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Nonviolent Communication 101

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Want to learn more about compassionate conversations? Here’s how.

March’s Total Aliveness Challenge focuses on nonviolence. How times have changed since I first learned this so-called “defense” in early elementary school: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Society has moved to a newer understanding: that hurtful words can indeed leave permanent scars. But there is an alternative: Nonviolent Communication.

What is Nonviolent Communication?

First, think about violent communication. It doesn’t listen. It puts people down, instead of lifting them. It judges. It places blame on other people. It discriminates based on race, gender or sexuality. Nonviolent communication, in contrast, helps connect people, regardless of how different their backgrounds may be. NVC is an opportunity to have better conversations, more meaningful work, deeper relationships, and yes, gives us a shot at world peace.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication

Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., who passed on in 2015, is renowned as the man who founded and then served for many years with the Center for Nonviolent Communication, the international peacemaking organization. He created a four-part process for communicating, including Observations, Feelings, Needs and Requests. Rather than residing on the more intellectual side of the brain, this method focuses on empathy. Download a PDF to see how it works. The Center for Nonviolent Communication now has hundreds of trainers spreading the message of NVC in 35 countries.

Get a Mentor for Mindful Communication

A teacher of meditation and mindfulness, Oren Jay Sofer came to my attention when I reviewed his book, Say What You Mean. Softer spent two years living in a Buddhist monastery and today teaches nonviolent communication using both secular and Buddhist viewpoints. This summer, he’ll be leading retreats with topics such as “Waking Up Together: The Practice of Wise Speech.” See more at the list of events. Sofer is but one among many teachers who lead in-person and online trainings in nonviolent communication, so find a leader who works based on your own location and needs.

Learning More

In addition to the Spirituality & Health challenge, here are a few other ways to get started on NVC:

  • Spotify has “A Path With Heart,” which contains 25 interviews on the topic of NVC, with topics like “How Does Social Change Live in You?”
  • There are many books on this subject. The Center for Nonviolent Communication has a nice roundup of suggested readings.
  • Communication cards (like these from Etsy) can help with group discussions, training or personal growth.

Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a wellness writer based in Savannah. She's been a contributor to Spirituality & Health for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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