Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Glossary

A Guide for Commonly Used Terms in NVC

I was teaching in the local jail and noticed several times the participants were not understanding the word nonviolent the way I intended. I searched for an NVC glossary and did not find one. I decided to create one. These are my understandings of the terms and I looked for Marshall's interpretation as the main source. Another source is Mediate Your Life by Ike and John. If you think you have a better definition or would like some terms added please contact me.

NVC nonviolence passive violence observations feelings needs requests empathy self empathy expressing honestly 4 Ds of disconnect jackal giraffe strategy play fake feelings mourning process NVC Focus Questions 2 Questions moralistic judgments value judgments life-alienating communication shoulds inner educator pulling ears compromise NVC mediation enemy image healing and reconciliation classic NVC street giraffe interrupting tracking

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) A process created by Marshall Rosenberg that involves using observations, feelings, needs and requests to express what is alive in us. He found this process created connection and a natural desire to give from the heart. more on the NVC model   back to top

Nonviolence Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi understood nonviolence from its Sanskrit root “Ahimsa”. Ahimsa is just translated to mean nonviolence in English, but it implies more than just avoidance of physical violence. Ahimsa implies total nonviolence, no physical violence, and no passive violence. Gandhi translates Ahimsa as love. This is explained by Arun Gandhi in an interview thus; “He (Gandhi) said ahimsa means love. Because if you have love towards somebody, and you respect that person, then you are not going to do any harm to that person.” In the face of violence and injustice, Gandhi considers violent resistance preferable to cowardly submission. There is hope that a violent man may someday be nonviolent, but there is no room for a coward to develop fearlessness (From Marshall said he means nonviolent the way Gandhi used it.   back to top

Passive Violence The type of violence that is more emotional. What we say or how we act when we don't demonstrate love and respect. All of us are violent to some degree, out of our ignorance we are not aware of our violence. Passive violence generates anger in the "victim," who as an individual or part of a collective, responds violently.    back to top

Observation What we perceive from the five physical senses, separate from our evaluations. Skill: Differentiating what we perceive, separate from our evaluations and specifying behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. Note: We can also observe our thoughts and memories (internal observations.) However if our intent is to create connection, expressing our thinking is less likely to create connection than just external observations. Skill Differentiating observations from evaluations and expressing only the observation. If we can't stop ourselves from expressing an evaluation at least take responsibility that it is your thought. Example; When you turned into the one way street the wrong way, I thought you weren't paying attention.Observation Page   back to top

Feeling (Emotion) The emotion we are experiencing, as caused by, but separate from what we are thinking. Also the physical feelings associated with emotions. Emotions are negative if needs are unmet and positive if needs are met. Skill Differentiating and expressing emotions in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, blame or punishment. We feel an emotion because we have a met/unmet need. If negative emotion is expressed, end with a request so the other person knows what you are wanting. Feelings Page   back to top

Needs Universal human needs/values that are expressed as being met or not met. Is not associated with any individual needing to do something. Does not involve a strategy. Needs and strategies are frequently confused. Skill: Identifying and expressing needs without turning them into strategies. Note: My experience is that most people have quite a challenge just saying the need without adding extra, such as who "should" meet the need. Needs Page  back to top feeding ducks

Request Asking for what we would like in a clear and specific manner of what we do want (instead of what we do not want) and truly a request and not a demand. Marshall says we only want people to honor our requests if they can do so with the joy of a young child feeding hungry ducks. Request Page   back to top

Empathy Being fully present for another and only hearing observations, feelings needs and requests. Empathy can be done silently. In NVC we demonstrate our understanding by paraphrasing what we have heard in the form of a question unless they have specifically expressed feelings and needs, then we can acknowledge the feelings and needs. What empathy is not; Reassurance: staying presentIt's not that bad, it could have been worse. Advice: This is what you should have done …One upping: Wait till you hear what happened to me …Educating: If you could just learn to …Consoling: You did your best! Story telling: When I was a kid …Sympathizing: I feel awful for you. Shutting Down: Just get over it. It's not that bad. Interrogating: What, where, when, why and how did … Explaining/Justifying: I was only … Correcting: That's not true! Fixing: You are a wonderful person. (After someone puts themselves down.) Analyzing (psychiatrist): When do you feel this way? Perhaps this is from childhood trauma. Using but: But, that's not what I meant. Needs associated with empathy; acceptance (non-judgment), compassion, to be known, heard, seen or understood, presence, to matter Empathy Page   back to top

Self Empathy Identifying our own observation, feeling, need and request without necessarily expressing. If we do this we are much more likely to be able to give empathy. Important Skill: Being able to do this when we are triggered and feeling anger, guilt, depression or shame. If we are feeling any of these we are not connected to our needs. Self Empathy Exercise   back to top

Expressing Honestly Saying what we are observing, feeling, needing and requesting.   back to top judging sheep

Four Ds of Disconnect Diagnosis - judging , labeling or criticizing. Denial of Responsibility - Denial of choice or blaming. Demand - implies threat of punishment. Deserve - Links behavior with punishment and/or reward.   back to top

Jackal Represents someone speaking using the four Ds of disconnect. Jackal language is the way a person in "jackal" mode communicates. jackalEnjoying the jackal show is, allowing yourself to vent internally before connecting with feelings and needs. This can be helpful if you are stuck but be careful and only do it briefly. Jackal Ears - someone wearing "jackal ears" will turn everything into jackal language inside their head.   back to top

Giraffe Used to represent someone speaking in observation, feelings, needs and requests. Giraffe language is speaking NVC. Baby Giraffe - someone learning the process. Often say uh or umm. Will fall down a lot. Requires lots of love and patience to believe it is worth the effort to get better at giraffe language. Giraffe Ears - No matter what is said, only hearing the observations, feelings, needs and requests. Sometimes before expressing a scary honesty message, someone might ask the listeners to put on your "giraffe ears."   back to top

strategyStrategy A specific action or method to fulfill a need. All requests are strategies. Strategies are not necessarily requests. Often confused with needs. Example; I need you to clean up after yourself. This is a strategy. Possible needs are; order, cleanliness, independence, interdependence, support, respect, consideration. Conflicts arise at the strategy level due to specificity. Needs are general and do not conflict until specificity is introduced, at which point they are no longer needs but strategies. Sometimes people think strategies are "bad." Strategies are neutral, it is our attachment to specific strategies that can lead to pain.   back to top

Evaluative Words Confused with Feelings (Fake Feelings) Words expressed as though they are emotions but are actually descriptions of someone else's behavior. These are thoughts or opinions. Some examples are; Abandoned, abused, betrayed, rejected, misunderstood, intimidated, ignored, invisible, manipulated. A more accurate way of expressing would be to use the word think instead of feel. I think I have been betrayed instead of I feel betrayed.    back to top

NVC Police in Action

Mourning Process(Instead of Apology) Identify the feelings/unmet needs of the person in pain. Express how you feel hearing the unmet needs. Express the needs you were trying to meet that kept you from meeting the other's needs. See if the other has a request they would like to express. Do you have a request you would like to express?   back to top

NVC Focus Questions What is alive in us? What would make life more wonderful?   back to top

The 2 Questions What would we like people to do differently? Why do want them to do it? We want the answer to the second question to be that they want to enrich life and not out of fear of punishment, guilt or obligation.   back to top

guilt motivation

Moralistic Judgments Thoughts of rightness or wrongness. What allows violence (punishment) to feel good. Think of watching the superhero beat up the bad guy.   back to top

Value Judgments When we judge whether a behavior meets our needs or not.  back to top

Life-alienating Communication Some forms; Moralistic Judgments, making comparisons, denial of responsibility, demands, deserving of rewards or punishment, should language, have to, wrongness, when we look to an outside authority for definition of what constitutes right, wrong, good or bad.   back to top

Don't Do Anything That Isn't Play Make choices out of a desire to contribute to life instead of out of fear, guilt, shame, duty or obligation.  back to top

NVC Police in Action - Choice

Should/Have to When we do things because we believe we have to or should we most likely feel resentment and are doing them to avoid depression, guilt or shame. Be aware you are doing them because you choose to. Get in touch with your intention by completing this sentence. I choose to . . . because I want . . .    back to top

Inner educator Our self-talk when we make a mistake. Unless we have been trained to be compassionate to ourselves it is usually expressed with strong jackal language. The inner educator means well and wants to help us learn from our experiences. The method usually evokes guilt, shame or even depression. Empathize with the inner educator to uncover the needs.   back to top

pulling by the earsPulling by the Ear Asking for acknowledgment of feelings and needs when a person is reluctant to repeat what another party has said.   back to top

Compromise In NVC the desired outcome is to get all the parties needs met. A compromise asks everyone to give up something, leading to resentment. Compromise comes from a belief in lack. Collaboration comes from a belief in abundance. The conflict is at the strategy level. There is no conflict at the need level.   back to top

Compromise Sucks

Compromise and loose
Everybody loses!

NVC Mediation A mediation where Nonviolent Communication is used to create connection, understanding and safety to explore solutions. Contexts:

  1. Internal - Mediating an internal conflict. For example; I enjoy smoking and do smoke. I think it is bad for my health to smoke
  2. Between Self and Other - When you are a party in a conflict. Jeff's comment: In my experience, this is the most difficult as you are playing two roles, mediator and participant.
  3. Informal (Buttinsky) - When someone mediates a conflict without the parties requesting his/her involvement
  4. Formal - When someone has been asked to act as mediator between two or more parties in conflict   back to top

enemy imageEnemy Image When we have judgments of wrongness about another person. Especially if we are in conflict with that person. Enemy Image Process - A process of looking at our own needs about the enemy image and then guessing the feelings and needs of the person we hold an enemy image of. In NVC mediation this is done separately before bringing the parties together.   back to top

Healing and Reconciliation A process where a skilled practitioner of the NVC process, role plays the person who was the stimulus for pain as if they spoke NVC, for the person in pain.   back to top

Classic NVC Clearly speaking so it is obvious you are expressing observation, feeling, need and request. When you said…., I felt…., because I am needing…, would you be willing to….?   back to top

Street Giraffe Speaking with the spirit of NVC in a more natural language. Jeff's comment: Many people seem to think it is important to speak in street giraffe so you don't come across as a psychologist. My personal experience is the flow and cadence is more important than whether it is classical or street. The pauses to think and the struggling for feelings and needs seems more stimulating, in my experience, than the format used.   back to top

talking horseInterrupting When you have heard more words than you want to hear. Interrupt the person by bringing focus to their feelings and needs. Usually done by saying "excuse me" repeatedly until you have the other person's attention enough they stop talking, so you can ask about their needs. In extreme cases Marshall says you can put your hands over your ears. Often people who are talking become nervous and talk more to fill the space. They don't even know why they are talking. I would say this is the question I am asked the most, "How do you stop someone who won't stop talking?"   back to top

Tracking This is not a term specific to NVC but is an important skill. Keeping track of what has been expressed is a demonstration of how present you are to the other party or parties. This can be demonstrated by acknowledging feelings and needs that have been clearly expressed and guessing feelings and needs that have not been clearly expressed. This seems nitpicky but in my experience it is very important to the person receiving empathy. When I am receiving empathy I am very aware of the difference and how it feels in my body.   back to top

NVC police badgeNVC Police in Action
by (Sorry, no one will take responsibility for this)
NVC police in action

NVC police in action

NVC police in action
Meanwhile back at the ranch
Empathy Clinic
NVC police in action
Meanwhile, one floor down.
NVC police in action fully present

NVC police headshotGosh giraffe, I am not comfortable talking with you. I go around and make sure everyone is doing NVC just right. Now I am trying to do it in front of you and I might not get it right.

giraffe headshotAre you a little nervous and want to know you will be accepted even if you are not perfect?

NVC police headshotWhy yes, that would be great!

giraffe headshotWhat would you like me to do so you will be comfortable believing your needs for acceptance and trust will be met?

NVC police headshotI think you are doing a good job so far. I am ready to start.

giraffe headshotWhat do want to tell me?

NVC police headshotWell this has been some day. Those jackals sure know how to cause trouble. I'm just trying to do my job and make sure people are using NVC the way it was intended. If they would just mind their own business things would be a lot better. I can't understand why jackals have to be so jackally. I work hard at saying things in an NVC way.

giraffe headshotAre you irritated?

NVC police headshotIrritated, irritated! why if I wasn't practicing nonviolence I 'd teach those jackals a thing or two .... or three.

giraffe headshotA little stronger than irritated, are you livid?

NVC police headshotWell I don't know if I'm quite livid, but I am pretty mad when I think of the stunt they pulled. Pretending to be a giraffe and then showing me they were fooling me.

giraffe headshotSo, you are pretty mad. Would you like to be treated with respect?

NVC police headshotYes I would like respect but I am not going to get it from those jackals.

giraffe headshot
(Silent pause)

NVC police headshotIt's not just respect. I want them to get along with everyone without stirring up stuff just for their amusement. Pulling pranks like we're in a frat house. It's just sophomoric.

giraffe headshotSo you value harmony.

NVC police headshot(In a much softer tone.) Yes, I would like everyone to get along without bothering anyone else.

giraffe headshotDo you want ease too?

NVC police headshot(Softly again.) Yes, ease would be nice.

giraffe headshotEase

NVC police headshotWhy yes you've got it giraffe. I feel much better thinking about the needs.

giraffe headshotTake some time and just imagine those needs being met.
( L o n g   p a u s e )
Do you have any requests you would like to make of yourself or the jackals, pretending the jackals had learned NVC skills.

NVC police headshotI want the jackals to stop bothering everybody.

giraffe headshotWell, you are telling me what you don't want—what is it you do want to meet you needs for ease, harmony and respect?

What would that look like?

NVC police headshot
I want them to be nice.

giraffe headshot
What is an example of something you consider "nice?"

NVC police headshot
Not tricking people.

giraffe headshot
What do you think my next comment will be?

NVC police headshot
Could you make it what you want instead of what you don't want.

giraffe headshotI wonder if the jackals are too stimulating for you. Do you have a request you could make of yourself?

NVC police headshotHmmm... I'd like to be more like you. How do you deal with the jackals and not get mad.

giraffe headshotSo it's your belief I never get mad dealing with jackals?

NVC police headshotWell, you never seem upset.

giraffe headshotYou see, it's not that giraffe's don't get upset. It's what we do when we get upset that determines if we are a fully developed giraffe or not.

NVC police headshotSo, if I see someone get upset, I can tell them they are not practicing NVC?

giraffe headshotWould your intention be to create connection?

NVC police headshotNo, I want them to do it right if they are going to do it.

giraffe headshotI'm confused. I would like some understanding. Would you tell me how you are practicing NVC if you are not intending connection?

NVC police headshotDoesn't following the process create connection?

giraffe headshotI agree that following the NVC process helps create connection. My understanding is that if you demand that someone follow the NVC process then you are not keeping in the spirit of NVC.

NVC police headshotI should know that, if it is a demand, then it is not a request.

giraffe headshotWhat's alive in you now?

NVC police headshotI'm wondering if maybe I'm a jackal.

giraffe headshotAre you surprised?

NVC police headshotYes, I never thought I could be a jackal.

giraffe headshotAre you wanting to be in integrity with your values?

NVC police headshotI don't want people thinking I am a jackal. I don't again—what I want is respect and acceptance.

giraffe headshotRespect and acceptance are important to you.

NVC police headshotWhat's alive in you giraffe?

giraffe headshotI'm curious and wondering if you would like to hear something that might help get your need for acceptance met. Would you like to hear it?

NVC police headshotYes of course.

giraffe headshotMy theory is there is some jackal and some giraffe in all of us. Which one controls our behavior and talking determines how others see us.

NVC police headshotYou have a jackal in you?

giraffe headshotWould you like to see it?

NVC police headshotNo thanks, one jackal in a giraffe is one too many already.

giraffe headshotWould you be willing to look in the magic NVC mirror?

NVC police headshotWhat's that?

giraffe headshotIt would be easier to demonstrate than explain.

NVC police headshot OK
NVC police jackal in mirror
(Softly) Crikey

giraffe headshotWhen you look at the mirror are you disturbed?

NVC police headshotLooks like I am mostly jackal.

giraffe headshotThe mirror shows how you talk to yourself.

NVC police headshotI'm a jackal to myself?

giraffe headshotWhat do you say to yourself when you make a mistake?

NVC police headshotI'd have to arrest myself if I said it.

giraffe headshotI take it it's not NVC then.

NVC police headshotNot quite.

giraffe headshotIt's your inner educator. It means well, it just works through guilt and shame.

NVC police headshotWhat can I do.

giraffe headshotEmpathize with your inner educator.

NVC police headshotWould you help me with it?

giraffe headshotI would enjoy it immensely.

What is your inner educator saying?

NVC police headshotI shouldn't let the jackals upset me.

giraffe headshotWhat do you imagine the inner educator is feeling and needing?

NVC police headshotFeeling disappointment and wanting me to stay connected to my needs so my behavior comes from a place of awareness.

giraffe headshot(After pause)

How are you doing now?

NVC police headshotWow, much better.

giraffe headshotTake a moment to think of a request for yourself.

NVC police headshotNext time the jackals come around, connect with my feelings and needs before responding if I respond at all.

giraffe headshotIf you forget, what would you like your inner educator to say?

NVC police headshotIt's not about being perfect instantly. A gradually improvement is more realistic.

giraffe headshotSounds good to me.

NVC police headshotGiraffe, I feel much better than when we started. I appreciate your listening without judgment.

giraffe headshotI enjoy contributing.

NVC police headshotSee ya!

giraffe headshotOfficer, I am interested in your well being. Would you agree to come in on your own if you get upset, instead of the ambulance bringing you?

NVC police headshotWhy yes, that sounds wise.

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