Non-violent communication: how to communicate without hurting the other person’s feelings? 

We explain how to engage in non-violent communication (NVC). Discover the tools and skills to build healthier and more respectful connections.



What is non-violent communication or NVC?

Non-violent communication is a theory developed by the American psychologist and teacher Marshall Rosenberg. He devoted much of his life to the development and study of communication, how it occurs and what can disrupt or spoil it, whether between peers or in relationships of authority or responsibility.

Rosenberg wanted to answer a question he had been asking himself since he was young: ‘What disconnects us from our caring nature and leads us to behave in violent and abusive ways?’.

 If we want to live in harmony and stability, what leads us to betray these values? Aware of the natural goodness of human beings, he experimented and perfected an effective method of communication using respectful language as a vehicle for relating with others. Human beings have a superior aptitude to other living beings, so the language we use to communicate with others should not be offensive or hurtful.

NVC focuses on identifying and expressing these needs clearly and respectfully, thus fostering effective and nurturing communication.

Tips on how to maintain respectful communication

  • Be empathetic. It implies understanding and sympathising with the experiences and feelings of others in a non-judgmental way.
  • Avoid judgment and blame. Replace judgment and blame with objective facts.  Maintain active listening, validating the other person's emotions, and creating mutual understanding.
  • Expressing our needs clearly and directly, without verbally attacking the other, being transparent, avoiding manipulation or emotional coercion.

Practical tools for practising NVC

  • Observe: Look at the objective facts by observing without judging and creating common ground for effective communication.
  • Be aware of your emotions and express them openly and honestly.
  • Don't demand: Make clear requests, setting out concrete guidelines for action.

Emotional self-awareness

Rosenberg considered this tool one of the pillars of NVC. By understanding and addressing our own emotions and needs, we are better equipped to communicate and manage conflict constructively, allowing us to develop greater empathy for ourselves and others.

Why is assertiveness important?

As part of the process towards effective communication, Rosenberg included the development of assertiveness as a necessary skill to express our feelings, thoughts and needs in an appropriate, clear and respectful way to another person. Failure to be assertive can lead to aggression or submission, preventing effective communication. Assertiveness builds strong relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.