Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you, or someone else, get triggered and defensive…and you want to say something to make it better but instead it gets worse? I know I have.

One of the best books on communication is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. In it, he describes a very simple (but not easy) 4-step process to communicate in a conscious way that creates peace instead of conflict. Here are the steps.

1. Observe the behavior that is affecting your well-being. Notice that observing is different from judging or analyzing.
2. State how you feel about the observation. This can be difficult if you are not in touch with your emotions. E.g. “I feel like you are not listening to me” is not a feeling.
3. State the needs that create your feelings. Shine a spotlight on your unmet needs rather than complaining, or blaming the other person.
4. Make a request for concrete action that will enrich your life.

Here’s an example about what a mother could say to a child about dirty laundry.

NVC: Felix, when I see (observation) two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I’m needing more order in the rooms we share in common. Would you be willing to (request) put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?

non-NVC: Felix, you’re incredibly lazy and unthoughtful (judgment and analysis). I’ve asked you 900 times to not leave your socks laying around. I can’t believe you can’t do something so simple (diagnosis).

Rosenberg has used this method to anything from marriage counseling to Middle East negotiations. Once you master NVC for yourself, you can help others communicate this way and diffuse situations by talking them through it from their perspective. You do that by asking the other person what they observe about what is bothering them, helping them connect with the feeling that creates, and clarifying what their needs are and what action would make it better.

With this tool in your pocket, the next conversation with someone who can push your buttons becomes an opportunity for creating more peace in your life.


Sherif Sakr teaches classes and workshops at Sol 19, and gives Vedic astrology readings. He has an executive coaching practice and lives in Longmont with his dear wife.

Email questions, comments, feedback, or topic requests to Sherif@NobleBSolutions.com.

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