The four steps, when used in “self-expression” mode, work like this:
- To observe without evaluation, judgment, or analysis,
- To express feelings which these observations evoke,
- To express needs connected with these feelings,
- (optional) To make a specific request of another person to help meet an unmet need, and to enrich life of everyone involved. Essential in this is that the other person is to be left free to honour or decline the request.
The two modes of use of this model are
- empathy, including both self-empathy, and empathy for another, and
- honest self-expression, including “please” (request) and “thank you” (gratitude)
Non-Violent Communication (NVC) advocates that in order to understand each other, the parties express themselves in objective and neutral terms (talking about their factual observations, feelings and needs) rather than in judgmental terms (such as good versus bad, right versus wrong, or fair versus unfair).
It follows four steps: making neutral observations (distinguished from interpretations/evaluations e.g. “I see that you are wearing a hat while standing in this building.”), expressing feelings (emotions separate from reasons and interpretation e.g. “I am feeling puzzled”), expressing needs (deep motives e.g. “I have a need to learn about other people’s motives for doing what they do”) and making requests (clear, concrete, feasible and without an explicit or implicit demand e.g. “Please share with me, if you are willing, your reasons for wearing the hat in this building.”).
Practicing NVC means that one listens carefully and patiently to others, even when speaker and listener are in conflict. The listener may show empathy for the speaker by responding with reworded versions of the speaker’s own statements (“I hear you saying that….”) and attempting to recognize the needs motivating the speaker’s words (“It sounds like you need….”).