Robbie Maltby

March 11, 2021

Non-violent Communication

Most people hear the words 'non-violent communication' and immediately become defensive.

You can almost feel them bracing for impact the moment the words pass your lips.

In fact, non-violent communication or NVC is a practice of conflict resolution used the world over to quell the angers of warring countries, factions, tribes, and families.

It teaches a fairly simple, yet highly effective method of expressing one's concern about a situation without ruffling feathers.

It was developed by Doctor Marshall Rosenberg, who wrote the book: Nonviolent Communication - A Language of Life.

Here's the summarised version, although I'd highly recommend the audiobook as it's narrated by the author himself.


Part 1 - Feelings

When you find yourself in a situation that causes you upset, simply notice what you're feeling.

You might say something as simple as, "I'm feeling angry" or "I'm feeling tired and irritated".

All you're trying to do in this part is to clearly identify the feelings and call them out.

Part 2 - Needs

This part is slightly more tricky.

Now you've expressed your feelings, you want to dig underneath them to discover what the underlying need is that isn't being met.

Human beings are fairly simple creatures but we complicate things enormously.

We have basic needs like food, shelter, and community. Plus other more nuanced needs like the need to be seen, the need to be respected, to be understood.

The issue we have is that we're often too frightened or embarrassed to be honest about what we need, and instead make comments that cause others to become 'triggered' by what we say.

So instead we just express our needs, after we have expressed our feelings:

"I'm feeling tired and irritated, and I think it's because I need to recuperate, and right now I'm too busy making dinner to recuperate."

The key here is to be honest and clear about the situation.

Part 3 - Request

We've stated a feeling, and a need. They are indisputable (if you're being honest).

Now you have the attention of the room, you can make your request.

"I'm feeling tired and irritated, and I think it's because I need to recuperate, and right now I'm too busy making dinner to recuperate. Would someone be able to take over for me, or could we come to another solution together?"


As you can see all statements start with "I" and this is by design. When we talk from an "I" perspective, people can listen because they aren't on the defensive. They aren't waiting for an attack.

They can also emphasise much more easily, and especially when they hear you speaking the truth.

This is just one example of how NVC can be used, but there are literally countless ways.

If you're feeling like you can't get what you need, give it a try.

Just remember to be clear, and honest, and to practice with people you trust.

About Robbie Maltby

Learn more about my work at