Nonviolent Communication Skills and Community-Based Organizations

“Evaluations of NVC indicate that this training vastly strengthens the ability to connect compassionately with oneself and others, as well as to resolve differences peacefully. Reports also indicate that the benefit of the training is not only stable over time, but actually increases.”


How do Nonviolent Communication skills benefit community-based organizations?

The answer is: in many ways!

Both internally and externally, community-based organizations can use NVC to prevent and resolve misunderstandings and conflicts, deepen relationships, make meetings more productive, and vastly improve organizational culture to one of care, respect, and collaboration.

Internal and external communication

NVC excels at helping people arrive at mutual understanding.

This gives us an effective foundation for collaboratively co-creating outcomes and strategies.

NVC is more a consciousness than a technique. In a way, NVC is the intention that we bring to our interactions.

That intention is to create a high quality connection out of which we naturally want to contribute to one another’s well-being — accompanied by a willingness to work toward mutually-agreeable outcomes.

This works both with our own teammates and colleagues, as with external clients and customers.

Sometimes clients and customers feel frustration or irritation. How do we handle that? Sometimes there’s a disconnect with someone else in the organization. How do we handle that?

NVC teaches us how to effectively apply self-empathy. And it encourages us to surround ourselves with the people resources necessary to receive empathic support when we need it.

When you get high quality empathy, afterwards you are more connected to your feelings, needs, and requests — and your emotional charge is lower.

This is helpful for your own stress management, with your internal and external contacts at work, and with your friends and family.

Whether your external contacts include local government, school districts, and/or other complementary organizations — the powerful tools NVC gives you to create clarity and connection will help you move forward more effectively.

Likewise, many community organizations experience competition with other organizations for the same grant dollars, reputation, members, or people to serve.

NVC consciousness and skills help community-based organizations make best use of opportunities to turn competition into collaboration, for the benefit of everyone involved and affected.

Retaining staff

Staff turnover is costly. Finding new staff and on-boarding them takes time, energy, effort, and money.

By having NVC skills in the leadership — or better yet, embedded in the organizational culture — you create an environment of personal responsibility combined with a high degree of care, constructive feedback, collaboration, and teamwork.

This will create an enviable work environment, giving you a competitive edge for quality talent — while retaining your best existing staff.

Organizational Culture

When you have an organization in which there is a clear way to resolve the issues that come up — so that we can be close enough to do the work together as a cohesive team — that is a gift!

NVC gives us tools to have communication that is clear, powerful, and compassionate.

NVC principles are based on each person taking responsibility for what they are feeling, needing, and wanting — while at the same time acknowledging our interdependence and interrelatedness.

We can only have a leaderful organizational culture — one in which everyone is a leader in their own way — when people are willing to own their experience and ask for what they want.

Furthermore, we can avail ourselves of other resources that align with and complement NVC. For example, in the field of Organizational Development there is a framework called the Johari Window that, in simple terms, encourages organizations to foster both disclosure and feedback as ways to make communication and operations more transparent — and thereby more efficient and effective.

Besides excellent tools for disclosing sensitive or embarrassing information, as well as for giving and receiving feedback, NVC gives us an edge in creating a culture in which people are most likely to enjoy themselves and do their best work.

Power-with vs power-over & creating a collaborative organization

NVC rests on a paradigm of power-with as opposed to power-over.

What this means is that we are more powerful when we join forces and coordinate in a shared direction, than when one of us submits to, or rebels against, the demands of the other.

The old paradigm of power is that we used it over people to push our own agenda through. The new paradigm involves managing power — using it with each other — so that it benefits the greatest number in the deepest way.

Fulfilling your mission with integrity

If NVC is “installed into the operating system” of your organization, you will have some of the most effective tools in the world for peace, harmony, connection, meaning, shared purpose, collaboration, and cooperation.

Walking our talk means living and working with integrity.

NVC teaches you two critical skills for walking our talk: (1) speaking your truth with power, clarity and compassion, and (2) listening to others with presence and care.

This feeds a culture that everyone in the organization feels proud to be a part of.

Above are some of the many ways community-based organizations can use NVC tools and skills to benefit themselves and all stakeholders.

Finding Meaning: The Importance of Making a Difference in the World

What is the connection between finding meaning, making a difference in the world, and NVC?

Philosopher Ken Wilber writes that two resources which are scarce in our day and age are meaning and purpose.

In exploring the connection between finding meaning and making a difference, consider these three lines by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Growing and learning

The field of consciousness studies tells us that your own identity grows from me to us to all of us.

In the NVC journey, for many people there comes a time when they either discover or feel more deeply into all the Universal Human Needs related to interdependence, unity, community, and communion.

There is a vital societal conversation about the importance of both rights (autonomy, choice, agency, individuality) and responsibilities (interdependence, care, communion, community).

Dr. Rosenberg, founder of NVC, expressed the insight of our interconnectedness this way:

“If one person in the world is going hungry, my needs for food and sustenance are not met.”1

The nature of interdependence is that there are certain needs that are connected to the needs of others. NVC helps us to discover this and engage with it in a constructive way.

From get to give

At some point in our lives many of us are faced with the possibilities of contributing, giving back, being of service…

How do we engage in a constructive way with the world around us?

Here is an example of NVC Trainers who took NVC into the world of positive social change. To receive a gift from us at PuddleDancer Press of 25 interviews on NVC and social change, click here:

Of course, sometimes it meets the most needs to take space and time to focus on ourselves for the purpose of healing, growing, or for important learning.

There may come a time again when we can bring our newfound wholeness, our up-leveled self, back toward the good of the whole. (Though learning and growing never stop.)

NVC teaches us that anytime we speak or act, it’s in the service of one or more Universal Human Needs — intending to serve Life.

Once we connect to a larger sphere, being of service counteracts that societal lack of meaning and purpose.

In his reflections on deeper societal transformation to more life-serving systems and structures, Dr. Rosenberg encouraged us to re-ask these essential questions:
Who are we?
What is the good life?

Who are we, as human beings?
Citizens? Consumers?

What constitutes a good life, a well-lived life?
Is it how it is portrayed in all the messages we receive from the media around us?

NVC for community organizers and organizations helps us cultivate the connection between finding meaning and making a difference in the world. The consciousness, tools, and skills benefit all stakeholders, including leadership, staff, volunteers, and service recipients.

The Importance of Effective Communication Skills for Grassroots Campaigns

What is the importance of effective communication skills in grassroots campaigns?

Grassroots campaigns are built on trust and relationship-building — two areas in which NVC naturally excels!

Most campaigns involve internal teams as well as people outside the organization who the campaign is trying to reach.

One thing that is sure to slow down a project and degrade team morale is a situation in which two people on the team can’t resolve a conflict between them.

Internally, strong trust and mutual understanding makes for teams that work well together.

As with any organizational questions of leadership and team effectiveness and harmony, NVC offers valuable tools and insights people can employ immediately, and can build on long-term.

Getting the word out

Grassroots campaigns need to get the word out.

This brings up the topic of life-connected, life-serving promotion & marketing, as opposed to life-disconnected, life-alienating promotion & marketing.

“Jackal” marketing — a.k.a. life-alienated, life-disconnected marketing — is the type of messaging that manipulates, makes exaggerated promises, sometimes obfuscates information, and wants us to believe our deeper psychological and existential needs will be met through whatever product they are selling; joy if you buy these paper towels; fun and adventure if you buy this car; acceptance and belonging if you eat this brand of fast food.

Life-connected, life-serving (NVC) marketing is about:

  • empathy: you want people to see themselves reflected in your messages; “they understand me!”;
  • being of service; if what you offer is like medicine for the world then you have an ethical imperative to become better at getting the word out;
  • helping your audience understand how their needs could be met when they interact with what you’re offering;
  • telling them what they need to know so that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not what you are offering is for them.

Both in the team’s internal communications as well as in their relating to outside people, organizations, and institutions — NVC offers the tools and skills to create the high quality of connection that gives you the highest probability of mutually beneficial outcomes.

When it comes to getting the word out, your campaigns will have clarity, power, and integrity.

Passionate Communication: A Community Organizer’s Best Frenemy

How does our passion cut both ways?

How can we keep something as vital as what we care deeply about, and retain it as an asset while not letting it become a liability?

The reason we serve our communities is because we care — we feel passionately about doing this work.

And yet, sometimes passion can be expressed through name-calling, criticism, making others wrong, avoiding responsibility, issuing demands in a way that indicates that the others’ needs don’t matter, and justifying punitive responses by demonizing or dehumanizing others.

Allowing your passion to express itself in ways that alienates others undermines your cause and your long-term effectiveness. It negatively impacts relationships, and will lead to you feeling alone and discovering that others don’t want to work with you.

And yet — NVC is not about being nice, but about being real!

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg sometimes talked about what he called “screaming in giraffe” — which didn’t necessarily mean raising your voice. But it can involve being very direct or passionate, in no uncertain terms — and yet not putting anyone down, criticizing anyone, and being clear and self-responsible in the words chosen.

NVC can be spoken with A LOT of passion!

Here are some examples comparing jackal and giraffe variations of a few statements:

Jackal: You need to calm the heck down right now!!
Giraffe: PLEASE! I’d like to take a 30 minute break so we can both calm down! Could that work for you?
(This invitation is more likely to get the desired response.)

Jackal: That was very bad and stupid of you. NEVER run into the street!
Giraffe: Honey, DADDY WAS REALLY SCARED because he wanted you to be SAFE FROM CARS!
(In this last instance the father is taking responsibility for his feelings and needs, instead of demeaning a young child.)

Jackal: Our elected representative is clearly a sell-out and they need to change their position on this now!
Giraffe: We feel a sense of urgency because the elected representative’s support is SO important!
(Calling someone a sell-out will probably never lead them to want to support your cause.)

Jackal: You people are never going to change!
Giraffe: We feel deep concern because we value an inclusive process and a mutually agreed-upon way of resolving our conflicts and differences.
(At least the concern is clear in the second one, rather than a vague expression with static thinking.)

All of the above examples lack the essential follow-up clear request, and any sort of context — but they give you an idea of how NVC can help you channel your passion into a language of needs, which is much more likely to get you the results you want.

NVC can inform our passion by helping us express it in a way that is self-responsible and preserves our personal and professional relationships. This, in turn, preserves possibilities we could explore with both allies and potential collaborators.

Compassionate Communication: Use Empathy to Make a Difference in Society

How do we use Compassionate Communication — and specifically empathy — to make a difference in society?

The answer is fairly simple, but it requires first defining what empathy is.

We sometimes hear the words “giving empathy” or “receiving empathy.” However, technically speaking, we don’t give empathy!

We give our full presence — with our whole being — and as a result the other person’s need for empathy is met.

Empathy is a Universal Human Need.

When we experience being deeply understood or gotten, then our need for empathy is fulfilled.

We can define empathy as a respectful understanding or a compassionate understanding.

Nevertheless, colloquially we continue to say giving empathy.

For a more complete definition of empathy, see our empathy page.
Difficult emotions stay with us when they are not handled or processed effectively.

To use a simple metaphor: it’s as if we had a balloon in our chest, and every time we stuff a feeling down it’s like blowing that feeling through a straw into the balloon.

Each time we have a difficult emotion that isn’t fully processed, we are adding to the pressure in that “balloon.”

Empathy can act like a pressure-release valve.

When somebody gets heard — truly understood — it relieves a lot of the emotional pressure someone is feeling. And because emotional distress clouds our thinking, people can often think more clearly after empathy.

After receiving high-quality empathy you will be more connected to your feelings, needs, and requests, and your emotional charge will be lower.

There is a lot of pain in the world — and it is aching to be met with compassion and understanding.

By strengthening your empathy skills, and helping others feel understood and gotten, you are contributing greatly to relieving the pain and emotional pressure of the world.

But not all of life is difficult emotions!

The proverb below echoes the words of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg when he reminded us that we need empathy for our joy as much as for our pain.

“A grief shared is a half grief, and a joy shared is a double joy.”
— Chinese proverb

Using empathy to make a difference in society involves attending to the pain, but also not forgetting to be present to the celebration and joy!

Use NVC to Make a Positive Impact in Community Organizations of all Types

How does NVC make a positive impact in community organizations?

One little-known secret is that many Certified NVC Trainers are hired by organizations for both leadership coaching as well as consulting on organization culture.

For people who know NVC, this comes as no surprise.

NVC tools, when used well, help the speaker communicate with power, clarity, and compassion and give leaders a leg-up in being exceptional listeners.

Community organizations benefit when their leadership has the tools for:
• emotional self-care,
• knowing how to make clear requests that are generative and create positive movement,
• keeping meetings efficient, effective, and connecting,
• speaking their truth in a way that is clear, concise, and that is most likely to lead to connection and collaboration rather than conflict.

These skills — and the consciousness underpinning them — extend to many relationships! These include the relationships between leadership and staff, among staff, and between staff and service recipients. And they also benefit all the potential collaborative relationships among and between community organizations, and between them and various levels of government.

Using the tools to help individuals up-level, or transforming a specific and crucial relationship — these are important applications of NVC. At the same time, they are not the same as transforming an organizational culture!

NVC is extremely powerful when a group understands the consciousness, tools, and skills — and allows them to inform the entire way the interpersonal space is experienced and managed.

How people speak to each other, the ways decisions are made, how misunderstandings and conflicts are prevented or handled; the way we treat each other, and the entire work atmosphere — NVC powerfully informs and up-levels organizational culture so that we work better together, do better work, and enjoy working with each other in the process.

The times NVC does not help organizations is when leadership wants to do it “on the cheap” and dedicates insufficient resources to the scope of the task; or when leadership thinks “it’s for everyone else,” and then an opportunity is missed to have the tools and consciousness permeate an organization in a way that gives the interpersonal space wings.

When implemented effectively, NVC tools and skills help community organizations of all types in multiple ways and on many levels.

Communicative Tools to Start a Community Service Organization off Right

How would a community service organization use these tools to start off right?

It would be easy to assume that an organization dedicated to community service would be inherently collaborative! Unfortunately, most of us did not receive these tools or training in school.

If you or someone you know is part of starting a new community service organization, you have the opportunity to have NVC’s mindsets, principles, tools, and skills in the organizational culture right at the outset.

Placing these in the hands of leadership at the beginning will put you and your organization far ahead than it would be otherwise in terms of organizational culture, conflict prevention and resolution, staff retention, and maximizing positive service to clients.

Furthermore, NVC will empower your organization to build partnerships on solid footing right from the start.

If you want to get a community organization off the ground powerfully — meaning, giving it every advantage to succeed from the outset — the communication tools and skills from NVC are a powerful addition to your toolkit.

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg on Nonviolently Reaching out to your Community

How do you reach out to your community in a way that they understand clearly how engaging with what you are offering will contribute to their needs?

Dr. Rosenberg traveled the world being of service — mediating conflicts and training people in NVC — for decades.

And he encouraged us to get involved to make a positive difference in whatever way makes the most sense to us — including in our local community.

We are all interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent. And each of us has autonomy and choice.

Dr. Rosenberg recognized a vital societal conversation about the importance of both rights and responsibilities.

Rights are also referred to as autonomy, choice, agency, and individuality.

Responsibilities are also referred to as interdependence, care, communion, and community.

Dr. Rosenberg often emphasized the dynamic tension between autonomy and interdependence — and offered NVC as a way to meet as many needs as possible in both areas.

With regards to our interconnectedness and interdependence, Dr. Rosenberg was known to have articulated it this way:

“If one person in the world is going hungry, my needs for food & sustenance are not met.”
— Dr. Marshall Rosenberg1
1(Dr. Rosenberg expressed this thought in many variations in private conversations and workshops throughout Europe and North America, as reported by trainers who were attendees at the time.)

NVC gives us the tools for approaching our community in a nonviolent way — a way that acknowledges our interconnectedness and interdependence AND respects each individual’s, family’s, and organization’s freedom and choice.

Puddledancer Press Books and Resources for Community Organizers

PuddleDancer Press is the foremost proponent and publisher of books on Nonviolent Communication for community organizers and organizations.

NVC has shown time and again that human beings are capable of contributing meaningfully to each other in ways that are experienced as mutually beneficial.

NVC inherently supports trust-building. By moving us toward a high-quality of connection it naturally brings us to mutually crafted solutions — which by definition include everyone’s buy-in.

NVC for community organizers and organizations will benefit our communities to become places that are safer, more connected, and more resilient.

Our community organizers and organizations need tools and skills to consistently arrive at solutions that are more durable and meet a greater number of needs.

Our books for community organizers help you:

• Create exceptional personal and professional relationships,
• Offer compassionate understanding to others,
• Know when and how to ask for that same understanding for yourself,
• Prevent and resolve misunderstandings and conflicts,
• Speak your truth in a clear, powerful way more likely to lead to harmony than conflict, and
• Create mutual understanding without coercion.

Whether you are a long-time student, or are brand new to NVC, PuddleDancer Press has the educational resources — including the books for community organizers — to help you grow your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and communication prowess.

Check out our catalog of books for community organizers… and give yourself the gift of Compassionate Communication!

More information on Books related to Community Organizers

NVC Community Organizers Web Resources

Click here for Featured Community Organizers Articles.
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Community Organizers Articles
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Community Organizers Videos
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Community Organizers Articles
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Community Organizers Videos

There is a wealth of information on Nonviolent Communication – in articles and videos. Of course we endorse all of Marshall’s sharing’s, however, there are many transcripts and videos created by others. Due to limited resources we do not verify the full accuracy of any particular video or articles created by others, even though there is plenty of wonderful and educational information on the web.