Speak peace: how to communicate successfully.

In our previous post "The Art of Misunderstanding" we saw that there are different levels of interpretation of a statement on both the speaker and the listener´s side. This can make successful communication challenging.

A proven method to promoting mutual understanding can be Marshal B. Rosenberg´s Non-violent Communication (NVC). Rosenberg founded the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC).The center implements workshops and training programs worldwide and are officially deployed in conflicts in crisis areas.

Rosenberg observed that we have learned to think about each other in terms of rewards and punishments, in moral judgments. We have forgotten how to relate to each other and how to communicate in a way that is satisfactory for all.

We can learn to clarify what we observe, what emotions we feel, what values we live by and what we want to demand of ourselves and of others. It is about no longer having to use the language of blaming, condemning or domination. We can experience the deep joy of contributing to the well-being of others.

The world is big enough to satisfy everyones needs, but will always be too small to satisfy everyones greed.

Mahatma Gandhi

The basis of NVC is the assumption that everything we do is an attempt to meet needs. When we learn what human need is behind a particular statement and how to express it, completely new possibilities open up. We can find solutions that are consistent with the values of all parties and satisfy the needs of all.

Since every person has needs and we can all identify with them, this is a completely different foundation for motivating action than implicit or explicit blame, shame or fear.

In practice, NVC entails four steps:

  1. Non-judgemental observation What I observe (see, hear, perceive, free from judgement or criticism) that contributes to my well-being or doesn´tWhen I see, hear...
  2. Feelings: How I feel (sensations, emotions) in relation to what I observe:: I feel...
  3. Needs: What I need or value that causes my feelings ...because I need / care about...
  4. Positive pleaThe concrete action I would like to see from the other person: Would you be willing to...

Sounds easy at first, but it's not. We are not used to ask ourselves what needs lie behind our actions or our communication, nor have we learned to observe without judgement or to express our feelings in a differentiated way.

Try it out for yourself. Think of a situation with another person that went differently than you wanted it to. Consider how you might react differently to the other person's statement or action by applying the four steps above.

You have difficulty expressing your needs or feelings? You are not alone. We put together a list of needs and feelings to support you.

By the way, this is also a wonderful technique that you can use for yourself as a practice of self-compassion. Because often we are at least as ruthless with ourselves as we are with others.

Imagine you sleep in and are now late for work. Before you leave the house, you prepare yourself a quick cup of coffee. In your hurry, you stumble and pour half the coffee over your fresh white blouse.

If you are like most of us, you now begin to judge or even insult yourself inwardly: You idiot. You can never be careful. You klutz. This should never have happened to me.

Unfortunately, this does not remove the stains. On top of that you are in a bad mood and completely caught up in your miserable world. What a dayyou think. This narrows your focus even more on your negative feelings and thoughts and you carry them with you throughout your day. Beware of self-fulfilling prophecies.

This kind of inner dialogue is therefore neither purposeful nor does it contribute to our well-being. The problem is that we have already internalized it to such an extent that we no longer notice it at all. The good news, however, is that we can learn to deal and communicate with ourselves differently. We can consciously redesign our thought patterns constructively until this is also reflected in our automatic unconscious thoughts.

The ability to observe without judging is the highest form of human intelligence.


Instead of calling ourselves an idiot with the help of NVC we can find more constructive and empathetic solutions to talk to us. For example like this:

  1. Non-judgemental observationIf I see that I tripped and my coffee landed on my blouse...
  2. FeelingsI feel startled, tense and angry.
  3. Needs: Because my need for mindfulness, attention and efficiency was not met.
  4. Positive PleaI want to pay more attention to myself and my environment in the future.

I acknowledge my feelings and needs and consciously formulate a positive request to myself. Thus my focus changes, I open myself to possibilities instead of getting stuck in the problem.

An overview of Nonviolent Communication can also be found in our tools section.