NVC Distilled

NVC is a framework for understanding and achieving happiness through needs awareness, emotional awareness and effective communication.

There are many insights across the extensive collection of NVC material available. Here, I’ve attempted to collect these insights in one place. It is a whirlwind tour of the wisdom of NVC without much explanation. At the bottom there are several links for if you want to dive deeper.

NVC: Goal of Life

  • Make life more wonderful.

NVC: Needs, Feelings and Actions

  • All human beings share the same needs.
  • The way we get particular needs fulfilled varies by person. (e.g. ‘Love Languages’)
  • Feelings exist to tell us when our needs are or are-not getting fulfilled.
  • The only way to make life more wonderful for anyone is to help fulfill one or more of their needs.
  • Any action anyone ever makes is an attempt to fulfill needs.
  • Any attempt to communicate, an action, is also an attempt to fulfill needs.

NVC: Please, Thank You and Giving

  • All communication is either please or thank you.
  • Thank-yous are a gift.
  • Requests are a gift. The requester is giving the receiver an opportunity to make life more wonderful for them.
  • Giving is only a gift when done with the immediate joy of a child. Give any other way and there is a price attached. Both giver and receiver will pay for it later.

NVC: Autonomy

  • We are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings and actions.
  • No one can ever make anyone do anything.
  • No one ever does anything wrong. There are only past actions which someone might or might-not choose to do differently if they knew then what they know now. Discard all concepts of judgement and guilt.
  • No one can require anyone to fulfill a need. No one can expect any particular person to be the one to fulfill any particular need. No one “owes” anyone anything. Discard all concepts of obligation.

NVC: Non-violent Communication

All communication is an attempt to fulfill a need, but our language is rubbish at it. We can intentionally choose a more effective language for getting our, and others’ needs fulfilled.

In NVC, this need-fullfilment-focused language is called “speaking in Giraffe.” Why ‘Giraffe’? Giraffe’s have the largest heart of any land animal.

Since all communication is either please or thank you, speaking in Giraffe is all about consciously communicating ‘pleases’ and ‘thank-yous’ as clearly as possible for the explicit purpose of getting needs met.

Speaking in “Giraffe” may seem tedious and long-winded at first, but once the explicit forms are mastered, feel free to play with shorter, more convenient ways of communicating the same thing.

NVC: Speaking in “Giraffe”

Saying ‘please’ in “Giraffe”

I am feeling X. I have a need for more Y. If you did Z, I would be more fulfilled and feel better. If and only if doing Z would give you the immediate joy of a child, would you please do it?

Saying ‘thank-you’ in “Giraffe”

Thank you for doing Z. It made me feel X. You helped fulfill my need for Y.

NVC: Listening in “Giraffe”

When anyone says anything, they are attempting to fulfill a need. They are either saying please or thank-you. If you listen with “Giraffe-ears” you can translate any communication into Giraffe-please or Giraffe-thank-you:

Translating ‘thank-you’ into “Giraffe”

  • Guess what concrete action you took the other person is thankful for.
  • Guess what need of theirs was fulfilled.
  • Hear what the person is feeling now.
  • Validation and Verification: Verbally verify you correctly understood the feeling, need, and concrete action they are thankful for. If you misunderstood, ask questions until you fully understand all three.

Translating ‘please’ into “Giraffe”

  • If the communication wasn’t a thank-you, it was a request. Even a “no” is really a request for an unfulfilled need in disguise.
  • Hear what the person is feeling.
  • Guess their unfulfilled need.
  • Guess the concrete action they would like you to perform to help fulfill their need.
  • Feel grateful for the request. They are attempting to make life more wonderful no matter how tragically they are doing it.
  • Validation and Verification: Verbally verify you correctly understood the feeling, need, and concrete action requested. If you misunderstood, ask questions until you fully understand all three.
  • Yes-Response: If performing the request would give you child-like joy, “I’d love to!”
  • No-Response: Otherwise, make a counter request in the form of a Giraffe-please. For maximum clarity, include why you cannot do as they ask in your counter-request. Ex: “I would like to see your need fulfilled, but I cannot do as you ask without sacrificing my needs, X, Y, Z. Could you work with me to see if there is another way we can get your need met?”

NVC: Where to go from here?