What is Nonviolent Communication (NVC)?

NVC is an organisation established in America in 1984. It is based on a set of principles and practices founded by Marshall Rosenberg PhD and now maintained by many NVC Trainers all over the world. NVC is used to mediate conflicts, nurture relationships and promote peace.

Some of the key points underlying the practice of NVC (adapted from Bay Area Nonviolent Communication):

  • All human beings share the same needs (see more about needs below). We all have the same human needs, although the strategies we use to meet these needs may differ. Conflict occurs at the level of strategies, not at the level of needs.

  • Feelings point to needs being met or unmet: Feelings may be triggered but not caused by others. Our feelings arise directly out of our experience of whether our needs seem to us met or unmet in a given circumstance. When our needs are met, we may feel happy, satisfied or peaceful, etc. When our needs are not met, we may feel sad, scared or frustrated, etc. Our feelings are signs to alert us about our needs.

  • All actions are attempts to meet needs: Our desire to meet needs, whether conscious or unconscious, underlies every action humans take. We only resort to violence or other actions that do not meet our own or others' needs when we do not recognize more effective and life-serving strategies for meeting needs.

  • All human beings have the capacity for compassion: We have an innate capacity for compassion, though not always the knowledge of how to access it. When we are met with compassion and respect for our autonomy, we tend to have more access to our own compassion for ourselves and for others. Growing compassion contributes directly to our capacity to meet needs peacefully and not at the expense of others.

  • Human beings enjoy giving: We inherently enjoy contributing to others when we have connected with our own and others' needs and can experience our giving as coming from choice.

  • One of the most direct paths to peace is through self-connection. Our capacity for peace is not dependant on having our needs met. Even when many needs are unmet, meeting our need for self-connection can be sufficient for inner peace.

There are many ways NVC is being used in the world:

  • Education

  • Social Reform

  • Restorative Justice System

  • Parenting

  • Corporate/Business World

  • Spiritual Practice

  • Mental Health, Psychology and Brain Science

  • Mediation and Conflict Resolution

About Needs

In NVC needs are defined very specifically as being universally common to humans of all gender, race, culture and time or era. They are clearly separated from strategies which we use to meet needs - we all have a need for food (need) however we don't all have a need for broccoli (strategy). Needs are a body sensation, a sense of longing, that arise before our thoughts. According to Miki Kashtan, needs are seen as a core organising principle for understanding human action. They straddle the border between the biological (body/physical) and the psychological (mind). Understanding human needs can free us from the legacy of viewing our human nature as dangerous and in need of control and restore a sense of dignity to who we are.


When we experience an emotional reaction or trigger we can trace the origin of it back to an underlying human need/s in us that we perceive as not being met. Our upbringing, culture and trauma history will determine our intensity of needs. The aim is not to strive to fulfil every need every time one arises. Recognising needs as a body sensation rather than associating with our many feelings and thoughts accompanying them can bring a certain peace and satisfaction. Once you reach this place of clarity and peace about the needs, strategies often arise that you may not have considered. This is one of the most significant points I have found that NVC has to offer for promoting peace within ourselves, within our relationships and throughout the world.

"Needs are a core organising principle for understanding human action...they straddle the border between the biological (body/physical) and the psychological (mind). Understanding human needs can free us from the legacy of viewing our human nature as dangerous and in need of control and restore a sense of dignity to who we are"

Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness, Miki Kashtan, 2014

My List of Feelings

Feelings when needs are met
Feelings when needs are not met
  • Happy Joyful Excited Delighted Exhilarated Ecstatic Uplifted Blissful

  • Comfortable Satisfied

  • Relaxed Peaceful Content Calm Quiet Still Fulfilled at Ease

  • Warm Appreciative Open Compassionate Positive Thankful Grateful

  • Confident Optimistic Hopeful Encouraged

  • Inspired Engaged Enthusiastic Absorbed Intense Passionate

  • Involved Focused Alert

  • Playful Energetic Invigorated Alive Spark Silly Free Light

  • Curious Interested

  • Angry Frustrated Irritable Fuming Agitated Pissed-off Rising-Fury Bitter Furious Annoyed

  • Impatient Stuck Fidgety Reluctant Sceptical Hesitant

  • Sad Upset Heavy-hearted Unhappy Depressed Down Hurting

  • Helpless Distant Discouraged Dis-heartened Negative Pessimistic Doubtful

  • Disgusted

  • Frightened Worried Anxious On-edge Stressed Troubled Unsettled Afraid Terrified Tense Horrified Edgy Dread Restless

  • Vulnerable Emotional

  • Lonely Alone Disconnected Detached

  • Tired Exhausted Lethargic Dull Overwhelmed Sleepy Dis-interested Passive Bored

  • Confused Lost Suspicious Puzzled

  • Embarrassed

  • Uncomfortable Uneasy Awkward

My List of Needs

Survival Needs
  • Air

  • Water

  • Food

  • Shelter

  • Physical Safety

  • Sleep

  • Touch (babies need touch to survive)

Thriving Needs - Wellbeing
  • Physical Wellbeing

  • Health

  • Wellness

  • Sustenance

  • Nourishment

  • Security

  • Movement

  • Rest

  • Sleep

  • Beauty

  • Order

  • Peace

  • Ease

  • Balance

  • Flow

  • Growth

  • Learning

  • Resources

Thriving Needs - Connection
  • Acceptance

  • To matter

  • Nurturing

  • Self-respect

  • Respect

  • Love

  • Consideration

  • Mutuality

  • Equality

  • Belonging

  • Inclusion

  • Warmth

  • Touch/physical contact

  • Compassion

  • Interdependence

  • Empathy

  • Support

  • To be heard

  • Clarity

  • Shared vision

  • Honesty

  • Presence

  • Communion

  • Self-connection

  • Acknowledgement

  • Community

  • Assurance

  • Integration

  • Honour an agreement

Thriving Needs - Expression
  • Appreciation

  • Choice

  • Celebration

  • Contribution

  • Diversity

  • To see and be seen

  • Accurately represented

  • Spiritual expression

  • Authenticity

  • Autonomy

  • Freedom

  • Meaning purpose

  • Creativity

  • Hope

  • Passion

  • Integrity

  • Peace

  • Exploration

  • Mourning

  • Challenge

  • Spaciousness

  • Engagement with life

  • Stimulation

  • Direction

  • Forward movement

  • Efficiency

  • Inspiration

  • Power in my world

  • Celebration of life

  • Sexual expression

  • Play

  • Fun

  • Humour

  • To enrich life

  • Awareness

  • Understanding

  • To be understood

  • Peace of mind

  • Harmony

  • Trust

  • Learning

  • Spontaneity

  • Help



Mindful Communication Handout - Feelings and Needs

Mindful Communication Handout - Feelings and Needs

Mindful Communication Handout - Key Intentions and Assumptions of NVC

Mindful Communication Handout - Key Intentions and Assumptions of NVC

Mindful Communication Handout - Meditation

Mindful Communication Handout - Meditation