Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and Convergent World Crises
Publisher’s note:

Though this article deals with NVC and convergent world crises, we have previously published articles on some of these specific crises and challenges facing humanity and the planet.

These related topics, which you can link to from here, include climate change, species extinction, war, hate speech, mental health, politics, racism, and social change.

We recommend you consult these articles directly for reference, as much of the information is not duplicated here.


How Does Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Help Us in a Situation of Convergent World Crises?

Can NVC help with convergent world crises? If so, how?

Yes! NVC is a valuable asset within a multidisciplinary approach to dealing with humanity’s biggest challenges.

Let’s start with clarifying what NVC is, and then we’ll frame the issues concerning convergent world crises.

What is Nonviolent Communication (NVC)?
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a method of communication and conflict resolution developed by psychologist and mediator Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.

NVC is based on the premise that all human beings have a natural capacity for compassion and understanding, and that conflicts and misunderstandings arise when we are not able to express our needs and feelings effectively or when we misunderstand the needs and feelings of others.

One of the key principles of NVC is the emphasis on expressing and receiving observations, feelings, needs, and requests in a way that is respectful and empathic. This involves speaking in ways other than blame, criticism, and judgment, and instead focusing on mutual understanding of the needs and feelings of all parties involved.

In a world facing convergent crises such as climate change, economic inequality, and political polarization, the skills of NVC can be particularly valuable. These crises often involve complex and deeply entrenched conflicts — and traditional approaches to conflict resolution, such as power dynamics and win-lose negotiation, are often not effective.

NVC offers a different and more effective approach through its focus on creating mutual understanding and finding mutually satisfying solutions.

By encouraging open and honest communication, NVC can help to build trust and cooperation between individuals and groups with different viewpoints and needs.

NVC can also be applied in everyday situations, such as in relationships, at work, and in parenting. By learning to express and receive needs and feelings in a compassionate and understanding way, individuals can improve their relationships and create more harmonious and fulfilling lives.

The benefits of NVC extend beyond the individual level. In a world facing complex and interconnected crises, effective communication and conflict resolution are essential for creating lasting and equitable solutions.

By fostering understanding, empathy, and cooperation, NVC can play a vital role in addressing the challenges of our convergent world.

However, it is important to note that NVC is not a panacea, and it is not always easy to practice. It requires a willingness to listen and understand the needs and feelings of others, and to express our own needs and feelings in a way that is respectful and non-judgmental.

It also requires a commitment to finding mutually satisfying solutions, rather than simply trying to win an argument or get our own way.

With practice, the skills of NVC can be a powerful tool for creating more compassionate and understanding relationships, and for finding peaceful and sustainable solutions to the crises facing our world.

Framing the issues:

The facts about convergent world crises are there: climate instability and extreme weather, biodiversity loss and species extinction, forced migration, economic uncertainty, resource depletion and supply-chain disruption, democracies at risk and the rise of autocratic leaders, a confusing and unhealthy social media environment, technology evolving at rates that seem faster than the growth of human wisdom, the erosion of trustworthy news sources, the recent and possible future pandemics — and in some places: war and famine.

These crises transcend national borders and cultural delineations.

Complex social systems overlay and interact with complex natural systems, with dynamics trending in particular though not always clear directions. And complex systems interact with each other in ways we still don’t fully understand.

How we approach convergent world crises depends largely on issues of worldview and identity. Have you pondered deeply who you would be without plants… or without pollinators?

How we approach convergent world crises also depends on perspective: not everything is dark and gloomy. Just as when physicists studying light looked for waves they found waves, and when they looked for particles they found particles, likewise, when we look for problems we will find them, and when we look for solutions there are many to be found!

While we don’t want to stick our head in the sand — we want to remain realistic and truth-based — we also don’t want to let ourselves get lost in panic, despondency, or despair.

We can remain realistic and optimistic and have a willingness to work to overcome the challenges posed by the predicament into which we have put ourselves.

The most durable human solutions are those into which everyone has buy-in.

Buy-in happens when everyone has the relevant information and sees clearly how what is being proposed addresses what is important to them.

If people don’t trust the information or the process, buy-in can’t happen.

This is where NVC comes in.

NVC helps people create the quality of connection that builds trust, in which key, observable facts are shared, while also facilitating the outcome of mutually beneficial solutions.

NVC is not about being nice — especially if nice is not authentic.

NVC teaches you how to communicate with power, clarity, and compassion — the exact qualities leaders, like you, need to bring to the process of resolving convergent world crises.

And all this applies whether you’re working at level of symptoms or root cause.

Learning how to utilize Nonviolent Communication in a crisis

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a process for creating the quality of connection out of which people are more likely to want to contribute to one another’s well-being.

NVC does not provide a recipe or a formula that can be used in a mechanical way to fit all situations.

Rather, NVC gives us tools in 3 areas: (1) interior clarity and self- empathy, (2) empathic and compassionate listening, and (3) clear, powerful, and respectful honesty.

An advanced NVC practitioner can move fluidly between these three areas in emotionally charged situations, able to navigate their own and others’ feelings, always helping a conversation to trend toward trust-building, connection, and mutually agreeable outcomes.

When a crisis hits, you already want to have your “Black Belt” in NVC — it is not the optimal time to begin learning it.

Also, each crisis is unique. Some, like earthquakes, happen suddenly, leaving us little time to react. And some, like the convergent crises facing Earth and humanity, have been developing for years — like a train wreck in slow motion.

If the best time to learn NVC was 10 or 20 years ago, the second- best time is now.

So how do we use NVC in a time of crisis?

Regardless of the nature of the crisis, we want to rely on the facts — clear observations — rather than our stories, evaluations, or interpretations about the facts.

Likewise, clear actionable requests have immense value! Learning instinctively to tell someone what you do want, specifically and in this moment, rather than what you don’t want (or at some later time), will predictably give you better results.

Clear, actionable requests have four criteria. They must be: (1) specific, (2) doable, (3) framed as a positive action (what you want the person to do rather than not do), and (4) present, in other words, some way they can respond now, in the present moment.

The NVC framework also includes feelings and needs. These summarize what is important to us at a deeper level, in relation to both our observations and requests.
These are the four components of the NVC framework: observations, feelings, needs, and requests.

All four components are present in listening with empathy, expressing yourself, and in self-connection.

When in a crisis, you can utilize NVC to help you navigate that crisis most effectively with others, by being able to move fluidly between self-connection, honesty, and empathy — and skillfully employing the four components described above.

How Nonviolent Communication can be used during emergency communication in a disaster

There are many ways you can use NVC during emergency communication in a disaster.

In the previous section we mentioned the three areas in which NVC has tools with which you can develop skillfulness. Below, we emphasize some key areas of focus.

Actionable requests:
During emergency communication in a disaster, people will respond more effectively when they hear what they are being asked to do, specifically, and in ways that are doable.

Calming people:
Sometimes disasters are exacerbated by people panicking. During emergency communication in a disaster, helping to calm people can be of great service. This is in service of needs for safety and responding effectively to the situation.

Something that can most compromise an effective response in a disaster is misinformation and disinformation.

Truth and trust are the antidotes to mis- and disinformation.

These are some key pointers for how to use NVC during emergency communication in a disaster.

How learning Nonviolent Communication could help you survive in a crisis

There is an old proverb: dig your well before you’re thirsty.

Developing NVC before a crisis will be essential if you are to
apply NVC skills during one.

One of the dynamics we saw when hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans was that human beings did not become predatory toward one another until there was a crisis-level lack of food and drinking water.

So while having some basic necessities on hand might be very useful, one of the most important — and most overlooked — things we can do for crisis preparedness is to learn NVC with our friends and neighbors.

We are more resilient when we work well together.

The process of learning NVC with the people near you will contribute to you knowing, liking, and trusting each other — and give you invaluable conflict prevention and resolution skills.

Knowing, liking, and trusting each other makes it more likely that we can handle difficult events collaboratively.

During the transition from 1999 to the year 2000, there was concern about massive social breakdown due to something known as the Y2K problem.

Some peoples’ approach was to stockpile and hoard food and even weapons.

In contrast, other peoples’ approach was to buy seeds and a few extra tools, reasoning that if the hungry hordes showed up they would say, “here are some seeds, here are some tools, now let’s get to work!”

Again, we are more resilient when we work well together — and NVC helps us work together in the best way.

Marshall Rosenberg on NVC and Convergent World Crises

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg understood that life’s challenging circumstances could be made more bearable by enhancing the quality of our connection with one another and from there, creating mutually beneficial outcomes.

He also saw how many of the world’s problems became intractable when human relationships degraded to the point that collaboration and teamwork collapsed.

When we are connected we can work together in more effective ways.

He saw the power that modalities such as NVC had for contributing to the positive transformation of the world.

Among other things, NVC emphasizes personal responsibility.

When confronted with convergent world crises — or personal life crises — we have choice about how we respond.

Dr. Rosenberg was a fan of Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor who founded logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy that describes the search for life’s meaning as the central human motivational force.

Here are two quotes attributed to Viktor Frankl that speak to these points:

“Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Dr. Rosenberg emphasized that to address convergent world crises we need to collectively ask ourselves two key questions:

  1. Who are we?
  2. What is the good life?

Who are we? Are we consumers? Citizens? Are we our nationality, such as Americans or Canadians or Congolese or Russian?

And what constitutes “the good life”? Is it consuming more and more things? Is it trying to be rich and living a “life of leisure”? Is that ‘the good life’?

And what is the connection between these stories and the crises with which the world is faced?

In your answer to these questions lies a journey of discovery and of making a positive difference for future life.

PuddleDancer Press books on NVC and Convergent World Crises

PuddleDancer Press is the foremost proponent and publisher of books on Nonviolent Communication and convergent world crises.

Human beings are capable of immense creativity and, with NVC, harness it toward mutually beneficial solutions.

Using NVC as part of the toolbox to address convergent world crises increases the likelihood of doing so nonviolently. This in turn means outcomes that meet a greater number of needs and are more durable.

  • Nonviolent Communication 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 positive social change, to help you grow your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and communication prowess.
Check out our catalog of books on social change, and crisis prevention and resolution… and give yourself the gift of Compassionate Communication!