Compassionate Communication in Action

Knowledge is of little use if not put into practice. This page will focus on pragmatic aspects of Commpassionate Communication (NVC) by presenting helpful videos and exercises.

Now let’s see it in action and practice! A reminder here is to remember self empathy, and be patient with yourself; integration is a long process, with bumps🙂

Video Examples

NVC: The Word

6 min video – This video is a lot like what WE first imagine NVC to ‘be’. This models ‘doing’ NVC, but not necessarily being ‘NVC’ – a big distinction that is a common hook-up for new students. Do you see a difference between that and this one, with an actual NVC trainer: Parenting with NVC – (Video – 8 minutes) (Note: You can skip to 2:30 for the role play)

NVC Role Play

10 min video – Now let’s see some Jackal and Giraffe with Marshall coaching a scenario of a close relationship. Another reminder of the journey of NVC and powers of practice!

NVC in Action

4 min video – One more! This one’s a short and very entertaining video about the process of learning NVC, and how to answer that response of ‘What are you doing? Are you using that NVC thing on me again!?’ Optionally, you can also check out part 2 (about advice) and part 3 (about honesty).

NVC: How to Get Your Point Across

12 min video –Communication is key in any relationship. But how do you get others to understand what you mean? Slywia Wlodarska shows that non-violent communication can be a game changer in the way we talk and listen to each other.

NVC in the Heat of the Moment

5 min video – What about those times when we are triggered? When we’re simply pissed? This video gives some straight-forward tips for using NVC in these challenging instances.

Start your Daily 5-minute NVC Practice

7 min video – Here are some tips for making NVC speaking and thinking into a daily habit.

Exercises

The following is recommended practice for taking your usage of NVC to another level. A common hurdle at this point is to see NVC as a formulaic tool. It is, and the shift towards an NVC mindset is something that takes a long period of intentional effort. Our hope is that through practice, you will have a close understanding with the heart of NVC, using it to empower empathy and connection, as a lens through which to see yourself and others.

Exercise 1

Emotional Literacy (30 minutes)
Review the feelings list for 1-2 minutes; then, take 3 minutes to write down as many feeling words as you can on a piece of paper without looking at the list. Then, take 2-3 minutes to review the feeling words list and add words that stick out to you. Repeat this process with the needs list.

Exercise 2

NVC Gratitude
Offer 5 expressions of gratitude to people that last longer than 45 seconds each.
The formula for NVC Gratitude is: This is what you did; this is what I feel; this is the need of mine that was met.
It is a way of removing judgments (even positive judgment) yet again. Giving thanks or praise to someone in this way removed the element of potentially sharing approval, opting instead for collaborative and even gratitude.
Note: If you’re curious about gratitude, we have an entire section on it HERE.

Exercise 3

Reading Minds (30 minutes)
Consider a situation/concern that has been on your mind and practice using the tools on the following pages alone with yourself: “Reading Minds”, “Feelings/Needs List”, and “Reflect, Reframe, Validate (RRV)

Exercise 4

Understanding Yourself (10 minutes)
Reflect on your day. Start with your feelings. If it helps, look at the feelings list to pinpoint some of those complex emotions. Do your best to separate those feelings from your points of view on a situation. Then, write the needs associated with each of these feelings.
You can make this a daily or weekly practice by keeping a journal. It’s sure to provide insight on your needs and how to meet them!

Exercise 5

Partner Exercise (10-30 min)
This can be a helpful exercise for when it’s difficult to distill your experience into feelings/needs. You need a partner who is also proficient in NVC.
Describe your experience and have your partner reflect, reframe, and validate. As the RRV’er, it is your task to see through the stories and offer the person their needs and feelings. Hear daggers → offer a bouquet of flowers.

Exercise 6

Role Play (30 minutes)
Another partner exercise. Describe a conflict that you are facing or have faced with your partner, no holds barred. Include all objective facts, and your interpretations of them. Then, your partner acts as you, and you act as the person you are in conflict with. Your partner, playing you, uses NVC to handle the conflict. Playing your ‘enemy’, act exactly as you think they would in response to what your partner says. Debrief.

NVC Gratitude

We’ve got a fever. And the only cure is more…gratitude? In our cultural obsession with creating high self-esteem in ourselves and our children, one of the many by-products is a dependency on being thanked and appreciated.* Thanked for everything! And if we don’t receive the gratitude we expect or think we deserve, judgments are heaped upon those ungrateful souls who have dared to overlook our generosity and/or accomplishment.

*Important Clarification: If you’ve read the Educational Praise page from the Intentional Speech section, you will likely note some similarities to this page. While NVC Gratitude and Educational Praise certainly overlap in some areas, Educational Praise is more about providing perspective to folks that they were not aware of, whereas NVC Gratitude is more about telling folks how they have invited you into a deeper connection.
It is also a worthwhile note that we offer a whole section on Gratitude. Be sure to head there and learn tips for this razor-sharp tool for a happy life.

Needless to say, gratitude and appreciation in our culture has lost a lot of its, ah, punch. In fact, many expressions of thanks and appreciation actually convey a judgment of implied approval within them. Consider that compliments are often judgments (implied approval)– however positive – of others:

“You did a good job on that report.”
“You canoed across the lake really quickly”
“You were really funny in the play tonight.”
“It was kind of you to help me with homework.”

None of these comments share with the other person what  the speaker noticed specifically within the effort of the participant. All of the above examples establish the speaker as someone who sits in a place of approval – as the Judge. And in NVC, judgments – whether intended as positive or negative – reveal little about what is actually going on within the speaker, not likely fostering a clear connection from the person you are speaking to. Be aware, though, that it may not feel like the absence of a connection (“Hey, I love it when people tell me I’m funny!”).

Oh, great. All you want to do is just give someone a compliment, and now NVC is telling you that you are sitting in judgment. NVC is judging your judgment! But what belief is behind your gratitude/compliment/appreciation? What is it that you are hoping to acknowledge and express? The expression of gratitude in NVC takes 3 things into consideration:

1) The actions that have contributed to our understanding of well-being
2) The wonderful feelings noticed within the perceived fulfillment of those needs
3) The particular needs of ours that have been acknowledged

Gratitude in NVC:

This is what you did; this is what I feel; this is the need of mine that was met.

Lastly, a note on receiving gratitude. When we are operating in Reactive Brain in an ego based thought system, we can hear/receive praise a couple of ways. One is egotism: we’re superior (the Hero) because we’ve been appreciated. The other is false humility (the Victim), denying the importance of the appreciation and shrugging it off. NVC encourages us to receive appreciation with the same quality of empathy we express when listening to others. Be aware of perceived feelings and needs when receiving gratitude from someone else. When we hear how we have contributed to the inspiration of someone else, we recognize the enormous power and potential that we have to improve the connection to others’ lives.

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” -Lionel Hampton

Street Giraffe and Listening

In action, NVC can take some getting used to. As you learn, you may find yourself repeating the same phrases, or hiccuping while offering empathy.
So, this page will give you some tips for every-day NVC usage, helping make the process of active listening sound more natural to those you engage with.

Click the button to check out some helpful examples.

The next page will be yet another launching-off point. From there, you will visit other pages which each present to you a special tool/skill. Each skill is valuable in its own right, and, separate from NVC, has value for the purpose of connecting with others and yourself, loving well, and living a more meaningful life.