Improve your communication skills – Episode 1

NVC – A language of compassion

Communication skills

Most of us are hungry for skills that can improve the quality of our relationships, to deepen our sense of personal empowerment or simply help us communicate more effectively.

Unfortunately, most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand, and diagnose; to think and communicate in terms of what is “right” and “wrong” with people.

At best, the habitual ways we think and speak hinder communication and create misunderstanding or frustration. And still worse, they can cause anger and pain, and may lead to violence.

Without wanting to, even people with the best of intentions, generate needless conflict.

Marchal Rosenberg developed a revolutionary process to reach beneath the surface and discover what is alive and vital within us, and how all of our actions are based on human needs that we are seeking to meet.

From the bedroom to the boardroom, from the classroom to the war zone, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is changing lives every day and all around the world.

NVC provides an easy-to-grasp, effective method to get to the root of violence and pain. By examining the unmet needs behind what we do and say, NVC helps reduce hostility, heal pain, and strengthen professional and personal relationships.

In these series we are going to explore in detail what is and how to apply NVC in your life, relationships, workplace and with your children.

Communication that blocks compassion


Life-alienating communication TRAPS us in a world of ideas about rightness and wrongness, a world of judgments.

It is a language rich with words that classify and dichotomize people and their actions. When we speak this language, we judge others and their behaviour while preoccupying ourselves with who’s good, bad, normal, abnormal, right, wrong, responsible, irresponsible, smart, ignorant, etc.

Our attention is focused on classifying, analysing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting.

Classifying and judging people promotes violence.

Types of life alienating thoughts

Moralistic Judgements

One kind of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values or expectations. Such judgments are reflected in language:

Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, and diagnoses are all forms of judgment.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”

Making comparisons

Another form of judgment is the use of comparisons.

In his book “How to Make Yourself Miserable”, Dan Greenburg demonstrates through humour the insidious power that comparative thinking can have.

In fact, there is no better way to feel depressed than trying to “keep up with the Joneses”.

Research shows that a physiological response occurs in our body when we compare ourselves to others. Serotonin hormone levels drop and depression rises. It is a self-induced misery.

It is a judgement in the way that we are judging ourselves during the process of comparing ourselves to others. Especially other that we consider were luckier, or more accomplished, or more beautiful, or richer, or smarter, or taller, or whiter or anything else.

And remember you are comparing your interior to other people’s exterior – you have no idea of what is going on in them.

Denying responsibility

Another kind of life-alienating communication is denial of responsibility.

Communication is life-alienating when it clouds our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The use of the common expression “have to”, as in “There are some things you have to do, whether you like it or not” illustrates how personal responsibility for our actions can be obscured in speech.

The phrase “makes one feel”, as in “You make me feel guilty” is another example of how language facilitates denial of personal responsibility for our own feelings and thoughts. Our language obscures awareness of personal responsibility.

We deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to factors outside ourselves.

Demands instead of requests

Communicating our desires as demands is yet another form of language that blocks compassion. A demand explicitly or implicitly threatens listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply. It is a common form of communication in our culture, especially among those who hold positions of authority.

It is in everyone’s interest that people change,

not in order to avoid punishment,

but because they see the change as beneficial to themselves.

We can never make people do anything

Our options in any situation

When faced with a negative message from someone else, we have four options to how to react to it:

Blame ourselves

One option is to take it personally by hearing blame and criticism. For example, someone is angry and says,

If choosing to take it personally, we might react:

We accept the other person’s judgment and blame ourselves. We choose this option at great cost to our self-esteem, for it inclines us toward feelings of guilt, shame, and depression.

Fight back

A second option is to fault the speaker. For example, in response to

When we receive messages this way, and blame the speaker, we are likely to feel anger.

Considering our own feelings and needs

When receiving negative messages, our third option would be to shine the light of consciousness on our own feelings and needs. Thus, we might reply,

By focusing attention on our own feelings and needs, we become conscious that our current feeling of hurt derives from a need for our efforts to be recognized.

Considering others feelings and needs

Finally, a fourth option on receiving a negative message is to shine the light of consciousness on the other person’s feelings and needs as they are currently expressed. We might for example ask,

To bypass the first two likely automatic reactions, you can choose to be tuned instead to options three or four.

In this way, you are empowered to take responsibility by making different choices when interacting with others. By making these different choices, you are more likely to understand your conversation partner and meet your own needs.

Remember, anger is an emotion and an emotion is a sigh. You don’t need to supress emotions. Aggression is a completely different thing.

The meaning of communication is the response you get

My resolutions

If you want to listen to Marchal Rosenberg you will find a good resource here.

Maria da Silva (PhD, DHP Acc Hyp) is a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist and a Trauma/Attachment Informed Coach, an expert in helping people understand and overcome their past conditioning and engage in meaningful and peaceful relationships through Nonviolent Communication.