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What Is Nonviolent Communication?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2014
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Nonviolent communication, or NVC, generally involves allowing persons the freedom to relay personal needs in a nonconfrontational manner that evokes empathy, listening, and, ultimately, satisfaction for all parties. Developed by an American psychologist in the 1960s, nonviolent communication typically includes observation, feelings, needs, and requests, or OFNR, for short. Facilities worldwide offer courses in this method of improving communication skills. As an instrument of peace, the approach has reportedly provided a means of successful conflict resolution on a global scale as well as improving interpersonal relationships.

In place of verbalization that usually equates feelings with accusations and needs with demands, nonviolent communication generally operates on the premise that all persons are of equal importance. It requires active listening combined with empathy, which usually involves hearing not only what another person expresses verbally but also attempting to understand the circumstances that might produce a particular statement or behavior. This nonthreatening form of communication is designed to encourage freedom of expression on a level that naturally produces understanding and a willingness to cooperate.

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In emotionally charged situations, individuals often lash out, in anger or pain, causing the recipient of these behaviors to react defensively. Nonviolent communication classes teach people specific techniques and neutral language skills. Eliminating factors that produce anxiety and stress can break down the barriers that are a hindrance to communication and problem solving. Once an individual perceives that others are putting forth the effort to genuinely listen and understand, a relationship of trust forms. People then usually feel less guarded concerning expressing needs or requests.

This communication method has reportredly been implemented in restorative justice programs. Using this approach, convicted criminals might face victims, family members, or other individuals in hopes of creating healing and reconciliation for all. Under these circumstances, inmates usually are given nonviolent communication training prior to any meetings.

Not all are proponents of this communication method, citing ambiguities in the thought processes behind the concept. NVC generally expects individuals to express feeling without manipulation, but critics suggest that some of the techniques appear manipulative. Some also question the effectiveness of a philosophy which suggests that the perception of empathy is more important than actually being understood.

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