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Nonviolent Communication

Developed by

Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg


A brief overview

By Yarrow Pospisil, CNVC-Certified Trainer


Nonviolent Communication (NVC), also referred to as Compassionate Communication, is a transformative communication process developed by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg. It is based on the understanding that we all essentially share the same needs, and that every action, word, and behavior is reflective of a universal need that we can all relate to.  The basic premise of this work is that, when we are authentically connected and attuned to someone, with an awareness of their feelings, needs, and values that are being expressed, we naturally want to contribute to their well-being.  So, Marshall set out to identify what it is in our communication that both supports and disrupts the quality of connection that leads to compassion, and consequently inspires our natural, joyful giving. 


NVC is a set of principles and concrete skills that supports us in communicating clearly and creating authentic, harmonious, and collaborative relationships through a sharing of honesty and empathy. Marshall named his work Nonviolent Communication decades ago, in an effort to align his work with Ghandi's movement of nonviolence.  This work has been recognized and celebrated around the globe for its profound personal, interpersonal, and social change applications.  



What it is and what it isn't

NVC is not about being nice, and it's not about simply refraining from overt and obvious forms of violence.  NVC offers broad and deep benefit to every one of us. It is aimed at transforming and developing even subtle patterns in our consciousness and communication that, without us even realizing, have a profound effect on the quality of our relationships, our emotional health, and the way systems, organizations, and cultures function. 


According to Marshall,  we contribute to both physical and emotional violence in the world when we perpetuate beliefs and communication patterns that are based in a power-over paradigm, in which it is common to use coercion (e.g., threats, punishment, guilt, shame), reinforce static and life-alienating concepts of right/wrong and good/bad, and deny personal responsibility for our words and actions. These patterns usually reflect a scarcity and "win-lose" mindset.


The term Nonviolent Communication refers to patterns of communication that support peaceful, compassionate connections through a recognition and honoring of the humanity in each person and living according to power-with principles whereby everyone's needs matter. The quality of connection that we create through NVC "language" effectively leads to joyful, mutual giving..... not out of fear, coercion or obligation, but out of a motivation to contribute to one another's well-being.  In this paradigm, we hold an "abundance" mindset, become more flexible in how we meet our needs, and enjoy win-win outcomes.

How it works

NVC teaches us to recognize our patterns of thinking and communicating that disconnect us from each other and contribute to pain or distress. These ways of thinking and communicating often go unrecognized even by those with the best intentions, simply because they are habit and the way we were "taught" to communicate by society and the culture.  


Based in mindfulness, NVC helps us develop self-knowledge and the awareness and skill to powerfully communicate our truth while being present with and valuing another person's experience.  It also teaches us to empathize with others and ourselves in a way that leads to mutual understanding and a compassionate regard for one another.   

NVC calls on us to live courageously and authentically, raising the bar on how we show up, and committing to mutual care and respect.  NVC means choosing collaborative means to resolve differences and meet our needs. When we practice NVC we increase our capacity for compassion, inner clarity, and creativity in living our values and meeting our needs, and we effectively turn our attention and our efforts in the direction of serving life.  


While NVC, in its essence, is the consciousness and intention we bring to our interactions, learning and applying the specific process and concrete skills significantly changes how we show up and engage day to day in our relationships.

Through its enormous power to increase connection, understanding, and goodwill, NVC can have great impact not just on our close relationships, but on our communities and globally as we seek to effectively and collaboratively solve the complex problems we face as human beings. 

Part of a global network

Join a global community of individuals and organizations that are learning and sharing Dr. Rosenberg's work. As a Certified Nonviolent Communication Trainer, I am one of hundreds of Certified Trainers worldwide recognized and certified by the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Certified Trainers commit to an extensive learning, integration, and evaluation process prior to certification, after which they are permitted to share this process and their affiliation with the Center for Nonviolent Communication.  Please see trainings for my current and upcoming offerings, and visit the Center for Nonviolent Communication for more resources, trainings, and a directory of other Certified Trainers.  

Part of a local network


Whatcom County has a growing NVC community in which an increasing number of people are committing to learning and integrating this process for personal growth, to improve their relationships, and to be part of a larger movement of social and cultural change. For more information about community events and NVC Whatcom you can go to 

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