The Leadership Factory is delighted to announce that Andy Burrows has joined our team. Andy has a wealth of experience in leadership and management development and will be a valuable addition. We’re very proud of our reputation and protective of our business values, and this can make it difficult to find the right’ kind of people to work with us. Andy does this as well as providing additional skills and approaches that can only be of benefit to our clients.
I was introduced to the term NVC (Non violent Communication) at a rather zany workshop I participated in at Brighton last year. It was a described as an approach that had been used to assist in creating a meeting of minds in the Middle East process. As a facilitator of situations which do not come remotely close to Gaza proportions, but which nevertheless generate some levels of high emotion, I thought that this was worth further investigation.
The book is extremely practical in nature. It is plain speaking, with chapters describing elements of the process, illustrated with apt stories and specific exercises.
In order to describe the NVC technique there are some principles to explain.
The first is that understanding is often obstructed by judgement. Humans attempt to make sense of the world around them. In order to do this we interpret or evaluate the actions of others very quickly. Evaluations come in the form of labels we generate for other people such as:
These labels begin to stick until (in our minds) these descriptions become fact. These beliefs about others inhibit our interactions with them.
So, Principle 1 is to observe behaviour as opposed to judge behaviour.
Principle 2. To recognise that feelings and needs are inextricably linked. If someone interrupts us whilst we are speaking, we may feel angry. This feeling will be linked to an unmet need: such as the need to be heard or the need to be respected. If we recognise we have an unfulfilled need we can do something about it. If we have a negative emotion, it can eat away within our subconscious. This is because we tend to be poor at identifying our emotions and interpreting them. Unchecked and continuous streams of negative emotions start to erode our overall sense of well being.
Principle 3. We each have a choice in the way that we respond. I like the way that this is used in the book. When someone becomes ‘upset’ with us, we need to recognise that this is their choice, rather than feel guilty for our actions.
Principle 4. In order to be genuine to ourselves we need to make our feelings and needs clear to others. We do this through making well-constructed requests to other people.
Principle 5. We build empathy with others by tuning into their feelings and unmet needs. We do this through asking questions that help them and us understand what those are through the 4 NVC steps.
Principle 6. In any interaction there are two parties. The NVC approach can be used to help with both parties, i.e. self-management and with the ‘management of others’.
The technique is simple. Similar to GROW, it really is a question of remembering a sequence and putting this to good use in relevant situations.
I use the approach in the following ways:
Using the principles described above, the four steps are
In a practical example, imagine the following situation:
I am speaking when suddenly the person raises their hand and raises their voice to interrupt me. As a high D (from my DISC profile), I would usually react spontaneously to this with matched ‘aggression’. The way I would manage this through NVC would be more measured, as follows:
Self-management mode (i.e. the conversation in my head)
I see this person raising their hand and interrupting meI feel annoyed by this...why?Because my need is to be fully listened to and my point heard by the other.
My subsequent request
‘You interrupted me before I had finished. I hear you are raising your voice. I feel frustrated and slightly threatened by this. I would request that you hear me out as I need to make my point in this matter’
Management of others (building empathy)
When I started to talk I observed that you raised your hand and your voice (Observation)
What feelings were you experiencing that caused you to do this?
What is it that you feel you need
What is the request you would like to make?
You may well gather from this that whilst the elements are fairly easy to grasp, using them in day-to-day situations requires considerable practice. There are NVC training courses available around the UK. The exercises contained in the book make a useful start and I have used these in a number of leadership workshops…
The NVC approach couples well with emotional intelligence content as well as being a useful skill to develop if you are engaged as a coach.
This article is based on the works of Marshall Rosenberg in his book, ‘Non Violent Communication, A Language of Life’, and ‘Being Genuine’ by Thomas D’Ansembourg. Both books are published by Puddle Dancer Press.