How to Deal with Conflict when Engaging with Strangers

Use this guide to understand both what you can do to avoid situations of conflict arising and what to do should conflict arise. This guide uses information and ideas from Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC) approach.

What is NVC?

NVC (also called ‘Compassionate Communication’ or ‘Collaborative Communication’) has been described as a language of compassion and a tool for positive social change. It is taught as a process of interpersonal communication designed to improve compassionate connection to others.

“NVC is based on a fundamental principle: underlying all human actions are needs that people are seeking to meet, and understanding and acknowledging these needs can create a shared basis for connection, cooperation, and more globally – peace.” These universal human needs are never in conflict; rather, conflict arises when the strategies for meeting those needs clash.

The goal of NVC is not to get what we want, but to make a human connection that will result in everyone getting their needs met. “Understanding each other at the level of our needs creates such connection because, at this deeper human level, the similarities between us outweigh the differences, giving rise to greater compassion. When we focus on needs, without interpreting or conveying criticism, blame, or demands, our deeper creativity flourishes, and solutions arise that were previously blocked from our awareness. At this depth, conflicts and misunderstandings can be resolved with greater ease.

Learning NVC is a process similar to learning a new language or skill: step-by-step learning coupled with ample time for practice leads to growing mastery. While it takes time to develop fluency, any knowledge of a new language makes it more likely that communication can take place.

The language of NVC includes two parts: honestly expressing ourselves to others, and empathically hearing others.” Both are expressed through four components, which this guide will explore: observations, feelings, needs, and requests.

What you can do to avoid situations of conflict arising

Expressing Feelings

To build trusting relationships in our communities, we can start by expressing feelings. NVC instructor Daren De Witt explains the powerful impact this can have: ‘expressing our feelings can have a profound effect on others, enabling them to see us in a more human way. Expressing our feelings to others and reflecting back their feelings fosters empathy, understanding and trust.’

Developing a feelings vocabulary

The more precisely we can identify and express feelings, the more effective our communication can be. It can be helpful to choose from the lists of words below and practice using them to express your feelings and help others to express theirs. You can gradually add to these lists and extend your feelings vocabulary.

Basic Feelings Vocabulary

When are needs aren't being met:

Restless, reluctant, aroused, helpless, embrassed, regretful, lonely, withdrawn, bored, tired, cold, numb, indifferent, low, uncomfortable, uneasy, unsure, confused, surprised, baffled, overwhelmed, concerned, anxious, nervous, worried, scared, frightening, terrified, fustrated, irrated, impatient, annoyed, angry, resentful, disgusted, furious, disappointment, unhappy, upset, hurt, sad, miserable, despairing, greif, pain.

When are needs are being met:

Cheerful, happy, buoyant, joyful, overjoyed, thrilled, blissful, ecstatic, pleased, appreciative, grateful, thankful, proud, delighted, glad, comfortable, secure, calm, content, at ease, peaceful, relaxed, astonished, fascinated, amazed, curious, hopeful, optimistic, enthusiastic, overwhelmed, inspired, hopeful, confident, excited, sensitive, loving, warm, touched.

Generally speaking, our culture places considerably less value on the expression of feelings than on the expression of ideas. Consequently, there is often confusion around the accurate expression of our feelings. Some of the commonest mistakes are:

  • A thought masquerading as a feeling: e.g ‘I feel that you aren’t listening to me’. To clarify feelings in these instances, ask How would I feel if I weren’t being listened to?’ You may feel frustration, sad or upset.
  • Confusing feelings with how we think others are behaving towards us: E.g. ‘I feel manipulated by him’. This is an interpretation of behaviour. How might I feel if I interpreted his behaviour this way? Annoyed or confused, perhaps.
  • Confusing feelings with evaluations of ourselves: E.g. ‘I feel useless at this task’. ‘Useless’ is an evaluation or judgement. How might we feel if we thought we were useless? Dejected or disappointed, perhaps.
  • Confusing feelings with needs: E.g. ‘I feel understood’. If my need for understanding had been met, I might feel relieved, grateful or satisfied.
  • Expressing our feelings as if they were caused by others: E.g. ‘I feel irritated by you’. Others may be the stimulus or trigger for our feelings, but they are never the cause. The cause is our unmet need. E.g. ‘I feel irritated because I am needing some peace and quiet.’ Confusion and conflict can be avoided if we own our feelings rather than blaming others for them, or thinking they are responsible for them.
Activity 1: Identifying Feelings

In each of the following statements, do you regard the speaker to be expressing his or her feelings? If not, please edit the sentence until it does.

  1. ‘I feel dismissed when no one at work responds to my suggestions’.
  2. ‘It feels completely incomprehensible how you can do such a thing.’
  3. ‘I’d be furious too if that had happened to me.’
  4. ‘You’re wearing me out.’
  5. ‘I feel independent, now that I have my own car and paycheck.’
  6. ‘I feel I am being unkind to others.’
  7. ‘I feel you’re annoying me on purpose.’

Please see the end of the guide for sample responses.

Expressing Needs

“When we’re in conflict with others, we often feel angry, and we criticise and blame them and ourselves. This often results in others feeling angry too. As a result, we are less likely to get what we want. A more effective approach is to pause, take a deep breath and work out what our need is, and then communicate it. The other person will better understand where we are coming from, and we are more likely to get our need met or have a constructive discussion about it.”

Feelings are clues as to what our needs or others’ needs might be. For example, a person might feel irritated and distressed if their need for respect is not being met. Pleasant feelings are clear signals that our needs are being met; painful feelings indicate unmet needs. Being able to recognise feelings will help us to uncover needs.

Some Needs We All Share

Engagement Purpose Care Belonging Food
Fun Contribution Nurture Connection Water
Freshness Awareness Affection Support Light
Spontaneity Beauty Closeness Friendship Air
Stimulation Mystery Intimacy Contact Space
Rhythm Wholeness Touch Inclusion Warmth
Variety Adventure Sexual Expression Participation Movement
Comfort Challenge Solidarity Rest
Ease Creativity Loyalty Health
Relaxation Growth Help Hygiene
Knowledge Independence Containment Understanding Equality
Awareness Freedom Safety Sympathy Fairness
To understand Choice Security Acceptance Sharing
Reassurance Control Peace Acknowledgement Cooperation
Simplicity Power Recognition Collaboration
Order Authenticity To be valued Honesty
Accuracy Integrity Consideration Movement
Competence Respect Openness
Efficiency Trust Keep to agreements
Skill Celebration Reliability
Mourning Consistency

Different Ways of Saying Needs:

I need… Do you need…?
I would like... Would you like some…?
I value… Do you value…?
I want… Does...matter to you?
I love… I’m wondering if you might be wanting some…?
It’s important for me to have… Is it important for you to have…?
I would be really grateful to have some… Would you be grateful for some…?
I really enjoy… I’m guessing that you’re longing for…?
I long for… Are you hoping for some…?
I’m hoping for some… Is this all about...for you?
I could really do with some… Is this issue to do with...for you? fun for me Would some...make a big difference for you right now?
...matters to me
Some...would mean/do a lot for me
Some...would be really helpful to me
Activity 2: What is my need here?

Consider the question, ‘What might my need be if I had the following thought in my head during a meeting?’ Have a go at translating each statement into a possible feeling and need.

  1. “She’s irresponsible. We all agreed to let someone know if we weren’t going to show up.”
  2. “Everyone else here knows more NVC than I do.”
  3. “He always takes more time than everyone else.”
  4. “People needing therapy ought to get professional help. We can’t handle that level of dysfunctionality here!”
  5. “This is boring.”
  6. “There should be a rule against using offensive sexist language in a group like this.”
  7. “There he goes again...someone should just shut him up!”
  8. “This group of people is so cold and rigid.”

Please see the end of the guide for sample responses.

Activity: Exploring Feelings and Needs
  • Take a blank side of paper and at the top, write down something somebody said to you that you didn't like hearing.
  • Write down how you're feeling when you think about what they said.
  • Write down what you were needing and not getting the moment you heard the words.
  • Then, write down what you imagine the other person was feeling when you heard what they said.
  • After identifying their feelings, write down what you imagine the other person was needing and not getting in the moment you heard their words.
  • Check in with yourself and see if you notice a shift in how you feel about what was said to you or how you feel toward the person that said it.
  • Finally, explore what actions you might both take in order to better meet the needs you identified.
Reflective Listening

To connect with the feelings and needs behind any message, it helps to listen with empathy. Reflective listening shows you understand what another person is saying and meaning. It especially involves paraphrasing in your own words and using their ‘key words’ when they carry emotional charge. This kind of empathic listening can also have a profoundly clarifying effect. As psychologist Carl Rogers put it: ‘When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard.’

Philosopher Eugene Gendlin describes the steps involved in reflective listening:

  • “To show that you understand exactly, make a sentence or two that gets at the personal meaning this person wanted to put across. This will usually be in your own words, but use that person's own words for the touchy main things.”
  • “People need to hear you speak. They need to hear that you got each step. Make a sentence or two for every main point they make.”
  • “Sometimes what people say is complicated. You can't get what they say, nor what it means to them, all at once. First make a sentence or two about the crux of what they said. Check that out with them. Let them correct it or add to it if they want to. Take in, and say back, what they have changed or added, until they have agreed that you have it just as they feel it. Then make another sentence.”
Listening Empathically

A key ingredient of empathy is presence; this distinguishes empathy from mental or intellectual understanding or sympathy. ‘When we are thinking about people’s words and listening to how they connect to our theories, we are looking at people - we are not with them.’ Empathic listening is being “fully present to what the other person is feeling and needing, and not losing that through a fog of diagnosis and interpretation”. The listener needs to focus their awareness - and keep it focused - on the other person. This requires a degree of inner stillness in the listener, so that their focus does not switch to themselves whilst they are empathising. This is a matter of being so focused on the feelings of the speaker that our own reactions, preconceived judgements, analysis or interpretations do not intrude.

Rosenberg describes the following analogy to explain the nature of the focus that empathy requires: ‘Recall a time when you had a pain in your body, perhaps a headache or a toothache, and you became totally engrossed in a book. What happened to the pain? You no longer felt it. You didn’t suppress it; rather the focus of your attention was so fully on what you were reading that you were not aware of the pain. In empathy our attention is so fully focused on the feelings and needs of the other person at that moment that we are not aware of our thoughts about the person.’

‘The presence that empathy requires is not easy to maintain... Instead of offering empathy, we tend instead to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling, [or believe we have to ‘fix’ situations and make others feel better]. Empathy, on the other hand, requires us to focus full attention on the other person's message. We give to others the time and space they need to express themselves fully and to feel understood. There is a Buddhist saying that aptly describes this ability: “don't just do something, stand there.”’

There are some common behaviours that prevent us from being sufficiently present to connect empathically with others. The following are examples:

  • Advising: “I think you should … ” “How come you didn’t … ?”
  • One-upping: “That’s nothing; wait’ll you hear what happened to me.”
  • Educating: “This could turn into a very positive experience for you if you just … ”
  • Consoling: “It wasn’t your fault; you did the best you could.”
  • Storytelling: “That reminds me of the time … ”
  • Shutting down: “Cheer up. Don’t feel so bad.”
  • Sympathising: “Oh, you poor thing … ”
  • Interrogating: “When did this begin?”
  • Explaining: “I would have called but … ”
  • Correcting: “That’s not how it happened.”

‘While we may choose at times to sympathise with others by feeling their feelings, it’s helpful to be aware that during the moment we are offering sympathy, we are not empathising.’

Deep Empathic Listening for Feelings and Needs

In situations of conflict, people can react with intensity, and their words do not reflect their feelings and needs. You can use the components of NVC to tune in to the feelings and needs of others, ‘in contrast to either (1) blaming yourself by taking the message personally, or 2) blaming and judging them.’ Rosenberg describes how empathic listening can help us to uncover what is truly alive in another person:

“In NVC, no matter what words others may use to express themselves, we simply listen for their observations, feelings, needs and requests...If I'm using NVC, I never, never, never hear what someone thinks about me. Never hear what someone thinks about you, you'll live longer. You'll enjoy life more. Hear the truth. The truth is that when somebody's telling you what's wrong with you, the truth is they have a need. Isn't getting met. Hear that they are in pain. Don't hear the analysis.”

Here is an example of Rosenberg putting empathic listening into practice to uncover the needs underneath what people say:

“I was working in a refugee camp in a country not very pleased with the United States. There were about 170 people assembled, and when my interpreter announced that I was an American citizen, one of them jumped up and screamed at me, “Murderer”!

Another one jumped up and shouted: “Child killer!”

Another: “Assassin!”

I was glad I knew NVC that day. It enabled me to see the beauty behind their messages, to see what was alive in them.

We do that in NVC by hearing feelings and needs behind any message. So I said to the first gentleman, “Are you feeling angry because your need for support isn't getting met by my country?”

Now, that required me to try to sense what he was feeling and needing. I could have been wrong. But even if we are wrong, when a person trusts that we’re sincerely… trying to connect with their feelings and needs in that moment, that shows the other person that no matter how they communicate with us, we care about what's alive in them. When a person trusts that, we're well on our way to making a connection in which everybody's needs can get met.

It didn't happen right away because this man was in a lot of pain. And it happened that I guessed right, because he said: “You're #!@&%! right!” adding: “We don't have sewage systems. We don't have housing. Why are you sending your weapons?”

I said: “So, sir, if I'm hearing you again, you're saying that it's very painful when you need things like sewage systems and housing - and when weapons are sent instead, it's very painful.”

He said “You're #!@&%! right! Do you know what it's like to live under these conditions for 28 years?”

“So, sir, you're saying that it's very painful, and you need some understanding for the conditions that you're living under.” So I heard what was alive in the guy, not that he thought I was a murderer. When he trusted that I sincerely cared about what he was feeling and needing, he could start to hear me.

Then I said, “Look, I'm frustrated right now because I came a long way to be here. I want to offer something and I'm worried now that because you've got me labeled as an American, you aren’t going to listen to me.”

He said, “What do you want to say to us?” So he could hear me then. But I had to see behind the human being behind the names he was calling me.”

Once we have heard the feelings and needs of the person we are communicating with, they are much more able to listen to what we have to say.

Activity 3: Empathy Exercises

You can use the following scenarios to practice empathic listening and expressing empathy.

  1. Someone at work says to you: “I couldn't sleep until 3 a.m. last night, thinking about our presentation today. So this morning I figured I'd better drink lots of coffee to keep me awake and alert… but now my head is killing me! Why do I always get hit with headaches when something important needs to be done?!”
  • Give a reply that demonstrates intellectual understanding of the situation by addressing the speaker’s question (last sentence.)
  • Give a reply that demonstrates sympathy rather than empathy.
  • Give a reply that offers advice.
  • Give a reply verbalising empathy.
  1. At a meeting, while you are in the middle of a sentence, someone turns to you suddenly and says, ‘don't you ever let someone else have a chance to talk?’ Respond to this person with empathy by:
  • Sensing and reflecting back what the person might be observing.
  • Sensing and reflecting back what the person might be feeling and needing.
  • Sensing and reflecting back what the person might be requesting.

Please see the end of the guide for sample responses.

  1. Recall an experience you had of ‘listening to someone with your whole being.’

  2. What are some conditions either internal (inside yourself) or external that support your ability to be empathic? What are conditions that work against it?

Observing Without Evaluating

The NVC process typically begins with neutral observation. ‘Observations are what we see or hear that we identify as the stimulus to our reactions. Our aim is to describe what we are reacting to concretely, specifically and neutrally, much as a video camera might capture the moment. This helps create a shared reality with the other person. The observation gives the context for our expression of feelings and needs, and may not even be needed if both people are clear about the context.

The key to making an observation is to separate our own judgments, evaluations or interpretations from our description of what happened. For example, if we say: “You’re rude,” the other person may disagree, while if we say: “When I saw you walk in and I didn’t hear you say hello to me,” the other person is more likely to recognise the moment that is described.’ Evaluations can be received as a judgement or attack, and can provoke a reaction, resistance and counter-attack from the other person.

NVC trainer Dian Killian suggests we can mostly easily make neutral observations ‘in recapping what someone has said, without emotional input. That means not attaching any “story” to your response... Comments that begin in the first person, i.e. “I hear you say…” work better than “You just said…” For example:

Person 1: “We have to do something about the illegal immigrant problem, because they’re taking away our jobs, and people like you don’t care.”

Person 2: ”I’m hearing you say that you’re worried about your job security and that other people in this country are ignoring that concern.”

Re-capping what we have heard ‘slows the pace of conversation, and forces both sides to reflect and clarify. It does require practice; Killian point outs: “It’s a muscle to develop, because what we usually do when we’re disturbed by something is start disagreeing right away.”’ It can also be instinctive to respond with judgements and diagnosis. Rosenberg gave an example of some teachers he worked with who were having a conflict with their administrator. He asked them: “What does he do that you don’t like?” They initially responded by saying: “he has a big mouth”, “he talks too much”, and “he thinks he’s the only one with any intelligence.” After some prompting, they described specific behaviours that did not meet their need for efficiency: during staff meetings, regardless of the agenda, the administrator would relate it to one of his war experiences or childhood experiences. As a result, their meetings lasted much longer than scheduled. This is a clear observation without any evaluations mixed in. Here are some more examples:

Evaluation Observation
“You are so rude!” “When you tell me to get lost…”
“You’re selfish!” “I asked if someone could help me and you carried on with the task you were doing.”
“This place is a pigsty!” “There are clothes and toys covering most of the floor.”
“When I hear you yelling at Dad…” “When I hear you and Dad talk like that…”

Making clear, non-judgemental observations can:

  • clarify what you are reacting to (what triggered you)
  • establish common ground
  • separate your interpretations from what actually happened
  • be part of taking responsibility for your actions.
Activity 4: Observation or Evaluation?

For the following statements, do you regard the speaker to be making an observation free of evaluation? If not, please give an example of an evaluation-free statement that matches the situation.

  1. “They are destroying the environment.”
  2. “One of the best ways to learn NVC is simply to practice, practice, practice.”
  3. “You lied to me about your grades.”
  4. “You are arguing with me for the fourth time this week.”
  5. “You drove the car without first getting my permission.”

Please see the end of the guide for sample responses.

Making Requests of Others

‘The fourth component of NVC involves making a request to others. We are asking them to do something to satisfy a need of ours. Our requests are strategies through which we might get our needs met. Needs are universal. The strategy through which we are asking to get our needs met is specific - we are asking to get our need met by a specific person, in a specific way, often at a specific time.

In ordinary communication we often confuse the level of ‘needs’ with the level of ‘requests’. We don’t mention our need but ask for the strategy as if it were a need, e.g. ‘I need you to turn off your radio.’ (Our actual need here is for peace and quiet.) Confusing the need with the request can contribute to conflict. Separating our need from the request helps us to be determined about getting our need met, and flexible about the way in which that need is met. This in turn gives the person we are in conflict with the opportunity to be flexible - to meet our needs in a way that will also meet any needs they have’. A useful and clarifying rule to return to is: hold tight to the needs, and loose to the strategies.

For example, imagine you are in a room with another person who is feeling too hot, but you are feeling cold. The other person wants to open the window to let in a cool breeze, but opening the window is a strategy that does not meet both your needs. Instead, you could put on a jumper, and the other person could put on some lighter clothes. By flexibly exploring other strategies with a focus on needs, everyone’s needs can get met.

Our requests are more likely to be met with a ‘yes’ if they:

  • Are specific - specifying exactly what you want, and when, with who, and where, makes your request easier to act on.
  • Offer choice - people enjoy the respect involved in being asked. The phrase ‘would you be willing to…?’ captures the spirit.
  • Are positive - are in the form of a ‘do’ rather than a ‘don’t’.
  • Are doable - in manageable, bite-sized chunks.
  • Take the other person into account - getting a sense of what is going on for them is important for making requests that meet our needs as well as theirs.

There are three types of request we can make of others:

  • Request to connect empathically: “How do you feel when you hear what I just said?”
  • Request for another person to connect with you: “Would you be willing to tell me what you understand me to have said (so I can check I've made myself clear?”)
  • Action request (for them to actually do something): “So, would you be willing to…(e.g. Take your shoes off when you come into the house)?”
Activity 5: Making Requests - Incorporating All Four Components Into NVC

Imagine situations where someone utters the following statements. In each case, translate the statement using all four components of NVC, paying special attention that the request is positive, concrete, and immediately doable.

  1. “Your dog just made a mess on my lawn.” (Translate to: “When I see your dog…[observation] I feel... [feeling], because I need [need], and would you be willing to…[request]?”)
  2. “Yelling obscenities isn't going to get you what you want.”
  3. “By putting your money in mutual funds, you're just supporting guns and tobacco and sweatshops and all the things we’re trying to change in this world.”
  4. “This soup is much too calorific.”
  5. “At this company, we require teamwork. If that's not a priority for you, you'd better be looking for another job.”
  6. “But you told me two weeks ago that it would be fine if I were to take a long weekend this month.”

Please see the end of the guide for sample responses.

What to do should conflict arise

Should conflict arise, connecting with peoples’ feelings and empathically reflecting back to them what they are saying is an effective starting point. Studies done in labour management negotiations indicate that the time needed to settle disputes can be considerably shortened if one simple rule is followed: each participant must paraphrase what the previous speaker has said before saying anything in rebuttal.

Once you have heard the feelings and needs of those involved in the conflict, you can use the steps below to communicate your needs and explore strategies to meet them, as well as the needs of others.

1. Connect with your intention - to create an empathic connection with yourself and the other person, so all your needs may be met!

2. Express Yourself Using the Four Ingredients of NVC:

Observation: “When I see / hear…”

Feeling: “I feel…”

Need: “Because I need / would like…”

Request: “Would you be willing to…”

3. Hear their (imagined) difficult response:

4a. Connect empathically with them. Try:

Reflective Listening - mirror back what you are hearing them say.

4b. Connect empathically with them. Try: i. Connecting with the needs underneath what they are saying:

"Are you needing…?”

ii. Connecting with their feelings, if their feelings seem strong:

“I’m sensing you’re feeling…?”

(N. B. You may need to do any of these things two or three times until you have connected fully to their needs and they sense that they have been heard.)

5. Put all their needs and your needs on the table:

“I want you to get your needs met for…


I also have a need for… (your original need(s) that you expressed with the four ingredients in part ‘2’ above).”

6. Look for solutions / strategies:

“Do you have any suggestions for how we could resolve this so you get … (your need/s)... and I can get… (my need/s)? OR “How about if we…?”

Suggested practice: NVC Journaling

To support your NVC learning and practice, you can journal the incidents that happen each day.

  • Write down what happened (practising using observational language).
  • Then write down your judgments of the other person and yourself. Translate your judgements into feelings and needs as you do this.
  • Then write down what the other person’s feelings and needs might be.
  • Finally, consider what actions you could take to meet the needs you identified.

Sample Responses for Reviewing the Activities

Activity 1: Identifying Feelings

Please note - these are not examples of NVC, but only of the feeling component.

  1. ‘I feel anxious when no one at work responds to my suggestions.’
  2. ‘I feel very puzzled about how you can do such a thing.’
  3. ‘I feel concerned that this happened to you. I would have been furious if it had been me.’
  4. ‘I feel exhausted.’
  5. ‘I feel pleased and proud to have my own car and paycheck.’
  6. ‘I feel regret in how I am behaving toward them.’
  7. ‘I feel upset because I think you are annoying me on purpose.’
Activity 2: What is my need here?
  1. Example translation into an observation, feeling and need: ‘When I hear that none of us got a call from her, I feel discouraged because I want to be able to count on us carrying through with agreements we make together.” Universal needs: reliability, trust, integrity.
  2. Universal needs: competence, acceptance, respect
  3. Universal needs: mutuality, consideration, efficiency
  4. Universal needs: safety, integrity, competence
  5. Universal needs: stimulation, purpose, challenge
  6. Universal needs: respect, community, support
  7. Universal needs: consideration, connection, stimulation
  8. Universal needs: inclusion, warmth, community
Activity 3: Empathy Exercises
  1. “It's probably because you have a lot of tension when you are anticipating something important. Or maybe it's a combination of stress, lack of sleep, and the caffeine that's causing your headache.”
  2. “I really feel for you. it's the worst thing to have a horrible headache when you are about to do an important presentation!”
  3. “Why don't you take this ice pack and lie down for about 10 minutes?”
  4. “Are you frustrated because he would really like to be feeling energetic, healthy, and clear-headed for this presentation?”
  1. “Are you referring to my going ‘Oh no, oh no, oh no’ when Peter pointed to the map?”
  2. “Are you feeling irritated because you want everyone to be heard?”
  3. “Would you like for us to go around and hear from everyone before I speak again?”
Activity 4: Observation or Evaluation?

Please note - these are not examples of NVC, but only of the observation component.

  1. “They have clear-cut over 90% of this territory, and are still continuing.”
  2. “All the people in my practice group say that one of the best ways to learn NVC is simply to practice, practice, practice.”
  3. “I heard you say you passed all your courses but this report card shows two F’s.”
  4. “This is the fourth time I'm this week that you stated you disagree with something I'm saying.”
  5. If both parties (e.g. parent and teenager in a family) are in clear agreement regarding what constitutes ‘first getting permission’ then I would consider the speaking to be making an observation free of evaluation.
Activity 5: Making Requests - Incorporating All Four Components Into NVC
  1. “When I see your dog leaving turds on the lawn, I feel upset. We have kids who play here and I want the yard to be a safe, clean space for them. Would you be willing to use this plastic bag to remove the turds?
  2. “When I hear you addressing me like that, I feel agitated because I need cooperation and a peaceful resolution of our differences. Are you willing to tell me what you are feeling and needing right now instead of what you think I am?”
  3. “When I hear you have put your money in mutual funds, I feel dejected because I'd like to see us put our resources into what we value, rather than to support guns, tobacco and sweatshops. Would you be willing to tell me what you were feeling when you hear me say this?”
  4. “I am worried about the calories in this soup because I really need to take care of my health. Would you be willing to give me a bowl of noodles instead?”
  5. “When I read this report you wrote, I feel troubled, because I value teamwork and I need some reassurance that we are on the same page. Would you be willing to make an appointment so we can discuss how we each see the priorities for this job?”