Compassionate Communication

The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, gave his managers one book that quickly changed the company’s culture from cutthroat to creative. Which book? Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.
Highlighted by Business Insider, Fast Company, and Forbes.

That book was filled with simple concepts: understanding ourselves and others according to universal needs, feelings that result from those needs, and communicating with others through that framework.
But it was the spirit of Compassionate Communication (also called Nonviolent Communication or ‘NVC’) that transformed Microsoft’s culture and continues to do the same for companies and families around the world. At the core of Rosenberg’s teachings were an embracing of our complexity as people, wielding the intentional use of language for empathy and connection.

What have others said about NVC?

“Nonviolent Communication is one of the most useful processes you will ever learn.”
—WILLIAM URY, Getting to Yes. William Ury is an American author, academic, anthropologist, and negotiation expert. He co-founded the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

“Nonviolent Communication can change the world. More importantly, it can change your life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
—JACK CANFIELD, Chicken Soup for the Soul Series
“Dr. Rosenberg has brought the simplicity of successful communication into the foreground. No matter what issue you’re facing, his strategies for communicating with others will set you up to win every time.”
—TONY ROBBINS, Awaken the Giant Within and Unlimited Power
“As far as nonviolence and spiritual activism, Marshall Rosenberg is it! Applying the concepts within these books will guide the reader toward fostering more compassion in the world.”
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, Everyday Grace and honorary chairperson, Peace Alliance
And, relatedly:
“Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.”
—Mahatma Gandhi

Marshall Rosenberg’s original landmark work. The foundation of the movement.

Since Rosenburg’s book first published in 1999, Compassionate Communication (NVC) has changed millions of lives. It has enabled empathy and connection on a massive scale, transforming relationships, communities, companies, and families across the world.
We offer it on this site as a powerful way of being. Practicing NVC is like fostering a mindset focused on empathy and understanding. It also comes with a series of well-honed tools, and ties together nicely with other sections on the site, from Intentional Speech and Clean Communication, to other Enablers for a meaningful life. (more below)

So, let’s learn NVC.

One central philosophy of Compassionate Communication is this:

By assuming that: We all share essential human needs, and can see that in others
This creates potential for: A prioritization of empathy and connection through relating with/to those needs, even in the face of conflict.

This section on NVC, which includes additional tools beyond traditional NVC, presents a powerful skill set.
You will be provided a model, tools, and resources for how to understand, speak, and listen more effectively/compassionately, with both ourselves and others.
Relating to others plays a huge role in how we understand ourselves. As we communicate, we identify who we are. We communicate with ourselves when we listen and speak to others.
After learning and practicing what’s in the following pages, you will be equipped to:
  • understand your feelings, motivations, and thoughts with more clarity
  • create better relationships
  • resolve conflicts elegantly
  • listen like a wise best friend
  • speak to others with dignity and love

Having an NVC mindset will strengthen connection, even if your partner, coworkers, or business is not familiar with it and its tools. Having NVC skill is like having a super power that you secretly share with others when you communicate. That power is empathy, insight, and capacity for peace and connection.

Getting Started

Before we get into NVC, let’s start by considering how we communicate as individuals and as a culture, and how that relates to our connection with others. While watching, consider what parts you feel connected to and what parts you don’t. Each of these topics are deeply related to NVC:

Self-Compassion

Components of Self-Compassion with the creator of the Self-Compassion Scales – 6 min

Empathic Connection

What it is, why it matters, and how it will affect social change and our human potential – 11 min

Vulnerable Honesty

A Ted Talk with an NVC Trainer on Vulnerable Honesty – 14 min

What Will You Accomplish?

The section ahead is going to be full to the brim with life-altering guidance.

Many Skills will be introduced to you in the following pages:

Making Empathy automatic by embedding it in our language.

Collect from a wide array of tools that work together to foster connection and love.

Preserving the autonomy of yourself and others, even with power differences.

How to begin difficult conversations with intention, leading it to success.

Speaking our truth without blaming, shaming, threatening or guilt tripping (taking 100% responsibility for our experience).

Seeing through demands and threats, judgments, and silence, to the ‘please’, the vulnerability, and the needs and feelings underneath, respectively.

Personify our shared will towards compassion, and it’s antithesis.

Wielding our own unique power to shift our needs when it’s wise to do so.

Maintaining ownership over our perceptions, and the interpretations and evaluations that come with it.

Empowering a natural, internal ‘Yes‘ toward others’ stories, and opening to the opportunities of ‘No‘.

Learn the organic nature of feelings, and how evaluations can easily masquerade in their place.

How to defuse someone when they are triggered, by invitation, authentically, and with integrity.

You’ll even learn why NVC Practitioners love Giraffes!

This list of learned skills is loosely adapted from our friend Aya Caspi, who elegantly lists some for her online workshop at cnvc.org.

Now, Onward to Compassionate Communication!

The following page is where your learning begins really begins. You are being offered a remarkable ability: to understand yourself and others according to our basic human needs.