Needs-Based Communication (NVC)* is a potent process that can support us when we are having — or need to have — challenging conversations that matter to us ...
... like giving authentic feedback to a co-worker ...
... or listening to someone at work or at home when we disagree with what they are saying ...
... or how we respond when we perceive ourselves as being "attacked" in a conversation ...
... or expressing clearly our personal or professional boundaries when a colleague has stepped beyond them ...
... or what we do when we feel anger rising in ourselves and we know we will likely regret the words we are about to say ...
... or when we've just expressed something in a meeting that really matters to us, but no one seems to have heard it ...
... or when we're too scared to speak up at all.
NVC guides us to move beyond blame.
Here are some of the skills and benefits of using Needs-Based Communication in the workplace ... or at home:
Needs-Based Communication invites us to expand our perception so that we see ways to bring connection amidst conflict. At the core of this expanded perception is the skill to focus our attention on the underlying human needs that are seeking to be nurtured in any moment, both within ourselves and within the people around us.
Examples of human needs include such things as ...
These underlying human needs are the motivation for our actions and our words ... the "why" behind what we do or say. Because human needs are universal — they are common to all human beings — when we bring them into explicit focus, they tend to stimulate understanding and draw us closer together.
The potency of Needs-Based Communication is in its pragmatic simplicity. In any moment, including a moment of conflict, there are two ways to enhance connection & understanding:
These are radically different choices than we are accustomed to experience when we are in conflict: namely, fight, freeze or flee.
While simple, NVC is often challenging to embody because we are so deeply conditioned to perceive each other through judgments and blame.
With practice, the process of NVC helps us navigate within ourselves to transform unconscious reactions into conscious responses.
What Needs-Based Communication is not ...
Our workplaces and our homes will become more vibrant when there is greater trust and care, and less fear and blame; more conscious responses among us, and fewer unconscious reactions; more listening to understand, and less listening just to respond.
Needs-Based Communication is a pathway to take us there.
If you're intrigued by Needs-Based Communication, I invite you to learn more:
*Needs-Based Communication is based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, which he called "Nonviolent Communication™" or NVC. I have chosen to call the process Needs-Based Communication for two reasons:
In a trust-based organization where people are valued, crying is recognized as a fundamental way that human beings respond to the world around them. There are many reasons why we cry, and one of them is when we touch into the energy of what really matters to us. THAT's the energy that a conscious organization thrives on ... a shared purpose and an embodiment of our core values that moves us to tears at times.
I remember with fondness overhearing a conversation of a colleague who was inviting an emotionally upset business acquaintance to come to our offices to talk. The business acquaintance expressed reluctance to come because she knew she would likely be crying. My colleague assured her, "we cry all the time around here ... come on over!"
In fact, what we had, and what every organization needs, are structures that recognize the human need for empathy (much as every office has bathrooms and a kitchen for other human needs). In our offices, we created a "gold room" that had soothing gold walls, very comfortable seating and a couch, music with high quality speakers, lots of plants, and adjustable warm lighting. It was a place people could go when they just needed a little time for themselves, or needed empathy from another person. Our Gold Room became a symbol to everyone of how much we valued the human experience in our workplace. And it was the place that my colleague and her business acquaintance went when she arrived.
We also need structures and skills in our meetings so that when a person becomes emotional or tearful, we can hold the space with care and empathy, and invite them, if needed, to seek the space or the care that they need. It takes self awareness, emotional intelligence and skills of empathy for a leader to show up with such a quality.
The acceptance of crying in the workplace is a direct measure of where the organization is on the spectrum of leading through trust vs. leading through fear.
(Above thoughts sparked by this article: hbr.org/2018/06/why-is-crying-at-work-such-a-big-deal)
In a September 18, 2017 article in Fast Company (Satya Nadella Rewrites Microsoft’s Code, by Harry McCracken), McCracken states that “One of Nadella’s first acts after becoming CEO, in February 2014, was to ask the company’s top executives to read Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, a treatise on empathic collaboration … The reading assignment ‘was the first clear indication that Satya was going to focus on transforming not just the business strategy but the culture as well,’ says Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, a 24-year company veteran.”
Nadella also includes Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication among the short list of books upon which he’s drawn inspiration (The 7 Books Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Says You Need to Lead Smarter, by Harry McCracken, Fast Company, September 18, 2017).