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  • Writer's pictureAna Viana, M.S.

How to Talk so People Listen: An Introduction to Non-Violent Communication

by Ana Viana, AMFT


We all struggle with feeling heard from time to time. Being able to explain to somewhat what we need in a moment without having them (or us) react defensively help us develop healthy and respectful relationships.

One tool that can help us do that is by practicing Non-Violent Communication. Using non-violent communication can positively impact your relationship with others as you are respect and empathic of others needs and wants including your own. It promotes respect, awareness, empathy, and compassion. It helps us talk and listen from the heart.

So, What is Non-Violent Communication (NVC)?

Non-Violent communication focuses on how we hear others and also how we communicate. It focuses on communicating respectfully and honestly without reacting defensively, withdrawing, and just generally negatively communicating with others. There are four main components to NVC.

Part One: Observation

Observation requires individuals to observe (state the fact of what one is observing without judgment or evaluation). For example: When you say/do x. Try to say away from assumptions like "when you ignore me" as that is more objective. What makes you think they are ignoring you? Turning away, talking over you, or interrupting you?

Part Two: Feelings

Feelings require individuals to express what they are feeling based off the non-judgement or evaluation of the observation they made. For ex: When you talk over me, I feel X.

Stick to using feeling words and try not to make assumptions here either. Being ignored is not a feeling. You may feel disrespected or belittled and think they are ignoring you.

Part Three: Needs

Needs require individuals to know and state out needs that are connected to the feelings. For example, feeling disrespected and thinking they are ignoring or don't care about you is connected to the need of feeling heard, prioritized, etc.

Part Four: Requests

Requests are to address what the individual wants from the other person. Expressing how you feel is just the first part, the other person does not know what you need in unless you tell them. This is key in making sure you break unhealthy dynamics. So what do you need from them in the future? For example:

When I hear you talk over me, I feel belittled because I need to be heard. Would you be willing to listen first before you share your thoughts/opinions?

Where can I practice or learn more about Non-Violent Communication?

Therapy is a great place to start practicing this new form of communication. As your therapist, I will help you learn all 4 components of Non-Violent Communication and practice this with others. I strongly recommend reading the non-violent communication book by Marshall Rosenberg or reviewing his YouTube videos as he provides great examples.

Source: Marshall Rosenberg, Non-Violent Communication- A Language of Life


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