How often do you feel that you stay silent and not get the words out, because you don’t know what to say or you’re afraid of hurting the other person with your words? How often do you feel like you’re swallowing your feelings or doing things to please another person at your own expense?
Do you know how to express your feelings and needs to another person?
Do you want to set better boundaries in your intimate relationships, friendships, family and at work? Would you like to be closer so that people really know you, so you feel seen?
Nonviolent Communication is an invaluable set of tools that I share with my clients–so I gathered this list of resources together for you.
Often the first and most powerful step is identifying your own feelings and needs. Giving yourself self-empathy by articulating those feelings and needs–which can be as easy as looking over the lists of feelings and needs below–can be so powerfully transformative. So many of us feel like we are not being heard. But the first step is listening to ourselves.
So many of us grew up to be adults without a rich emotional vocabulary or training about how to talk about our feelings and needs. Nonvionlent Communication can be that training.
Here are some resources for learning about Nonviolent Communication that I like to share with my coaching clients.
SOFNR: Simple steps for effective communication
SOFNR is a very simple process for effectively communicating using principles of NVC. Think about this as a checklist. Everyday life might mean that you don’t follow this formula exactly but if you learn this simple formula, you can start to slow down in your communication. You will start to practice “street NVC” which is real life. Go through each step and you may be amazed at what’s possible: to be direct and honest while owning your feelings, not blaming the other person, and getting your needs met. At least putting forth the request for your needs to be met.
Breathe. Check in with yourself. Get grounded. Consider taking a break or getting support elsewhere. If you need to leave the situation, let the other person know when you’ll return–in 10 minutes? An hour? Another day? Keep them in the loop.
Describe what happened based on observations. No judgment, no blame, no opinions. What would a camcorder see and hear? How would a scientist describe it. Be specific.
Describe how you feel physically and emotionally. Are you relaxed? Tense? Happy? Angry? Scared? Avoid feelings that are an interpretation of what someone else did to you, such as saying you feel attacked, abandoned, or betrayed. Stay with direct sensations and feelings inside you. (Look at the list of feelings here to find yours.)
Describe what you need or want, separate from a person, place or thing that might give it to you. Stay with the pure needs, such as: I want respect; I want kindness; I want safety; I want help. (Look at the feelings of needs to find yours.)
You can make a Connecting Request (What did you hear me say? How do you feel about what I said?) or a Solution Request for a specific action. For Solution Requests, make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Relevant, Time-related. (For example: Would you pick me up at the airport on Tuesday at 7 pm?) This is a request, not a demand, which means the other person can say “no.” If they do say “no” ask them to help you find a solution that meets your needs AND theirs.
In many cities, there are groups where people meet to practice Nonviolent Communication. Google your city and nonviolent communication to discover what’s out there.
Lists of feelings and needs
These lists are simple–and powerful. I find that simply becoming acquainted with these lists can change people’s lives. You may want to print these lists out for easy reference, or keep an image of the lists on your phone so you can refer to them when you are upset or triggered.
Here is the Feelings Inventory. When you are wanting to identify your feelings, look at this list of feelings for help with finding yours:
We often express our feelings in terms of what another person has “done to us.” For example, “hurt,” “rejected,” “taken for granted” or “betrayed” are considered “false feelings” because they communicate judgment to someone else for what they have done or not done. A key principle of NVC is to share your feelings and own your feelings without putting the blame on another person–you own your own feeling completely by choosing a feeling from the NVC feelings list, such as, I’m feeling “insecure,” “anxious,” or “shaky.” You’ll find many more words in the feelings list in the link above to describe your emotional states when needs are and are not satisfied.
Here is the needs inventory. Needs are abstract: I may have a need for “connection,” “understanding,” “self-respect,” “to be seen,” “consistency,” “mutuality,” or “love.” Identifying your own needs can powerfully build your own self-esteem and sharing them with another person can also be powerful. But first you may identify your need to yourself.
This book is a useful primer, but it can be a bit technical to be honest. Sometimes it’s good to watch the videos too–and the SOFNR checklist below is helpful for learning these practical skills of communication.
Take a look at this video from the founder Marshall Rosenberg:
And this one: