Using NVC in Everyday Conversations: A Practical Guide

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a powerful tool that can transform everyday
conversations, helping us connect more deeply with others and communicate more
effectively. Whether you’re talking with family, friends, colleagues, or even strangers,
NVC offers a framework for expressing yourself clearly and compassionately while
understanding and respecting the needs of others. As someone who teaches NVC to
others, I hear the struggle: it is one thing to understand NVC and it’s concepts. It is
another thing to use it, and effectively employ it in everyday life. So here’s a practical
guide to using NVC in your daily interactions.

The Four Components of NVC

This may be a re-cap for you, but it’s still important to note. NVC is built around four key
components: Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests. Let’s explore each one in
the context of everyday conversations.

  1. Observations: Begin by stating the facts of the situation without judgment or
    evaluation. Focus on what you can see, hear, smell, taste, or physically feel – not
    your interpretations or assumptions.
    Example: “I didn’t see a response from you regarding my email from yesterday.”
  2. Feelings: Express your emotions related to the observation. Use “I” statements
    to take ownership of your feelings without blaming others. And make sure it is
    actually a feeling, not a thought. (There’s a difference!)
    Example: “The longer I didn’t hear back from you, I felt increasingly concerned.”
  3. Needs: Identify the underlying needs or values that are connected to your
    feelings. This helps to clarify what is important to you in the situation. Try to have
    awareness between what is a need and what is a strategy to meet a need.
    Example: “I have needs for clarity and structure. I would like to be able to plan
    accordingly, but I need communication in order to do that.”
  4. Requests: Make a clear, specific request that addresses your needs. Be open to
    negotiation and ensure your request is actionable, reasonable, positive, and
    requires a commitment in the moment.
    Example: “Could you please let me know by the end of the day if you received
    my email?”

Practical Tips for Using NVC

  • Practice Active Listening: Show genuine interest in the other person’s
    perspective. Use NVC to reflect back what you hear, showing empathy and
    understanding. Use connecting requests to check in.
    Example: “It sounds like you’re feeling overwhelmed with the current workload. Is
    that right?”
  • Stay Present: Focus on the current conversation without bringing in past issues
    or future concerns. This helps keep the interaction constructive and relevant.
  • Use Nonviolent Language: Avoid language that blames, criticizes, or judges.
    Instead, use language that expresses your observations, feelings, needs, and
    requests clearly and compassionately.
    Example: “I felt sad and frustrated when my contribution was not acknowledged
    during the meeting.”
  • Practice Self-Empathy: Before engaging in a challenging conversation, take a
    moment to connect with your own feelings and needs. This self-awareness can
    help you approach the conversation with greater clarity and calm.
    Example: “I’m feeling anxious about this discussion because I need clarity and
    mutual understanding.”

Applying NVC in Different Contexts

  • At Home: Use NVC to resolve conflicts with family members by expressing your feelings and needs openly and listening empathetically to theirs. Example: “When you leave your dishes in the sink, I feel frustrated because I need support and contribution. Could you please wash them within 2 hours after you use them?”
  •  At Work: Enhance teamwork and collaboration by using NVC to communicate clearly and respectfully with colleagues. Example: “I noticed the project deadline was changed. I feel anxious because I really like having predictability, consistency and order. Can we take about an hour this afternoon to discuss how this affects our work?”
  •  In Social Settings: Build deeper connections with friends by using NVC to express appreciation and address any misunderstandings. Example: “I really appreciated your help with the event. I felt so touched and grateful to have support and even fun. Thank you for being there.”

Incorporating Nonviolent Communication into your everyday conversations can
significantly enhance your relationships and communication skills. By focusing on
observations, feelings, needs, and requests, you can create a more compassionate and
understanding dialogue. Practice NVC regularly, and you’ll find that it becomes a natural
and effective way to connect with others, resolve conflicts, and express yourself
authentically. Practice makes better! It is in everyday conversation conflict that we have
the safety to practice these skills so that we are equipped and experienced enough to
handle the truly challenging conversations with the same skill.

If you’ve already taken The Bigbie Method’s Intro to NVC course, and you want more
experience practicing those skills in an emotionally safe and supportive space, join the
Empathy Gym! You can email us at support@thebigbiemethod.com to learn more and
sign up.