Nonviolent Communication and Conflict Resolution

“With Nonviolent Communication skills, you can help strengthen your relationship with your family, friends, coworkers, and even passers by on the street by fostering empathy and compassion for those with unresolved needs manifesting as “conflict mentality.” ”

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.

When we use Nonviolent Communication for conflict resolution, the results are often transformative and long lasting.

Many of us have experienced difficult conversations, or even conflicts in our lives.

Few people have developed the skills to be able to consistently move through conflict all the way to the point of greater mutual understanding and connection between the people involved.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for conflict resolution allows for:

Compassion in difficult interactions
The de-escalation of conflicts
Steering the dynamic toward more connection and mutual understanding
And ultimately, co-creating mutually satisfying outcomes.

By using Nonviolent Communication for conflict resolution, we gain these tools; and with practice, people everywhere can become skilled at both preventing and resolving conflicts.

Grow by Embracing Conflict

Most people don’t think about how they can enhance their capacity to learn and grow by embracing conflict. But it’s true: embracing conflict — rather than avoiding it when it happens — can help you grow as a person!

Most human beings are either nervous around, or afraid of, conflict.

However, conflict will always be with us and is a fact of life. Avoiding it doesn’t make it go away.

If we think of conflict as something bad and then start to fear it, we will tend to avoid it and are more likely to have judgments about it, which often will deepen a conflict!

We also often lack confidence because we are not sure how to effectively employ NVC for conflict resolution.

When we don’t have confidence in our skills for navigating conflict, it’s easier to be conflict-avoidant, which can take us away from connection and toward even more conflict. This means our fear of conflict can actually get in the way of a resolution and mutually satisfying outcomes.

Conversely, when we accept that conflict is a natural part of life, we are more likely to consider embracing conflict. As a result, we are more likely to develop our skills in this critical area. With a higher skill level, and the confidence that comes with it, conflicts are no longer avoided. They become perceived as opportunities for learning, growth, connection, mutual understanding, deepening relationships, and better solutions.

This level of clarity and confidence is an indicator that we are truly empowered within ourselves to work constructively with others with our Nonviolent, or “Compassionate” Communication skills for resolving conflicts!

Compassionate Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts

You can develop strong compassionate communication skills for resolving conflicts. In fact, we want to encourage you to work on your skills — compassionate, collaborative, respectful, conscious communication — so that you can be a powerful contributor in helping others resolve their conflicts!

There are many schools of conflict resolution, and they each have something valuable to offer.

Many of these schools rely on NVC principles to a substantial extent, or they remain consistent with the tenets of Compassionate Communication in the very least. In fact, a few have even tried directly incorporating NVC principles into their curricular frameworks.

While each modality has its own unique approach, NVC addresses conflict resolution through needs-based mediation. In other words, NVC mediation allows people to more easily connect to each other’s humanity, because the needs are common to all people and therefore mutually relatable.

In NVC, we define needs as Universal Human Needs. Needs can be thought of as core human motivators common to all people; or the conditions necessary for any human to thrive, regardless of culture or geographic location.

Some mediation modalities offer interest-based mediation. We recognize that this can be useful and helpful. However, from an NVC perspective, interests are not universal.

If you take any conflict and distill it to the Universal Human Needs, at that point people can more easily see each other as human beings and relate to each others’ humanity.

When people cease to see each other as enemies, and they see that their own best interest lies in a mutually beneficial outcome, that is the moment when the resolution process will pick up momentum.

Compassionate Communications Mediators

What gets in the way of being a good Compassionate Communication mediator?

When we use Compassionate Communication (NVC) skills for resolving conflicts, we go deeper than interests, to the Universal Human Needs underlying them. NVC can seem foreign to some people because it is so different from the way we have been taught to communicate.

One of the cultural beliefs impairing our ability to navigate conflict skillfully is the conviction that our options are to either win or lose, and that mutually agreeable solutions are not possible.

A skilled mediator can create the conversation container, slow down the conversation, and help people learn to hear each other’s hearts by translating any judgments or criticism into underlying values and universal needs.

Ideally, we all want to think we can handle everything on our own. But when the pain is high, and especially if the trust level is low, a skilled facilitator is absolutely essential.

Please be wary of falling into the trap of thinking I must go it alone!

Also, keep in mind that when we are participants in a conflict it is much more challenging to facilitate NVC for conflict resolution. Even people with a high level of NVC skills for conflict resolution still seek out an NVC mediator, as necessary, to help them resolve their conflicts for everyone’s benefit.

If you are a participant in a conflict, having an outside Compassionate Communication mediator can free you up from running the process in order to fully participate in the resolution.

Practice Nonviolent Communication Skills

You can practice Nonviolent Communication skills for conflict resolution.

In a very basic sense, NVC mediation follows the following format: ABABAB.

  1. Person A speaks.
  2. Person B reflects back their understanding of A’s message.
  3. Person A confirms they were understood (or clarifies, going back to #1).
  4. Person B speaks.
  5. Person A reflects back their understanding of B’s message.
  6. Person B confirms they were understood (or clarifies, going back to #4).
  7. Repeat — go back to #1.

This explanation is oversimplified but provides a sense of the process: We take turns listening to and hearing each other, and confirming understanding as all parties move forward.

As the conversation winds deeper, more significant layers of meaning are surfaced, mutual understanding begins to grow, and slowly the conflict begins to resolve itself.

As you practice Nonviolent Communication skills within this structural format, focus on the connection first. Take your time to make sure the parties understand each other. And keep in mind that understanding is different from agreement.

Once people have arrived at mutual understanding, then the search for solutions or resolution is much more likely to be collaborative!

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg PhD on NVC for Conflict Resolution

We are fortunate to have the writings of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, PhD. on NVC for conflict resolution!

When Dr. Rosenberg developed NVC, he knew that some level of connection must come before any solution.

Our experience indicates that the #1 mistake people make in the conflict resolution process is moving prematurely to a solution. In the race to solve the problem, many people miss the deeper needs the conflict actually needs to address.

This is why NVC for conflict resolution stresses the fundamental importance of connection to facilitate outcomes that are not met with resistance, foot-dragging, sabotage, and/or resentment from any of the parties involved in the conflict.

In other words: Go slow to go fast!

You want the solutions to meet everyone’s needs — so take your time in making sure the deeper needs are identified. Then look for strategies that contribute to all the needs, or as many as possible.

Because this will help us avoid revisiting conversations or decisions unnecessarily, it usually saves us a lot of time in the long term.

Finally, Dr. Rosenberg understood that patience is the cornerstone of the NVC-based conflict resolution process. He would encourage us to remain mindful that sometimes the resolution we’re looking for may be several conversations (or more) away. Therefore, we must consciously work on beginning, maintaining and perhaps most importantly, ending each conversation in such a way that there is an openness to the next one, and the next one, and the next one, until the conflict is ultimately and successfully resolved.

PuddleDancer Press Books on Conflict Resolution

PuddleDancer Press books on conflict resolution can help you learn what NVC has shown time and again: that human beings are capable of resolving conflicts without violence and of arriving at mutually crafted solutions.

Because of the trust-building process involved, and the fact that the solutions include everyone’s buy-in, using NVC for conflict resolution gives us outcomes that predictably meet a greater number of needs and are therefore more durable.

Our books on conflict resolution can 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,
  • 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 on conflict resolution, to help you grow your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and communication prowess.

Check out our catalog of books on conflict resolution… and give yourself the gift of Compassionate Communication!

NVC Conflict Resolution Web Resources

Click here for Nonviolent Communication Conflict Resolution Articles
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Education Articles
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Conflict Resolution Videos
Click here for Featured Conflict Resolution Articles.
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Conflict Resolution 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.