4 Frames of Non-violent Communication

4 Frames of Non-violent Communication


NVC was developed in the 1960s by Marshall B. Rosenberg, an American doctor of psychology, a student and collaborator of Carl Rogers, and the author of many books, including "Words are windows or they are walls".

It is first and foremost an invitation to consider the way we express ourselves, listen and enter into relationships. NVC offers us a framework for maintaining open dialogue and discovering that solutions to conflict emerge from the quality of dialogue and the sincerity of intention.

NVC is a way of thinking and speaking that aims to bring understanding and mutual respect into exchanges. It helps each person to connect with the part of him or herself that is capable of understanding with the heart and of being heard without aggression. This allows one to approach others in a way that is in keeping with one's humanity and NVC stimulates benevolence in oneself and in others.  By becoming familiar with NVC, one develops the awareness that one does not win if one wins alone or at the expense of others.

This frame consists of 4 steps: Observe, Feel, Need, and Demand:


Describing the event, stating neutral FACTS without opinion or interpretation, distinguishing between what IS and what is THOUGHT.

  • To state facts without judgement or interpretation, without qualifying the action of the other.
  • Be precise, concrete, and circumstantial.
  • Avoid any generalisation (it would be perceived as abusive and would open a breach to contest the validity of the remark).

Example: "In this morning's meeting, you spoke for 40 minutes and this meant that the other two people had a limited time of 10 minutes instead of the 15 minutes allowed" and not "in our meetings you talk too much".


Expressing one's emotion, one's feeling (by saying "I"). In the term "feeling", NVC includes physical sensations, emotions and feelings. Our feelings are the colour that life takes on in us at each moment. The feeling is an indicator that a "need" (see below) is being met or needs attention.  For example, if "I feel confused" it means that I have a "need for clarity".

It is commonly accepted that there are 4 basic emotions: joy, sadness, fear and anger, around which there are many nuances, for example, frustration, irritation, bitterness, worry, dissatisfaction, devaluation, enthusiasm, peace, serenity, etc.

  • Express the emotional impact on oneself, without interpreting or judging the action of the other. - Express a sentence that begins with "I".

Example: I feel overwhelmed (rather than I feel... that you are leaving all the work to me... that you are not concerned by the project)


Expressing one's need. According to NVC acceptance, the term "need" refers to both what is essential to our lives and what gives them security and meaning. It includes our "life needs", our "security needs" and our "development needs".

"Everything we do is to meet our needs" Marschall B. Rosenberg

  • Express your need in positive terms.
  • This need does not involve another person or a concrete action.


"I am upset because I need consistency between words and deeds" and not "I am disappointed because you did not keep your commitment" *"I need peace and quiet" and not "I need you to come to me".

"I need calm and concentration", not "I want you to be quiet when I speak".


Asking for the actions one wants. In demand, there is the power to initiate change. To make a request is to be proactive and to take things in hand. The request has 6 criteria.

  • It is addressed to someone specific ("would you be willing to..." not "could someone help me").
  • It is in the present moment ("do you want to do the dishes?" not "from now on you will do the dishes").
  • It is concrete and not abstract ("do you want to do the debriefing?" not "tell me if you want to help me")
  • It is expressed in positive language (what you want, not what you don't want) - It is achievable: Translate into action, into concrete gestures, be as precise as possible in the request.
  • It leaves the choice ("would you agree" and not "I want you to...").

Examples: "Could you please take charge of this point? Examples: "Could you please take care of this?" "Could we exchange on...?

Key success factors

Throughout the process, ensure that you are honest and empathetic. You have to be continuously listening to what is happening, and avoid what you say is understood as a reproach, an attack. Otherwise, you will expose yourself to a counter-attack...

Choosing the moment, the place, and the time you have in front of you is also important so that the NVC process is carried out, slowly if necessary.

Finally, you need to practice 4 essential things to succeed in your NVC exercise.

  1. Choose the right moment: not too late after the thing reproached, nor too early because people's emotions must be over.
  2. Make it clear that you do not want to be interrupted, and that you will take all the time you need to listen to the other person right afterwards.
  3. State one fact, only one, irrefutable, indisputable.
  4. After the request, contract clearly and validate together. (Action plan if necessary).