When one shares we all benefit
Michael Stone
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Nonviolent Communication

As you work with your TI topic you may find it useful to hone your skills of communication, both with others and yourself. Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a technique for communication that is grounded in compassion and listening (click here to learn more). Underlying its practice is the belief that all humans are born compassionate and that verbally and physically violent strategies are learned behaviour. Part of this technique for communication states that all humans share the same basic human needs. NVC suggests an approach to communication that is based in the following practices:

  • observation
  • feelings assessment
  • needs inventory

Consider your teaching style for a moment. How often do you practice these four processes? And if you do practice these, how are they framed in your consciousness? Below, we describe each of these practices and give an example within a TI setting. Following those explanations are lists of needs and feelings (tables 4.1-4.3). Since learning about NVC many of us now keep the lists on our classroom and office walls (as well as on our fridges at home!) Consider how this practice of NVC could be useful within your own teaching, and for your students to practice as well.


Rather than watching or judging, observation here means stating what is simply happening in as simple a way as possible. For some of you, the TI process and inquiry topic might be exactly this - an observation of something:

Observation: I saw a teacher yelling at his male students....

Observations should be without stating your feelings or judgment (since they are coming up). You are naming the thing that is stimulating you. Remember that it is very challenging (if not impossible) to remove one’s own lens and judgment from observation. In using NVC, you are asked to be conscious of what and how you are observing, and to consider how you might be biased in that experience. Are you making a judgment, analysis, interpretation, label, or projection rather than a simple observation?


Stating our feelings helps us understand how we are reacting to a situation. Feelings are not typically taught beyond Kindergarten in many curricula in North America. So we want to take a moment to highlight a few. Feelings are derived from Needs (next section). So when certain needs are being met, we have certain feelings, and when certain needs are not being met, we have other feelings. Consider that our feelings can be more complicated than the regular sad, mad, glad, and scared. How would the inquirer continue from their observation stated earlier?

Feelings: ...I felt uncomfortable and frustrated with that teacher...

Uncomfortableness and Frustration land in the categories of disquiet and annoyed, which could be reasonable reactions to his/her observation. From here the inquirer could move to finding ways to resolve through the statement of their own needs.


Needs are necessarily complex and include much more than simply the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (food, water, shelter, sleep etc). They include needs, wants, desires, values, longings, and dreams. They make up the sphere of expectations that we consciously or otherwise have about future situations. For instance, what would our inquirer’s expectations and needs be for his/her topic?

Needs: ...because I expect teachers to help foster safe and caring environments...

Much of the trauma and pain that we realize as humans comes from expectations not being met. Yet, we often are not conscious of what these expectations are going into an experience. Think about your first year in the Teacher Education program, did it meet your expectations? Probably not! It was likely something different than what you were expecting! This is not to say that we need to do away with expectations. Quite the opposite is true. We need to be conscious of our own expectations, and consider what it might feel like to have them met and not have them met in any circumstance. There is no need to judge expectations, but as you become conscious of them, you start understanding how to manage them within the reality of your own life.


First of all, be ready to hear ‘NO.’ To practice NVC, we must acknowledge that there are other needs and desires in the world. So we are in no position to make demands in relations to others. However, speaking our own truth within any given situation suggests that we can make respectful requests of others around us.

Request (teacher): ...and I would ask the teacher: “would you be willing to explore other ways of disciplining your students in a way that upholds a safe environment?”

Again, as relational humans we should not make demands, rather requests for change. For if we are practicing NVC well, we are also modeling the ability to be compassionate and relational.

Over the next few pages you will find needs and feelings inventories. These are derived directly from The Center for Non-violent Communication, which has many free resources that help you understand NVC. Click here to explore the NVC website.
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