May 9


How To Communicate in Times of Conflict

Regardless of how enlightened and aware we may be, the fact remains that we are in a physical body having a human experience.  As such there are times when we will undoubtedly find ourselves in conflict with someone else.  It is a natural part of life.

Falling Into The Lose/Lose Trap

The conflict usually arises out of each person having specific needs (either conscious or unconscious) that they want to have met, and viewing the other person as an enemy standing in the way of meeting those needs.  When each person is coming from this perspective they are virtually doomed to wind up in a lose/lose situation.

So the question is…how can we approach similar situations and have an outcome that is win/win, where everyone involved gets there needs met in a positive way.  Non-Violent Communication (NVC) founded by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, has developed a process that has been successfully taught and implemented around the world and in a number of challenging environments including, schools, prisons, psychiatric facilities etc.

The Process of Creating Win/Win Outcomes

I will introduce the four basic steps of the process here, and encourage you to explore their website if what you find here resonates with you.  Like my own personal mission, NVC has as its primary purpose to empower people to connect to one another at a deep and meaningful level..

The four basic components of the NVC process are:

1.  OBSERVE (without judging) -What is actually going on in a particular situation?  What do you observe the other person saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching your life?

The trick is to articulate what you are observing without judging as right or wrong.  Simply state what people are doing or saying that you either like or don’t like.

2.  FEELING – You want to communicate how what you are observing makes you feel.  Are you sad, frustrated, joyful, hopeful?

3.  NEEDS – Expressing a need or needs that you have that either are or are not being met by the actions of the other person.

4.  REQUEST – After communicating steps 1-3 above immediately state a request that would enable you to have your needs met.

The Fours Steps of NVC In Action

To give you an example of the four steps in action, I will borrow from the book Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life.  A mother in communicating to her teenage son might say

“Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table, and another three next to the television, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share together.  Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine.”

In the example above the mother clearly states her observations and feelings without judgement (making her teenage son wrong).  She then states her need for order that is not being met by her sons actions.  In her request, she gives her son two choices, both of which would meet her needs for order.

What I Like About The NVC Process…

What I like about the NVC process, is that it provides a process that causes us to stop for a moment and verify what is really going on instead simply reacting in anger.  In the example above the mother could have responded:

“How many times do I have to tell you not to leave your dirty socks lying all over the house, You never listen to anything I say, you’re nothing but a disgusting pig!”

I think you’ll agree, the NVC approach offers the greater chance for success.  While some people new to NVC may look at it as a a process that is too rigid or formal that they could never implement in their own life, the opposite is true.

NVC is an eloquent and fluid process.  The four steps above can be modified to fit you and your personality.  In learning Nonviolent Communication, I would encouarage to view the four steps in their classic form the same way you would view training wheels on a bike when you are first learning to ride a bike.

They are their to support you in learning something new.  Once you are comfortable with the new language, you are free to take off the training wheels and go on about your way.  The intent of your communication is more important than the words you speak.

I encourage you to check it out NVC further by going to their website at  there you will find a lot more information on the resources available to you, many of which are low cost or free.

Check out Marshall Rosenberg’s book on Non-violent Communication by clicking the image to the left.


marshall rosenberg, non-violent communication, NVC

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