Everyone is welcome to the NVC Community; By Jim Manske

For the last several years, the Center for Nonviolent Communication has been building a new organization and visioning the global NVC Community. I enjoyed working with a team of that included four other certified trainers; Eva Rambala, Mary Mackenzie, Gyano Shaw, Marianne Sikor. One of our tasks was to write a proposed purpose and mission for the NVC Global Community. Eventually, this became a part of a much larger document called the Integrated Plan of the New Future Process, or NF Plan.

Here is a glimpse of the purpose and mission we collaborated to create. I’d love to hear your feedback!
Warm aloha,

Purpose of Community

To live and radiate interdependence and compassion

In his pamphlet Being Me, Loving You, Marshall Rosenberg pointed to three things required to live Nonviolent Communication:  Spiritual Clarity (remembering the purpose of NVC); Practice, Practice, Practice; and a Community of support. The purpose of our global Community is to awaken and remember Spiritual Clarity by offering opportunities to practice NVC and to support one another in living and being NVC in Community.

Spiritual Clarity:

The purpose of NVC is to awaken a quality of connection that creates, sustains and supports compassionate giving and receiving. Our Community calls the membership to radiate that clear intention, transmitting inspiration to our world about what is possible for all in a life-serving community.


Practice, Practice, Practice:

We practice together to support everyone interested in remembering and living the purpose of Nonviolent Communication, to remember natural giving and receiving and to live compassionately.  We remind one another that every moment contains abundant opportunities to more fully embody NVC through self-connection, authenticity and empathy. Every life-serving human endeavor offers the opportunity to apply NVC to meet more needs with less cost.



We contribute to peace and well-being through living NVC within ourselves in the company of one another, and to model NVC to people who may not identify themselves as members of our community.

All three threads interweave to create a fabric of interdependence and compassion. Acknowledging our interdependence, we move naturally toward compassionate action in the service of universal well-being.

Mission of Community

We are an informal community spread across the world,
dedicated to supporting Members of our Community
and individuals and organisations beyond that Community
in creating a world that works for all.

Larger and more inclusive than the NVC-Organisation emerging from the New Future Process, we celebrate a much broader tapestry of individuals, groups, and communities who share a common interest in learning, living and being NVC.  We also acknowledge that we are an integral part of something even larger than our Community that includes all individuals, cultures, groups and organizations, indeed all living beings. We support all life-serving systems, first surviving, then thriving.


  1. CONNECT: by actively reaching out to individuals and organisations and supporting them to learn and integrate NVC principles and practices.

Our community is a connecting point, a global hub that invites and welcomes all who have an interest in discovering how NVC can enhance their lives.

  1. SUPPORT: each other through empathic and authentic presence and connection.

We make ourselves available to one another in order to support well-being through the practice of self-connection, honesty and empathy.

  1. DEVELOP: principles and invent practices through hands-on work in different contexts and cultures that contribute to the creation of a world that works for all.

We acknowledge that NVC is a living process, always evolving.  By actively seeking feedback, we experiment and innovate to continually develop new practices and enhance what we already experience as supporting connection in the service of compassionate giving and receiving.  With ever-increasing depth and breadth, we continually discover new applications of NVC wherever people connect with one another and with all life.

  1. MODEL: Nonviolent Communication principles and practices as individuals, in our interactions with others, and in the groups and organisations that we work in and with.

We understand that living with integrity means embodying NVC with ever-increasing ability, and that how we live NVC in our everyday activities demonstrates our integration more than what we say or what we teach.

  1. INSPIRE: others to consider looking at NVC principles and practices as a tool that could enrich their lives.

Our individual and collective actions, and our way of being, act as a beacon, inviting everyone to join with us in our commitment to contribute to universal well-being.

  1. INITIATE: and organise events that nourish, celebrate and expand our Community.

We proactively move toward fulfilling our Mission through living our shared values with one another and by inviting all who are interested to learn and practice together.  We commit ourselves to making our Community more easily accessible to everyone who desires to connect with us.

  1. PROVIDE: input for the Organisation by harvesting the wisdom and knowledge generated within the Community.

We acknowledge our abiding connection to the Organization by supporting the free flow of information. We celebrate that what we are learning as a Community supports the Organization in more effectively fulfilling its Purpose and Mission and moves us all toward fulfilling our shared Vision.

Why Do We Have Feelings; By Jim Manske

Imagine it was your job to operate a complex piece of machinery, for example being the pilot of an aircraft. As the pilot, you have clarity on your role, and you have been well trained to perform it.
And then, imagine you volunteer to fly a new kind of an airplane as a test pilot. This new plane is considered to be the state of the art, with the capacity of efficiently whisking passengers and freight from one location to another with a single crew member, a pilot.
When you climb into the cockpit for your first training flight, you sit in the cockpit, strapped into your seat with a spectacular view out of the windscreen. Everything seems so sleek and modern. At first, the simplicity of the design stimulates excitement and you look forward to trying this new machine!
You see the various control systems, like familiar pedals and steering devices, lots of switches and knobs.
But, something is missing.  There are no instruments, no display, not even a clock! You look for basic information like, “is there fuel in the tank?” or “which direction are we pointing toward.” You learn nothing.
No doubt, you leave the cockpit and say, “I can’t fly this! There’s no feedback! There’s no information about the state of various systems required to operate a complex piece of machinery like this!”
Obviously, that’s not a workable scenario. To operate an airplane, or a car, or even a simple piece of machinery like a toaster, we need instruments that give us feedback about the state of the machine. Likewise with our bodies, we require information that lets us know the state of the organism that we inhabit. That’s the function of feelings.
Feelings (sensations and emotions) give us the information we need to manage our bodies and our relationships. The feelings of hunger or thirst let us know we need sustenance, and the feeling fullness lets us know we have had enough. Feeling uncomfortably stuffed lets us know we ate or drank more than our body could easily process.
Likewise, a feeling of loneliness tells us we are hungry for connection. Every feeling sends us a signal about the state of our needs. We need our feelings to address our Needs! Our Needs actually create our feelings! Our feelings may be influenced by the outside world, but the cause is inside us, our Needs.
Once we understand the reason that we have feelings, it becomes easier to own them. We come to understand that the sensations and emotions we generate exist to support us in sustaining our lives, and once we succeed in that, we can move toward thriving.  We can learn to appreciate the full range of sensations and emotions we experience as human, grateful for the information they provide and the guidance they give us about our movement toward fulfilling our Needs.

Being Present with Feelings; by Jim Manske


I remember the first time I saw a kaleidoscope. I felt awed by the ever-changing, unique patterns that materialized and disappeared as I manipulated it. I felt entranced by the beauty and complexity, joyfully astonished at the seemingly infinite variety of temporary pattern and color. I still feel excited when I see kaleidoscopes!

When I started teaching NVC, I used a kaleidoscope as a metaphor for the ever-changing, dynamic nature of our human responses, our feelings. When something happens in the world, it stimulates us in our bodies. Something arises within us, our subjective experience of physical sensations and emotions. These signals give us vital information about the current state of our needs.

Developing an ever-increasing awareness of feelings, as well as a vocabulary to describe how we feel, supports both self-connection and connecting with others. We can develop descriptions of our inner landscape to support us in understanding our own needs and communicating our requests to others. This expanded inner awareness also supports us in empathy as we realize that feelings can be pointers to Needs.

We generally experience pleasurable feelings as easy to be with (e.g. happy, content, satisfied, relaxed); but, painful feelings can be challenging! Learning to stay present and observational during painful emotions stretches our capacity and goes against the grain of a deeply habitual reaction to automatically move away from pain. This seems like a common experience among all people and other living beings. Sometimes it even saves us from more pain to move away! This deeply adaptive response is hooked to our very survival!

It’s easy for me to connect to the fear of experiencing certain feelings in myself or others. For example, it’s still a challenge for me to stay present in the face of anger directed toward me or the suffering of someone I’m close to because of my habitual fearful or sympathetic reactions. I’m learning to increase my presence to that kind of strong emotion by sharpening my intention to observe what is happening and to connect to the meaning of the feeling. I’m also learning to coach myself to stay present by gently challenging the assumption that experiencing a feeling can permanently damage me or others.

Once, I had developed an expectation that Jori and I would go out on a date together, celebrating at a local restaurant. When the time for the date arrived, our life circumstances had shifted and other pressing requests caused us to change our plans. I felt disappointment. As we talked about this together, a wave of emotion arose within me. I could also notice how much I wanted to move away from this strong, painful reaction.

Instead of following this old habit to move away, to find some balm or mask for the pain, I excused myself and went to just sit on my meditation pillow, curious to see how deep these feelings would go if I allowed myself permission to explore them with Presence. I noticed the pain ebbing and flowing, tears welling, crying, disappointment, annoyance…my emotional experience shifted to a monologue of life’s parade of disappointments, how I “always” “had to” give up my needs for others, how I “never” got what I wanted! This suffering mutated into a seething stew of resentment and anger.

Suddenly, I contacted a deeper level of sadness. Sitting in the sadness, I cried. Soon, the sobbing quieted, my mind stilled, and an openness in my heart awakened. And all that in about 5 minutes! Wow, what an eye-opener that was for me.

Of course, I felt sad! So often, humans feel the sting of things not going the way they expect! Of course, we hurt when this happens!

When I remind myself that feelings are transient, usually lasting for 40 seconds or less, I feel open, relaxed, and alert. As I open to the present experience of emotion within me or alive in others, I am learning to cultivate wonder, focusing my attention on the meaning of the signal represented by the feeling. This awareness supports me in an opening to the quality of connection that inspires compassionate giving and receiving.

Please” or “Thank You” by Jim Manske

Marshall Rosenberg taught me that all communication boils down to us saying either “please” or “thank you”.

Seems like most of what “we” post on Facebook or other social media is more the “Thank you” side rather than the “please” side. We celebrate life events, travel experiences, friendships, encounters, workshops, insights, etc.

Exceptions seem to be around health crises we or family members experience, and occasionally other requests for support. I enjoy that balance.

Here comes a “please”.

The other day, I had quite a shock.  Waking up in Shanghai after a restful sleep, my peace shattered when I received an extortion attempt in my email. Someone had hijacked an account name, email address and password, and used that information to attempt to get me to pay a bitcoin ransom to avoid having potentially embarrassing information posted to all my Facebook friends.

It included a convincing and psychologically skillful and manipulative message that sent my nervous system into overdrive, even though my rational mind doubted the ability of the “extorter” to fulfill their threat. My emotional mind responded with anxiety and fear, my body got shaky, my mind raced. I felt such surprise at the emotional reaction!

I sat with my needs-for respect, for choice, for care, to be seen, for love…for clarity about actions I could take to protect myself. I felt all alone. Jori slept peacefully by my side, completely, blissfully unaware of how I had hijacked myself. I did not want to wake her up. I did not want her to freak out like I was freaking out!

My heart finally said, “take action…take any action even if it may or may not help!”

I started changing passwords to online accounts. (This project consumed me for the better part of the day. Who knew how many passwords I had and how potentially linked some accounts are! (I learned “never use the same password twice!”)

I did research to find out what I was up against. I gave myself lots of empathy. I got empathy from Jori, although it took me awhile to be willing to ask.

That was another surprise. (My need in not asking for support was protecting Jori and myself. I had the story that if this was so upsetting for me, it would be upsetting for her, too. If she was upset, then I would be distracted from caring for my own needs. What a tangled web we can weave!)

In my research, I discovered that this kind of threat is common with data breaches. I offer you this information in the hopes it can support your choicefulness if something like this ever happens to you.


I hope it doesn’t!

I feel sad thinking that we share the planet with brothers and sisters so desperate to find ways to get their needs met that they would try extortion. It’s a humbling experience to be on the other side of what I interpret as a “power over” intimidation. There is also something surprisingly connecting about our shared vulnerability. Who among us does not have something embarrassing or shameful that we would prefer to be kept private?

It awakens compassion in me for all of our brothers and sisters who receive direct and indirect threats to life, wellbeing or rights everyday. It inspires me to keep working on awakening myself and supporting others to the power of needs-based strategies to find ways to contribute to one another in mutual ways. This update is a strategy to care for all of us.

How is it for you to read this?

Warm aloha from Yantai, China

“The Zero Step:  What we do before we open our mouths influences what happens next!  Jim Manske Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication

“The Zero Step:  What we do before we open our mouths influences what happens next!  

“Know what you want before you open your mouth.”  -Marshall Rosenberg, developer of Nonviolent Communication

The Story of the Zero Step 

Shortly after meeting Marshall Rosenberg in November of 2000, Jori and I started attending the Community NVC Practice Group in Albuquerque. One member of the group, Mel Schneider, offered the group a lesson he called “The Zero Step”.  Mel started the presentation by writing the numbers 1 through 4 on the whiteboard:







He then filled in the blank next to each number, enumerating the four components of NVC.

  1. Observation
  2. Feeling
  3. Need
  4. Request

He briefly reviewed what each component meant.  He said something like, “Observation refers to what we see and hear.  Feeling means the physical sensations and emotions we notice in our body.  Needs are the universal values that cause our feelings.  Requests are the action step that moves us forward into making life more wonderful.”

This was already familiar.  As I once heard Marshall say, “you can learn the basic components of NVC in 5 minutes or less.”

Then he went back to the board and wrote a 0 at the top o



  1. Observation
  2. Feeling
  3. Need
  4. Request

And after the 0 he wrote two words


  1. Observation
  2. Feeling
  3. Need
  4. Request

Intrigued, we all leaned forward.  I thought, “What is this?  I don’t remember seeing this in Marshall’s book!  He didn’t mention this at the workshop we just went to. I wonder what this is about.”

Mel explained that his understanding and practice of NVC centered around the idea that “all the rest” of NVC follows from one underlying premise: the intention that we each bring to every communication matters to the outcome!  He also reminded us of the ever-present environment in which we practice NVC: the present moment.

In other words, when we take the time and energy to get clear about our intention, before communicating with one another, we increase the likelihood of living compassionately.  In the moments before we engage in a conversation, the choices we make profoundly influence everyone involved.  When we begin with an intention to connect, we naturally enter into the present moment, the only “time and place” that the connection we so fervently want actually exists.

The “Rest of NVC”

I have come to understand that “all the rest” of NVC also supports our clarity of intention because each component of NVC awakens us to another important quality of consciousness- Openness to Outcome.  Rather than pre-judging the moment based on beliefs and images rooted in the dead past or the imagined future, we open to the possibility of something new arising that can make life more wonderful from now on.

In each moment, our consciousness focuses on what is arising with four lenses:

1.What’s actually happening, right now?;

2.What feelings are arising, right now?

3.Who needs what right now?

4.What might contribute to those Needs, right now?

So the intention of NVC, in a dynamic feedback loop with NVC’s components, creates and sustains a natural quality of connection, a quality that makes compassionate giving and receiving both possible and inevitable.  We creatively move through each moment of presence, awake and open to the almost infinite potential of what could be.

What happens if we forget the Zero Step?

With another intention, the same four components can be used at a great cost, one that adversely affects one’s own well-being and integrity, and likely leads to something other than compassionate giving and receiving, a world based on who deserves what punishment or reward.  In other words, violence rooted in separateness.

When we view the world through a screen of life-alienated “jackal”* consciousness, we live our lives alternating between the dead past and the imaginary future.  We fall into habits of:

1.Evaluation and analysis

2.Separative thinking and moral judgment

3.Resistance and addictive attachment

4.Demands and expectations

Even after we learn the basics of NVC, we may fall into these mostly unconscious habits.  We may begin to use NVC as a mechanical process devoid of warmth and care.  We can use the lens of NVC to become analytical and diagnostic.  We can try to use NVC to manipulate others to get what we want without regard to our interdependence.  We might start judging others for not using NVC “the right way”, or correcting others for not being vulnerable enough, honest enough, empathic enough.  We might become the “NVC Police” correcting others for using words that are faux feelings or when they seem to mix up needs and strategies.

“”We might ask ourselves whether we are more intent on applying the process “correctly” than on connecting with the human being in front of us. Or perhaps, even though we are using the form of NVC, our only interest is in changing the other person’s behavior.” -Marshall Rosenberg

Becoming aware of any of these deeply embedded habits awakens us to the possibility of shifting our intention.  Instead of an intention to correct, we can shift, right now, to an intention to connect!

What does living this intention look like?

When we shift our orientation to connection in the present, it affects our body, mind and world.

For the body, the intention to connect results in heightened awareness of sensations and emotions which can be read to support us in cultivating our own vitality, ensuring that our body’s needs are met with ever-increasing reliability.  We learn to listen to the body and respond compassionately to its requests.

For the mind, we experience clarity, insight and openness to outcome.  The safety and security we experience in our body influences our minds to become both vulnerable and empathic.  We enjoy each moment as an opportunity to sense fully the whole range of human experience with a respectful quality of allowance.  The luminosity of our awareness invites self-connection in the service of life.

With body and mind in resonance, our interactions with the world shift.  The separateness we have habitually felt dissolves into connection and compassion.  Our willingness to both give and receive blossoms.

Now, we can connect!  More and more often we can catch ourselves connecting naturally.  Every time we notice a pleasant sensation in the body becomes an opportunity to taste and express gratitude.  Each moment of sadness or despair invites us to inquire into the source of our pain:  what need is crying, “please!” right now?  Each connection to a need invites us to open to the possibility that there exists a strategy (or a myriad of strategies) to fulfill the needs arising.

Here are some practices to experiment with to connect with The Zero Step:

•Acknowledge, “I am Giraffe*”, or “I’m putting on my giraffe ears.”

•Cultivate Warmth toward self and other

•Care for your vitality as well as the vitality of other(s)

•Cultivate Gratitude

•Cultivate interest in what is alive: What’s actually happening? What feelings are arising? Who  needs what right now? What might help?

•Mental practice:  This refers to a strategy of using the brains power of simulation to practice the Zero Step in challenging situations before they happen.  I sometimes do this kind of practice just before going to sleep and/or just upon awakening.  If I end up in a sleepless period in the middle of the night, one can also utilize the time for this kind of practice.

Write down one new thing that you will do to cultivate your zero step.

(*Giraffe is the symbol of Nonviolent Communication, chosen by Marshall Rosenberg because giraffes have the strongest heart of any land mammal.

C) 2017 Jim Manske peaceworks radicalcompassion.com

Jim Manske
Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication, cnvc.org
President, Network for NVC
Please join me in a commitment to live from the consciousness that we are
Please, let every word that you speak or type be empathically cleansed of
any thought or feeling of separateness before you open your mouth or press “send”. (This in no way implies there is a correct form!)

Please, let every word you hear be filtered by empathy so all you hear is “Please” and “Thank you”.

Please, let every communication express our common aim of living nonviolence and compassion.

May we remember our vision and mission each and every moment, and measure our own actions (and inactions) in relation to those commitments.


The Potential of Mourning Integrity by Aubree Moon

Week four of my internship with NVC NextGen is coming to a close, and there are many wonderful moments of learning to reflect on. After attending the last two NVC practice groups, I had experiences of the lessons integrating into my daily life. Last week, Jim and Jori taught about ‘have to’, as in things you feel like you have to do. They guided the group through finding to activities that we feel like we have to do, and then explained how to connect to the need that we are trying to meet through doing that activity. For example, I feel like I have to read my texts for school, but by reading the texts, I am trying get my needs for security and integrity met. We also looked at the needs that aren’t met by these activities and held space both to mourn the unmet needs and celebrate our attempts to meet some of our needs. This process of mourning and celebrating has really affected my thinking; I’ve noticed most of my experiences boil down to either mourning or celebrating something. To allow the space for both to come up naturally has really given me a more balanced view of my life.

Just the other day this lesson became very apparent as I was driving to the store. On the way, there’s a turn that is pretty sharp without much visibility. I can’t remember what I was doing while I was driving, but this particular time there was something taking up some amount of my attention, like drinking from my water bottle or opening Spotify on my phone. I turned the corner without anticipating how sharp it would be, and regrettably I didn’t navigate it with as much precision and attention as I would have liked. Luckily, I was taking it slow, but the woman in the car coming towards me didn’t seem pleased with my driving. I got to the store and parked, and I felt some shame. As I gave more attention to the feeling, I could tell there was a part of me that wanted to ignore and suppress it. Instead, I invoked the quality of mourning, and connected to the needs that weren’t met by my behavior: integrity and safety. When I allowed the mourning to occur, there was much more space for the feeling of shame. I also connected to the needs that I had been trying to meet during my inattentive moment of driving, probably ease and fun. I celebrated my attempt of trying to meet those needs.

A few days later, I was driving another windy jungle road, and I was trying to open a podcast on my phone. I instantly felt a flash of recognition *this behavior has led to mourning my integrity in the past*. It spontaneously arose as a reminder stemming from previously taking the time to mourn my action of distracted driving. As soon as this thought came up, I dropped my phone on the passenger seat. I focused on the road and experienced a surge of joy and celebration for seeing the potential to be out of alignment with my integrity and choosing not to. I didn’t drop the phone out of shame, but for the joy of being connected to my integrity. This experience showed me that mourning unmet needs is incredibly powerful and transformative. We react to unmet needs in so many ways: anger, depression, apathy- but to consciously mourn, to touch your tender heart with empathy and compassion, provides a quality of healing. Mourning unmet needs contributes to self-awareness and consequently self-empowerment. It creates more understanding and consciousness around how to get your needs met and illuminates the pathway to a more wonderful life.

Another experience I had that came to life through NVC teachings was around inviting a conversation. This past Monday, Jim and Jori taught on this subject and we were able to practice our conversation invitations. It seemed simple enough, I thought about it briefly and then said to my practice partner: “Hey, I was wondering if you have some time to sit and chat with me. I have something on my mind and I’d really love to share and hear your thoughts.” I spoke those words once, and then we moved on to something else. A couple days later, this practice re-entered my consciousness. I was in the middle of doing yoga when my partner got home and came into our bedroom. I stopped my practice and said “hi”. That morning, I had had a realization about how my life could be more wonderful, and there was a request I wanted to make of my partner. It wasn’t a “big deal”, but it was more important that just our everyday dialogue.

As I was figuring out how to say it, he kissed me on the head and walked out of the room. As I stood there on my yoga mat and had been about to launch into my spiel, I noticed that when I have something to say that feels important, I usually just dive right in. Because my partner walked out before I could say anything, I realized: I had been about to invite a conversation. Unconsciously. This was a wonderful realization because it provided more space in my consciousness and allowed me to really think about how I wanted to approach inviting a conversation. What did I really want to say and how did I want to set the tone? And even more importantly, it gave me the space to remember the zero step, or the intention for connection. Jim and Jori coined this term for a precursory step to the nonviolent communication dialogue.

To go into a conversation with an intention to stay connected to the other person is a profound idea. In the situation with my partner, the energy I had been about to come from was very self-centered and independent, thinking only of my needs and requests. When he left the room and I realized I had been about to invite a conversation, I remembered the zero step and it shifted the energy that I would have had the conversation from. Instead of “I realized this, I need this, wow, I’m so excited about this–” I instead would have approached it instead like “I realized this would make my life more wonderful, how does that impact you?”  It’s been amazing to have these learning experiences come to life. It is so inspiring that just attending a short weekly practice group can have so much impact in my thinking and behavior. There’s nothing better than the experience of expanding consciousness contributing to more fulfilling relationships!

Why did the chicken cross the road? by Jim Manske

My guess is before you even finished reading that sentence, you already knew the answer.  That ancient childhood joke has become part of how we experience the world at an intuitive level.

Remarkably, for me, the joke contains an important insight into Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

As humans, we intuitively know that every behavior is motivated by a “why”, even the behavior of a chicken.

So, let’s change the joke slightly and consider, “Why did the giraffe** open her mouth?”  The answer?  To get to “the other side of connection.”   We humans intuitively know that opening our mouth (and our ears) supports the connection we need, not only to survive, but to thrive as individuals and as a community.  This understanding represents a deep insight into how to live NVC consciousness, how to make living that process more natural, and shines the light of awareness on why NVC seems to fail us sometimes.

Three questions arise:

  1. Why does NVC seem to fail us sometimes?
  2. How can you make living the process more natural?
  3. How does one live NVC consciousness?

First things first: Why does NVC seem to fail us sometimes? Because of the way we have been educated, we habitually open our mouth in the service of correction, rather than connection.  We are sometimes quick to judge another person’s behavior as wrong (and ours as right); we scan for people that are bad, and think its our job to straighten them out; we take on the role of moral authority, deciding not only what is or is not appropriate, but also who deserves to be punished or rewarded. We think its our job to play the roles of police, prosecutor, judge, and sometimes even executioner.  We may even turn our corrective wrath on ourselves, ruminating about our own bad thoughts or behaviors, then feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious or depressed.

Operating from this intention to correct temporarily blocks the consciousness of NVC.  It’s as if we armor our heart with a protective layer of separateness, anxiously scanning for threats and enemies.  Tragically, this habit can get in the way of another receiving the contribution that we would like to give.  And it gets in the way of getting our own needs met!

So, now looking at the second question, how can we make living NVC more natural and available?”  The quick answer is to notice more often how we naturally live NVC.  In other words, train yourself to notice the times when connection flows easily, when you are joyfully receiving another person’s contribution to you and when you are openly giving to another without expectation of reciprocity.

Check your memory right now for instances when you said a genuine thank you, when you offered support to another or when you responded to another person’s request with an open heart.  All of those are examples of living NVC.  You can make this reality more of your lived experience by simply noting at least three examples of this each day in a gratitude journal.  Writing just a three sentence report about “what’s going well” in your life can have a profound impact on well-being.**

My guess is that you live this consciousness more often than you recognize.  See what happens if you watch for opportunities to acknowledge and notice gratitude and other life-fulfilling emotions.

Now, to the final and most vital question:  How does one live in NVC consciousness?

Three important concepts help us to answer the question:

  1. Presence
  2. Clarity of intention
  3. Openness to outcome


Living NVC always happens now.  Notice and refine your sense of presence.  Presence is actually our default mode.  Are you present to the words that you are reading right now?  If yes, that is presence.  If you notice you are distracted momentarily with a thought of the past or the future, notice that your awareness of that absence happens right now.  So, even the awareness of absence is a sign of presence.

Notice presence.

Clarity of Intention

Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of NVC, once suggested in a workshop that I attended that if we want to live NVC, the first step is to “know what you want before you open your mouth.”

I used to interpret this to mean that the first step in a communication is to know what our desired outcome is. Now I understand that rather than visualizing or imagining what I want to happen, Marshall was pointing us to a clarity of intention.  Knowing which strategy to use to contribute to a need comes later.

Now I endeavor to, keep my focus on what Marshall called “Spiritual Clarity”.

The word spiritual points towards an acknowledgment that we live interdependently.  Your needs and my needs co-exist.  If I get my needs met at your expense, we will both pay.  And the opposite is also true:  If you get your needs met at my expense, we both will pay.  How do we pay?  With disconnection, resentment, and suffering.

Clarity points to a deep and profound connection to this reality of interdependence.  

When I live from this quality of spiritual clarity, my behaviors will more likely contribute to making life wonderful for everyone involved.

Openness to Outcome

The natural consequence of Presence and Clarity of Intention is an openness to outcome.  We liberate ourselves in advance from any addiction to “one right way” to get our needs met.  By staying connected to Needs rather than becoming attached to a specific strategy, we support a  flow of connection that inevitably leads to compassionate giving and receiving.

The nickname we give to the combination of these three elemental concepts is “the Zero Step”.  The Zero Step points to what we do in our consciousness before using the four components of NVC developed by Marshall (observation, feeling need and request).  Ironically, when we live in the Zero Step, the four steps fade away into a naturally connecting language.

So, now we arrive at Marshall’s definition of the purpose of NVC:  “To create a quality of connection that inspires compassionate giving and receiving.”  And three elements help us to fulfill that purpose:

  1. Presence:  What is happening right now?  How do you feel right now?  Who needs what right now?  What would make life more wonderful right now?
  2. Clarity of Intention:  Do I want to connect in the service of compassionate giving and receiving?  Or do I want to correct?  If the latter, the antidote is empathy and self-empathy to regain contact with our Spiritual Clarity.
  3. Openness to Outcome:  We finish our expression with a request, not a demand.  We only want to receive from another what they willingly want to contribute.  If we notice we are attached to an outcome, its a signal we need empathy!

Three quick practices:

  1. Presence: Ask yourself, “Am I aware?  What do I see, hear, smell taste, or touch, right now?
  2. Clarity of Intention:  Ask yourself, “Do I want to connect or do I want to correct?”
  3. Openness to outcome:  Consider any universal human need and make a list of all the ways that need could be satisfied.  For example, consider the Need for love:  How many different ways have you had that Need satisfied in your life?  (A hug, a kind word, a gift, an act of service, spending quality time with someone, etc)**

So, from now, we live with a new awareness that can arise just before we next open our mouth.  Where are we going, connection or correction?

We can claim our natural intuition and inclination to contribute to making life wonderful by connecting.  Or we can notice, with ever increasing awareness, how our old habits of correction may still run reactively.

Each moment, we choose which destination we seek.  And the next moment, we can choose once again.

*Giraffe is the term Marshall Rosenberg used as a nickname for NVC and its practitioners.  Since giraffes have long necks, they can easily make observations.  And, an anatomical consequence of that long neck is the strongest heart of any land mammal.  It takes a lot of power to pump that life-enriching blood up to the brain of the giraffe!  Thus, NVC, or giraffe language, is also know as the language of the heart.

**See Flourish, by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

***Inspired by Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages