Yes, Compassionate Communication (NVC) is a valuable set of tools. And, it is even more than that.
The Heart of Nonviolent Communication
You may already be asking “So, where are NVC’s limits? When does it not work? Can’t it backfire?”
Absolutely. We won’t go into detail about scenarios in which NVC might fail. In fact, when it is used optimally, those instances are very rare.
Compassionate Communication falls short when we think of it as only a language, set of tools, etc which are a means to our desired ends.
Where NVC thrives, and how it is intended, is as a way of being.
This can be difficult to put one’s finger on. We’re going to do our best.
Let’s say you are an actor in a theater:
You are being led through a script by your director. You recite your lines perfectly, enunciate well, and feel confident about your delivery.
But the director says, “No no no. You’re missing the most important part. I hear your lines and get what you’re saying it, but you’ve got to FEEL it!”
You try again, this time focusing not only on what you say, but how you say it. As you recite your lines, you’re sure you present the characters emotions vibrantly.
But the director cuts again, stating, “Nooooo. I mean really FEEL your characters emotions! You can’t fake this. It’s the part of acting that isn’t ‘acting’. When you, the actor, as a person, sincerely want to experience what your character is experiencing, then you become them. And the audience can see that. It has to come from the heart!“
As ethereal as it may be, we have an idea what this means. Though it can be difficult to pinpoint with words, there is a noticeable different between doing something, and doing something from the heart.
The heart of NVC is compassion. When we sincerely care for others, independently place a high value on connection and seek empathy and understanding in tandem with meeting our needs, we are at the heart of Compassionate Communication.
In Every Moment: Jackal vs. Giraffe
As you may have seen in the earlier video of Rosenburg putting NVC into action, we can use the imaginary personas of ‘Giraffe’ and ‘Jackal’ to pinpoint where we stand at any given moment: how we hear others, how we speak, etc.
‘Giraffe’ and ‘Jackal’ are part of the lingo for practitioners of Compassionate Communication. These characters essentially help us compartmentalize and understand which side of the line we’re standing on at any point: Creative Brain, or Reactive Brain.
- Family of the Reactive Brain (spectrum of consciousness associated with pride, anger, fear, sadness, despair guilt, shame)
- Effort to influence from a place of power over
- Lacks emphasis on empathy – without a heart connection
- Sense of ‘I know better’ based on a sense of right/wrong
- They have something to teach you that ‘you need to learn’
- Family of the Creative Brain (spectrum of consciousness associated with acceptance, appreciation, love, joy, peace).
- Hope to influence comes from a power with – empowerment
- Emphasis on empathy & heart connection
- Sense of ‘you will know best what’s right for you’ – and shares information
- Selfless love and compassion for the other’s being
- Fosters integrity, not a right way
This framework of dichotomous personas holds a lot of clues for understanding Compassionate Communication, so we urge you to check out the page about Giraffe and Jackal.
While holding the heart of NVC, we are given lenses through which to see others and ourselves with peace and clarity.
Now, what about all of these explicit tools? This section is full of tips and tricks for communicating better with others, resolving conflict, etc.
The framework, tools, and language provided through NVC are like the instruments within an airplane’s cockpit. They are priceless. Having an NVC mindset is like running the engine to put those tools to use.
If we try flying without the engine running, we are liable to crash. One danger with NVC as a practice, especially in groups, is NVC language becoming implied rules, like code for how people are expected to speak. If the heart and mindset of NVC are active, it is not necessary for others to use NVC language. It may help, but it is never expected, because any one person’s purpose for using NVC skills is to harness their power of empathy, and to gain clarity on theirs and others’ needs, feelings, and how to express them.
A Forest for the Roots
In recent years, scientists have expanded our understanding of forests as complex, interwoven meta-organisms. Forest ecosystems are connected by vast networks; an interplay of plants, bacteria, and fungus. We’ve even learned that Aspen forests can in fact be one single, massive organism.
It can be easy to look at a forest and assert, “This thing we call a forest is a collection of individual trees.” But in doing so, we might be missing the core structure of what really is the forest. Beneath the trunks of the trees is a root system that is connected. The soil and roots are really ‘the forest’ and each tree is a single expression of that ‘forest’.
In much the same way, Compassionate Communication can be mistaken as a collection of tools. The framework for NVC, the tools on this page, and the list of more related tools provided here and throughout schools of NVC are like the trees of the forest. They are all useful, crucial even, to making a forest.
However, NVC as a way of being is the soil and root system underneath.
As you practice the concepts within these pages, remember that they are powerful tools, but alone they can miss the point. The goal here is to foster connection and love. As people, we genuinely need, and want to share, love. Holding that awareness as the foundation for how we communicate with others, we live vibrantly with Compassionate Communication as a way of being.
The Many Trees
The tools provided in this section form the collection of trees forming the center of our NVC forest.
And, happily, this site contains many other skills that compliment the core intention of NVC. With the goal of empowering a meaningful life, you will find many tools throughout the site that relate to the heart of NVC , bringing meaning through service, expression, love, and discovery.
Below is a sort of mind map of related tools throughout the site. Click around, and enjoy the many offerings that compliment your new knowledge of Compassionate Communication.
The tools on these pages are here, within the section on NVC. Be sure to check them out as you’re going through this material to round out your undertanding of Compassionate Communication.
Love and Relationships
From the Love cornerstone, these related concepts are especially helpful in relationships.
A few key pages from our enabler ‘Clean Communication’. Pairs well with NVC. A philosophy that empowers communication of needs despite fear.
One of the utmost hindrances to a meaningful life, fear can also block us from Compassionate Communication.
Removing Judgment, Enabling Collaboration and Accuracy, and Preserving Power and Autonomy…intentional speech closely related to NVC, and adds elements of simply speaking well.
These enablers for meaning in life are each helpful sections for mastering the skill of living. You’ll find that NVC provides added insight to these skills.
More Helpful Meditations
These are each one-page meditations/tools in-line with the core of Compassionate Communication. Enjoy!
NVC is like the Snow Queen story — removing the splinter yourself, or having someone help you with it.