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Nonviolent Communication - The True Language of Love by Psychic Raina

Date 5/10/2024
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Nonviolent Communication or NVC, is a mode of communication developed by Dr. Marshall P. Rosenburg, Ph.D. as a way of speaking and interacting with other people and ourselves both in words and actions with compassion. Though not religious in nature, NVC aligns with the Christian principle of “The Golden Rule,” the Buddhist principle of “Mindfulness,” and the Yogic principle of “Ahimsa” - which means doing no harm. 

Nonviolent Communication is presented as the antithesis of what you would call “Violent communication” or what would be considered “Alienating Communication.”  Nonviolent Communication has at its core the practice of compassion and empathy and has nothing to do with persuasion or manipulation. It is not about closing the deal, forcing an outcome, or being persuasive to the detriment or exclusion of another person’s wants or needs. The only goals are to observe, communicate, understand, and then foster solutions so that everyone's needs are met. This practice can be implemented and used for individuals and groups in the workplace, general society and most importantly for yourself as a negotiation tool as a bridge builder and relationship strengthener. It is a way of walking through life in a peaceful, mindful, and loving manner.

Nonviolent Communication

What is Nonviolent Communication?

Nonviolent Communication is a language of compassion. It embodies love at its core and requires thoughtfulness, mindfulness, and observation.  It's not about making someone do what you want them to do. NVC’s goal is to find or create a harmonious solution for everyone. It requires interaction and a willingness to be open and to be objectively honest about feelings, needs and wants, free of judgment or criticism and releasing patterns that do not foster harmony in the situation.

This doesn't mean that you cannot have strong emotions or feelings. Quite the opposite. The important part of nonviolent communication is feelings. But you will learn to communicate with them in a compassionate, nonjudgmental, noncritical, calm, and thoughtful way. Then communication and negotiation can continue to grow and expand to meet the other person in a spirit of openness. It's about valuing your own feelings and giving space for another’s feelings, needs, and values. In this way it is very healing. People feel heard and their needs are met.

Alienating Communication

What is Violent or Alienating Communication?

This is any form of communication that blocks our ability to build bridges and to connect to humanity within us and others. It is the antithesis of nonviolent communication. This includes moral judgements, comparisons, demands and alienating statements that label, but don’t describe. This is very reactive language. You hit me, I hit you. Kneejerk reactions. It is not thoughtful or conscious. But these passive aggressive statements, judgements, and critical comments often lead to misunderstanding and nonresolution of issues while creating further disagreement.

 When we look at our state of mind during communication we have to think about our nervous system. We have a parasympathetic nervous system (when we are calm and relaxed) and sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze mode). Whichever state is active in the moment indicates how we receive and process information. The ideal is to stay in your parasympathetic nervous system which would be a relaxed body position, using a calm manner in speaking, easy breathing, thoughtful introspective, awareness, and thought. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, we become reactive, panicked, our heartrate is accelerated, our focus and ability to see is narrowed, and our ears only hear the danger. We become defensive and cannot process information. Our body is tense and clenched and we either freeze up, attack, or run away.

There is an adage that says, “think before you speak”. There is a good reason why taking a breath and managing your words is important. Words have power and lasting impact in our lives, relationships, mental health, and emotional and physical wellbeing. When we don't take the time to consider our words carefully, many times they become weapons that can be destructive and cause pain, suffering, and lead to violence. This is the “fight or flight” we spoke of above. When people say, “I didn’t know what I was saying, I just reacted” or “I said some ugly things” or “I couldn’t talk” or “I saw red and then all hell broke loose,” these are examples of reactive thinking.

Alienating Conversations

Important Types of Alienating Conversation

Moralistic Judgement

  1. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, comparisons, and diagnoses are all forms of judgment.
  2. Criticism and diagnosis: “The problem with you is, you are too selfish.”
  3. Labelling and generalizations: “She is bad.” “He is lazy.”
  4. Comparison: deciding you have a higher moral ground and are better than someone based on a comparison.

Denial of Responsibility

Denying choosing to be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, and actions. “You made me think…,” “You make me feel…,” “Because I had to...”

Demands and Threats

Threatens blame and punishment if the person refuses to do what is asked, or the idea that someone deserves a reward or punishment based on the judgment if they are good or bad. Transactional relationships.

  “Observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.” J. Krishnamurti

Components of Nonviolent Communication

The Four Components of Nonviolent Communication:  O-F-N-R

Adapted from Anandra George, Heart of Sound

  1. Observation

Clearly observing stimulating events without opinion increases our chances of staying neutral. Look at everything as just information not to be judged but to be witnessed. When we make judgements, we increase our chances of going into reaction mode. Once in reaction, real understanding or peaceful resolution is unlikely. Considering that our biological response to stress is the engagement of the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze mode), it may even be impossible to listen effectively, because receptivity to learning happens in the parasympathetic nervous system.

Key Distinction: Observation vs. Observation Mixed with Evaluation. Evaluations are moral judgements of good or bad, right, or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate that tend to be fixed or static.

  1. Feelings

Clear observation allows us to distinguish and express our feelings. Connection with our feelings activates a vibrant pathway within, making space for the full yearning or celebration of our deeper needs and values. Note: Combining the word “feeling” with an evaluation, as in “I feel that’s not right” is not a direct expression of feelings.

Key Distinction: Feeling vs. Thought. Thoughts are cognitive or mental, including beliefs, ideas, and opinions. Feelings can be experienced all by yourself; they do not require a “doer.” For example, “I feel judged” might really be “I feel guilty/embarrassed,” or even “I feel resentful.” There’s a big difference between “I am angry” and “I feel angry.”

  1. Needs (or Values)

If we express our needs explicitly, we have a better chance of getting them met. Others around us are more likely to joyfully contribute to the enrichment of life. If we don’t express our needs clearly, perhaps by hinting/saying what we don’t want or waiting for others to read our minds, we are less likely to get our needs met. Knowing the universal needs/values at the root of feelings is a sure way to experience connection and empathy for yourself and others. Needs are resources required to sustain and enrich life. Values are equivalent to needs. Needs transcend cultural mores and conditioning. Needs make no reference to any specific person doing any specific thing. A need is a need for safety, not “I need you to do…” That is a strategy. 

  1. Requests

A request creates an opportunity to contribute to the well-being of yourself and/or others. Effective requests feature specific, positive, doable, timely actions. We are unlikely to get what we don’t ask for from others. With practice, we learn how to ask for what we really want: lasting satisfaction, not temporary stuff or fleeting strategies. 

Components of a Request: There are three types of requests:

  1. Clarity
  2. Feedback
  3. Action

Requests for specific actions are expressed in the positive - explicitly stating what we do want. Requests are immediately doable (actionable), and they point out preferred strategies. Requests are timely, meaning they are tied to a timeframe of active doing, not to some indefinite day in the future.

Key Distinctions: Request vs. Demand and Request vs. Wish

Demands include a threat of punishment or the promise of reward linked to a behavior. Wishes tend to be vague, future-oriented, and non-specific.

How do we tell if it is truly a request?

If the speaker is making a demand, observe the response when it’s not fulfilled. Is there judgement, criticism, an evaluation of rejection or a tendency to lay a guilt trip? If it’s a request, the speaker shows empathy toward the other person’s needs and engages in a negotiating dialog to find a strategy to meet both people’s needs. When we attach to a particular strategy, we limit the chances of our happiness. When we can self-identify and savor our needs, we tend to be more flexible and appreciative of any strategy to get the needs met.

Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication - Putting on Your Own Oxygen Mask First

The most effective nonviolent communication is the ability to identify and name one's own needs. This is a crucial component, because to act from a place of compassion, we must be clear on our values, wants, and needs. Once we have a better understanding of our own needs, we are more likely to make better requests. This gives you emotional literacy and is a real component of mature, empathetic, and compassionate interactions. This is the part where we work first on ourselves and then employ empathetic speaking and listening to others, like when the flight attendant reminds you in the event of an emergency, to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.

Below is a list to help you richly describe your needs and feelings and evaluate when your needs are or are not being met.

Nonviolent Communication Needs/Personal Value List

Adapted using resources from

CONNECTION: acceptance, affection, appreciation, belonging, communication, closeness, companionship, consideration, consistency, empathy, inclusion, intimacy, mutuality, nurturing, respect/self-respect, understanding, trust, warmth.

PHYSICAL WELL-BEING: air/food/water, movement/exercise, rest/sleep, sexual expression, safety, shelter, touch.

PEACE: balance, beauty, communion, ease, equality, harmony, healing, inspiration, order, trust.

TRANSCENDENCE: beauty, evolution, flow, harmony, inspiration, presence, space.

REGENERATION: celebration, gratitude, leisure, mourning.

HONESTY: authenticity, clarity, integrity, learning, presence, self-connection, self-expression.

PLAY: humor, joy.

INTERDEPENDENCE: community, cooperation, inclusion, mutuality, support.

PROTECTION: consideration, justice, respect, safety, security, stability, support.

AUTONOMY: choice, creativity, empowerment, freedom, independence, space, spontaneity.

EMPATHY: acceptance, affection, compassion, connection, understanding.

MEANING: awareness, celebration of life, challenge, chocolate, clarity, competence, consciousness, contribution, creativity, discovery, efficacy, effectiveness, growth, hope, integrity, learning, mourning, participation, purpose, self-expression, stimulation to matter, understanding.

Nonviolent Communication Feelings

Nonviolent Communication Feelings

AFFECTIONATE: compassionate, friendly, loving, open-hearted, sympathetic, tender, warm.

ENGAGED: absorbed, alert, curious, engrossed, enchanted, entranced, fascinated, interested, intrigued, involved, spellbound, stimulated.

HOPEFUL: expectant, encouraged, optimistic.

CONFIDENT: empowered, open, proud, safe, secure.

EXCITED: amazed, animated, ardent, aroused, astonished, dazzled, eager, energetic, enthusiastic, giddy, invigorated, lively, passionate, surprised, vibrant.

GRATEFUL: appreciative, moved, thankful, touched.

INSPIRED: amazed, awed, wonder.

JOYFUL: amused, delighted, glad, happy, jubilant, pleased, tickled.

EXHILARATED: blissful, ecstatic, elated, enthralled, exuberant, radiant, rapturous, thrilled.

PEACEFUL: calm, clear-headed, comfortable, centered, content, equanimous, fulfilled, mellow, quiet, relaxed, relieved, satisfied, serene, still, tranquil, trusting.

REFRESHED: enlivened, rejuvenated, renewed, rested, restored, revived.

AFRAID: apprehensive, dread, foreboding, frightened, mistrustful, panicked, petrified, scared, suspicious, terrified, wary, worried.

ANNOYED: aggravated, dismayed, disgruntled, displeased, exasperated, frustrated, impatient, irritated, irked.

ANGRY: enraged, furious, incensed, indignant, irate, livid, outraged, resentful.

AVERSION: animosity, appalled, contempt, disgusted, dislike, hate, horrified, hostile, repulsed.

CONFUSED: ambivalent, baffled, bewildered, dazed, hesitant, lost, mystified, perplexed, puzzled, torn.

DISCONNECTED: alienated, aloof, apathetic, bored, cold, detached, distant, distracted, indifferent, numb, removed, uninterested, withdrawn.

DISQUIET: agitated, alarmed, discombobulated, disconcerted, disturbed, perturbed, rattled, restless, shocked, startled, surprised, troubled, turbulent, uncomfortable, uneasy, unsettled, upset.

EMBARRASSED: ashamed, chagrined, flustered, guilty, mortified, self-conscious.

FATIGUE: beat, burned out, depleted, exhausted, lethargic, listless, sleepy, tired, weary, worn- out.

PAIN: agony, anguished, bereaved, devastated, grief, heartbroken, hurt, lonely, miserable, regretful, remorseful.

SAD: depressed, dejected, despair, despondent, disappointed, discouraged, gloomy, heavy-hearted, hopeless, melancholy, unhappy.

TENSE: anxious, cranky, distressed, distraught, edgy, fidgety, frazzled, irritable, jittery, nervous, overwhelmed, restless, stressed out.

VULNERABLE: fragile, guarded, helpless, insecure, leery, reserved, sensitive, shaky.

YEARNING: envious, jealous, longing, nostalgic, pining, wistful.

Nonviolent Communication in Action

Nonviolent Communication in Action

Wife: “You never spend time with me. All you do is work. You never make time for your family; you obviously don’t care.”

Husband: “I have to work! Money doesn’t grow on trees. All you do is complain Nag, Nag, Nag. What do you want from me?

Wife: “I want you to care!”

In the wife’s statement there is so much judgement, criticism, and generalization. It’s born out of frustration for the situation but the language and tone doesn’t give the husband anywhere to go. She is not listening to hear the needs he communicates in his response. The husband who is also not listening to hear the needs and feelings of his wife, misses the subtext of her words. As a result, he goes immediately into defense mode and attacks her verbally.

Both go into the sympathetic nervous system and flight mode, the husband storms off, the wife goes into another room slamming the door convinced she knows what that his actions convey what he is thinking. The husband is wondering if his wife will ever appreciate him or tell him what she wants.

If you look at it through the eyes of Nonviolent Communication, ask what are the needs and feelings being expressed here?

The wife has a need for connection with her husband, closeness, and companionship. When she doesn’t see her husband because he is gone for work, she feels rejected, unwanted, unloved, undesirable, and angry. Her statements are judgmental, accusatory, inflammatory, but she never asks for what she wants. It is implied but never explicitly stated. When mixed in with the accusations its harder for the husband, who is now in defense mode to be empathetic to what she might be asking.  He only hears criticism. She doesn’t offer a solution. She expects her husband to know what she means. She doesn’t offer any solutions. She doesn’t take any responsibility for her part in not being clear.

The husband has a need to feel secure and stable in his finances. He values being able to provide for his family. He also has a need for appreciation for what he does bring home. His strategy is to work harder and longer so that his family will have what they need. He doesn’t take responsibility for his choice to work those hours. He feels attacked and lashes out.

Accusations and declarations about your character are most often taken as criticism, so he then becomes defensive of his need to work. He says he “has to” rather than he chooses to because of the income it provides or because if he doesn’t, he fears he will lose his job. When he does ask her what she wants, she really doesn’t answer but gives some vague response that again assumes she knows how he feels.

The husband and wife for years have had a disconnect around the wife’s need for closeness and the husband’s need for stability. The conversation, even if only one person was aware of nonviolent communication, could have gone in a completely different way.

Wife: “Honey, I love you and I see you working very long hours (observation), so much so that you are not able to spend a lot of time with the family. I feel disconnected from you and scared that we do not have the closeness we once had. (stating feelings) I would like to make time at least once a week for a date and for family time. Do you agree? (Specific, clear, request, and invitation).

Husband: “I choose to work a lot because I want stability and financial security for our family. (Strategy and values) I am also afraid if I don’t work, I might not have this job. (feelings). I miss you too. (acknowledgement) I hear what you are saying. Let’s make a plan.” (Request accepted and made).

Wife. “I love you and every sacrifice you made has given us a beautiful life. I appreciate your dedication to our family. You are the best husband. I am excited to spend more time with you. How are your Wednesdays? I will get my list of restaurants!”

This is a bit exaggerated to make the point, but notices the differences.

First, both of the wife’s opening statements are observational and statements of how she feels. Also notice the absence of the word “but” in her sentences.  Both things are true. She loves him AND she notices he works long hours.  She communicates her feeling of disconnection. She makes a clear request and offers and solution.

The husband’s response directly addresses her statement that he works long hours because (fill in the blank.) And he takes responsibility for the action and states want he wants and needs and why. He also empathizes with her need for connection and validates it. “I miss our connection too.” He answers her request by acknowledging it. He also agrees to her request and put it into actions by adding his own “let’s make a plan.”

The wife in turn acknowledges further her appreciation and respect for her husband’s hard work. And she chooses to see it as an act of caring by him for her and the family. She expresses a feeling of excitement and then takes action to execute the plan immediately.

Why Use Nonviolent Communication?

Why Use Nonviolent Communication?

Nonviolent Communication is a powerful tool to reframe ingrained patterns of behavior, thereby creating greater empathy and understanding between parties. It is an effective technique for achieving harmonious relationships and facilitating discussions. It is a powerful tool for peacefully resolving differences and preventing stress and breakdown of relationships caused by disagreements. In fact, the goal of NVC is to immediately be able to find commonality and empathy for another’s, wants, needs, and desires but also your own. It can change the way you think, interact, and communicate.

If you are interested in learning more about the science of nonviolent communication, then there are several books available to choose from. I personally recommend: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshal Rosenberg.

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Psychic Raina is a clairvoyant, intuitive, certified medium and Reiki Master. She has studied Tarot for more than 20 years as taught within hermetic mystery schools and is heavily influenced by Eastern Esoteric thought. Raina is well versed in symbolism, numerology, archetypes, and mysticism. Over time she has developed her own method to quickly access the secret knowledge contained within the tarot. Raina regularly teaches masterclasses on tarot mastery and tarot symbolism beyond the written meaning. Her decks of choice are the Thoth tarot and Rider Waite.  Her readings are non-judgmental, reality based and spirituality focused.


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