NVC Question #3


“When we sense ourselves being defensive or unable to empathize, we need to (a) stop, breathe, give ourselves empathy (b) scream nonviolently, or (c) take time out.”

Could you refresh me on what “scream non-violently” is?


That’s where you express your pain “nakedly and without blame”. An example from the book: “Hey, I’m in a lot of pain! Right now I really do not want to deal with your fighting! I just want some peace and quiet!”

NVC Question #2


“We accept responsibility rather than blame other people for our feelings by acknowledging our own needs, desires, expectations, values, or thoughts.”

I’m unclear on how this works with the NVC formula, or if it is something separate. Needs are the only thing mentioned in the formula, but I’ve seen the examples use values and other things. How do you see the accepting responsibility as fitting into the model?


The sentence in question is saying that we need to acknowledge that our feelings come from all those things, and I think the list is helpful for remembering why other people don’t cause our emotions. If we expected something else, or wanted something else, or had different thoughts, our emotions could be different. My best understanding is while it can be particularly nice to mention needs (of the sort listed in the list of needs in the book), as long as you say “because I …” then it’ll pretty much be okay, since you’ve made it clear to ourselves and to others that you’re the one responsible for your feelings. Here are some example sentences referencing each of the above things:

  • needs: I felt hurt when you didn’t call on my birthday because I need appreciation and recognition. 
  • desires: I felt hurt when you didn’t call on my birthday because I really wanted to hear from you and to know you cared. 
  • expectations: I felt disappointed when you didn’t call on my birthday because I was expecting to hear from you. 
  • values: I felt disappointed when you didn’t call on my birthday because it matters to me that you remember the details of my life. 
  • thoughts: I felt disappointed when you didn’t call on my birthday because I was thinking that it meant you didn’t care about me. 

When I imagine how an easily triggered third-party would react to the different ways of saying it, I think he’d be a lot less defensive with any of those ones above than with “I feel hurt because you didn’t call me on my birthday”. That being said, I think he’d be the least crazy about the expectation one and he might not be so into the thought one either. There is a part in the book about how expression thoughts is intermediate—way more helpful than not owning the feeling, but not as useful as recognizing the underlying need.

NVC Question #1


“Mommy is disappointed when you don’t finish your food.” is changed to “Mommy feels disappointed when you don’t finish your food, because I want you to grow up strong and healthy.” Why?


So the basic NVC model is observations, feelings, needs, and requests. And when you’re doing NVC for real, not just saying the words, you’re actually breaking it down that way in your head. The central mistake we make when we’re upset with other people is believing–on some level–that they control our emotions. Or maybe a fair thing to say is that we “anticipate as if” the other person causes our feelings. So even I might say out loud, “I know this isn’t your fault–this is just what I’m feeling”, the sorts of things that pop into my mind as possible solutions revolve around the other person. For me, the easiest way to mess up NVC when using it expressively is to give only nominal attention to my need component of the equation. And in my case I think it’s because thinking about something as a need of mine, instead of something I deserve, or a shitty way that someone else is acting, feels much more vulnerable. Partly because it primes my mind to think of things I could do differently to fix the problem, and that implies thinking for myself and I become aware that I likely won’t get it perfect right away. So I start to try to make excuses that lead me back in the direction of how really the other person or the circumstance “should just change”…

The mother who says, “Mommy is disappointed when you don’t finish your food.” is saying words about her feelings, but she’s clearly focused on what her kid could do to fix the problem. As NVC says, what you’re requesting is just your strategy, not your fundamental need. And whether you voice the need behind the strategy makes a huge difference as far as which possibilities are primed to pop into your mind. So if the mother says “because I want you to grow up strong and healthy” and the kid doesn’t do what she wants she’s going to respond more from a mindset of wanting the kid to be healthy than from wanting the kid to eat his food. And that’s way more conducive to creative problem-solving.