don’t want to give any room for misunderstanding nor ambiguity, so you should try your best to communicate expectations clearly.

As a whole, the non violent communication process is rather easy to learn but a bit harder to master. Indeed, the 4 steps are very simple to understand but implementation might prove a bit tricky because empathy is not just a mechanical process and successful communication does not only boil down to good intentions. However, with a little bit of time and practice it quickly pays off quite a lot.

Learning and adapting is just like how we picture business and management at CoachYZ. Every day, we support managers and decision-makers in adopting a fresh approach to unleash their full potential. If you’re excited to join us on this transformative journey, start your coaching adventure with us now!

non violent communication
Product Manager – Coachyz

Coaching remains an essential tool in our toolbox, despite the ever-changing professional world. In the digital age, our approach has evolved from simply informing journalists to delivering rich, engaging content directly to our target audience. Good coaching must be personalized, relevant and adapted to the digital world to ensure optimal online visibility. What’s more, the incorporation of multimedia supports such as videos, images and interactive links can considerably enhance its impact. 

In this article


The 4 steps of nonviolent communication (NVC) are: making observations, identifying feelings, recognizing needs, formulating requests. The order matters but less than the content. NVC is primarily about connecting with the other person and not so much about the exact words. All of this needs to be without any judgment nor interpretation.

The 5 pillars of nonviolent communication(NVC) are the 4 steps of a process (observations, feeling, needs and requests) plus the underlying effort throughout the whole conversation : empathy. This latter notion can be done following one of three paths: self-empathy, receiving empathy and expressing honestly.

If someone is upset because they feel ignored during a conversation, they could express their observation (“I noticed you were checking your phone while I was speaking”), share their feelings (“I felt frustrated”), express their need (“I need to feel heard”), and make a request
(“Could you please put your phone away and listen to me when we’re talking?”).

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