Non-Violent Communication: Building Connection Through Empathy and Understanding

Non-Violent Communication Boy using a can telephone

I’ve been thinking of talking about Non-Violent Communication and how it can be applied in families and other relationships. Communication is a crucial aspect of human relationships, and yet it’s not even adequately taught in school.

Non-Violent Communication (NVC) is an amazing way of communicating with people in a more empathetic and compassionate way. Instead of resorting to aggression or violence, NVC promotes clear and respectful communication and helps us build healthier and more meaningful relationships, resolve conflicts, and create peaceful communities.

Whether it’s within a family, a friendship, or any other relationship, using NVC can significantly improve the dynamics and help us relate to each other in a respectful and peaceful manner.

In a family context, Non-violent communication has two significant benefits:

  • Practicing non-violent communication can help you cultivate greater serenity within your family by improving the connection and quality of your relationships with both your children and your partner.
  • By applying effective and healthy communication skills, you will become a role model for your child, who will imitate and appropriate your ways of communicating.

Are you longing to communicate effectively with your children without resorting to yelling or causing conflict? Check out this brief guide to non-violent communication. 🙂

1. Introduction to Non-Violent Communication

Non-violent communication, also known as compassionate communication, was developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s. NVC is a way of positively communicating by promoting authenticity and its goal is to create a deep sense of empathy and understanding between individuals and groups, by focusing on feelings, needs, and requests. NVC aims to move away from the use of violence, coercion, and punishment in communication, and towards a more compassionate and collaborative approach.

According to Rosenberg, our cultural heritage has conditioned us with old and conservative thought patterns that have gradually taken root in our minds.

In our society, showing sensitivity is often seen as a sign of weakness, and expressing one’s needs is perceived as selfishness.

Non Violent Communication wood human figures holding hands

2. Breaking free from toxic communication patterns

Non-Violent Communication suggests breaking free from these outdated patterns we’ve built ourselves upon:

  • good/bad,
  • normal/abnormal
  • punishment/reward

It encourages us to return to relationships in which everyone contributes to each other’s well-being without prejudice.

To communicate with kindness, the first reflex is to pay attention to the words we use and what our interlocutor says.

With NVC, we learn to express our deep needs and hear those of others. It also invites us to set aside all guilt-inducing words while expressing our feelings:

  • “You’re annoying me”
  • “I’m sad because of you”
  • “You make me feel angry”

“We must first understand that other people’s actions are never the cause of our feelings.” – Marshall Rosenberg

“The NVC encourages us to reconsider the way we express ourselves and hear others. Words are no longer automatic reactions, but become thoughtful responses emanating from an awareness of our perceptions, emotions, and desires. We then express ourselves sincerely and clearly, with a view of the other person that is respectful and empathic.” – Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life)

3. What are the Four Components of Non-Violent Communication?

The four components of Non-Violent Communication are observations, feelings, needs, and requests. These components are used to build understanding and connection and to identify the underlying emotions and needs that are driving our behavior.


I observe. Observations are objective and factual descriptions of what is happening in a situation. For example, They do not include judgments or evaluations, but simply describe what is being observed.


I take into account the feelings that arise from this situation. Feelings are the emotional responses that arise in a situation. They can be positive or negative, and they reflect our inner experience of the situation. In CNV, we identify and express the emotions that arise in response to the situation or behavior.


I look at the needs related to these feelings. Needs are the universal human needs that underlie our feelings and drive our behavior. These needs include things like safety, love, belonging, autonomy, and creativity.


I consider what I could ask for to satisfy these needs. Requests are the actions that we ask others to take in order to meet our needs. They are not demands or ultimatums, but rather invitations for others to contribute to our well-being.

4. The Five Steps of Non-Violent Communication

The five steps of NVC are observation, feeling, need, request, and empathy.

They are a structured way to apply the four components of NVC in a conversation. The additional step of empathy involves actively listening to the other person, acknowledging their perspective and feelings, and demonstrating an openness to understanding their needs. These steps provide a framework for communicating in a way that fosters understanding and connection, rather than blame or judgment.

5. Non-Violent Communication in Practice: Examples and Exercises

NVC can be applied to a wide range of situations, from everyday conversations to more complex conflicts. Here are some examples of how NVC can be used in practice:

Example 1: Communication in a Relationship

John and Sarah have been in a relationship for several months. One day, Sarah feels frustrated because John is not spending enough time with her. She decides to use NVC to communicate her needs to John.

Observation: “I noticed that we haven’t been spending much time together lately.”

Feeling: “I feel sad and lonely when we don’t spend time together.”

Need: “I need to feel connected and valued in our relationship.”

Request: “Could we schedule a regular date night each week?”

Empathy: “I understand that you have a busy schedule, but I miss spending time with you. Can we work together to find a solution that works for both of us?”

Example 2: Conflict Resolution at Work

Two colleagues, Alex and Maria, have a disagreement over a project they are working on. Alex feels that Maria is not pulling her weight, while Maria feels that Alex is being too controlling. They decide to use NVC to resolve the conflict.

Observation: “I noticed that we have different opinions on how to approach the project.”

Feeling: “I feel frustrated when I don’t feel heard or understood.”

Need: “I need to feel that my contributions are valued and respected.”

Request: “Could we work together to find a compromise that takes both of our ideas into account?”

Empathy: “I understand that you have concerns about the project, and I want to find a solution that works for both of us.”

NVC can also be practiced through a variety of exercises and activities, such as role-playing, journaling, and mindfulness meditation.

6. Practicing Nonviolent Communication in the Family

Are you struggling with how to implement Nonviolent Communication (NVC) with your children, particularly if they are young and not yet capable of expressing themselves verbally? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are some valuable tips on how to practice NVC effectively in your family.

It may require some practice to get used to, but once you do, you’ll be amazed at how effective communication can be like a magic wand!

Tip: I find it helpful to start practicing empathy by using the “Magic Empathy Potion” in my own thoughts before communicating with others.

Happy family

Example 1: The meal that never ends

As the night drags on, Parker is still picking at his food, leaving a pile of string beans on his plate. The parents are growing increasingly frustrated, and one of them almost blurts out, “If you don’t finish your dinner, no dessert for you!”

Magic Empathy Potion: Put yourself in your child’s shoes for a moment. Would you want to be forced to eat when you don’t feel like it? It’s not a pleasant feeling, is it? Sometimes even adults don’t feel like finishing their meals. By pressuring your child like this, you create stress and get the opposite effect of what you wanted. It’s important to respect their appetite and trust them.

Observation: “I notice that there are still some string beans on your plate, Parker, and it’s getting late.”

Feeling: “I’m feeling a bit concerned because I know it’s important for you to get enough food to feel healthy and energized.”

Need: “I have a need for us to establish a good routine around mealtime so that we can all enjoy our evening together.”

Request: “Would you like some help finishing your plate, or are you done?”

Empathy: “I remember feeling like I didn’t want to eat my vegetables sometimes when I was your age, and I understand that it can be tough to feel like you’re being forced to do something. If you’re finished, you can leave the table, so we’ll have time to read a story afterward”

Example 2: Tooth Brushing Woes

Jade, a 4-year-old, had just finished her dinner and was supposed to brush her teeth before bed. However, she doesn’t like brushing her teeth, and both she and her mom were feeling irritated. Without thinking, her mom feels like barking at her, “Go brush your teeth right now, before I get really angry.”

Magic Empathy Potion: Sometimes when children refuse to do something, it can be helpful to show them that you understand their frustration. Instead of leaving them alone, you could try brushing your teeth together with them and making it a fun activity. You could even ask them if they have any ideas to make brushing their teeth more enjoyable. Children can come up with great ideas when given the chance to be creative.

Observation: “Jade, I notice that you don’t seem too excited about brushing your teeth right now.”

Feeling: “I’m feeling a bit frustrated because I want to make sure your teeth are healthy and strong.”

Need: “It’s important for us to take care of our teeth by brushing them regularly.”

Request: “Jade, can we find a way to make brushing your teeth more fun? Maybe you have some ideas on how we can make it more enjoyable?”

Empathy: “I know brushing your teeth may not be your favorite thing to do, but I want to help you find a way to make it easier and even fun.”

Example 3: Handling Sibling Toy Conflicts

Siblings often fight over toys, which can be a challenging situation for parents to handle. Children struggle with sharing and often resort to yelling and hitting. It can be difficult to know how to intervene without making the situation worse.

Magic Empathy Potion: We can put ourselves in our children’s shoes and understand that they may feel frustrated or upset when they have to share their toys. We can empathize with both of our children’s feelings and communicate with them in a calm and understanding way. We can also help them figure out how to negotiate with each other using “I” messages instead of blame, to find solutions that work for both of them.

Observation: “I notice that you both want to play with the same toy and are having a hard time sharing it.”

Feeling: “I can imagine that both of you might feel frustrated and upset about not being able to play with the toy you want.”

Need: “It’s important for us to come up with a solution for both of you to have fun and enjoy playing with your toys. And we need to find a better way to communicate with each other instead of yelling or hitting.”

Request: “Can we all come up with a solution? Can you both think of a way to share the toy so that you’re both happy with the arrangement?”

Empathy: “I can understand how hard it can be to share your toys, and I appreciate your effort to communicate and negotiate with each other to find a solution that works for both of you.”

7. Benefits of NVC

NVC offers a wide range of benefits for individuals and groups, including:

  • Improved communication skills
  • Increased empathy and understanding
  • Enhanced conflict resolution skills
  • Greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence
  • Deeper and more meaningful relationships
  • Increased sense of connection and community


Non-violent communication is a powerful tool that can help us to build healthy and meaningful relationships, resolve conflicts, and create more peaceful communities. By focusing on feelings, needs, and requests, NVC offers a compassionate and collaborative approach to communication that can transform the way we interact with others. It offers a valuable framework for building empathy, understanding, and connection in our personal and professional lives.

To delve deeper, I recommend reading “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg. This invaluable guide will help you easily understand the principles of this constructive communication.

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Hi there!
Fumie Toki QEC Advanced trauma practitonor

I am Fumie. I am the founder and writer behind Zen Tofu. I am an Embodied Healing Practitioner, Conscious parenting and Life coach, and therapist. I share my experience and support others to heal and live an empowered, happy, healthy, and connected life. 

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