A topic coming up from time to time in the NVC community is about the name ‘Nonviolent Communication’.

Over the years I’ve heard several objections to the name and suggestions about alternatives. I fully understand why some people don’t like the name ‘Nonviolent Communication’ but, personally, I think there are 5 very good reasons for loving the name.

1) Life of Contradictions

We teach requests are more effective when we say what we want to happen and not what we don’t want to happen.

On the face of it the term ‘nonviolent’ appears to contradict this as it‘s expressed in the negative. In my (frequent) pedantic moments I would argue ‘Nonviolent Communication’ is not a request but rather the name of the whole approach. Putting this to one side I actually like the contradiction as a reflection of life being about holding contradictions and living with ambiguity.

For me the word ‘nonviolent’ is also a powerful reminder of the tragedy of the English language in which we don’t have a clear word to name ‘the absence of violence’.

2) Showing the way

The name appears to be classifying communication as ‘violent’ (=’bad’) and ‘nonviolent’ (=’good’).

Well … yes!

That’s part of the whole point isn’t it? I prefer to talk about ‘effective’ and ‘ineffective’ rather than ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but the whole idea of the approach is to move away from communication that uses power over, fear or guilt and to replace it with connection, respect and power with. Violent communication is disconnecting and life alienating and nonviolent communication is the opposite.

3) Legacy of Gandhi (and others)

I sometimes hear the objection that the Gandhian concept of ‘nonviolence’ is not generally well understood so the name Nonviolent Communication is not very appealing to many people.

Frankly I find this rather patronising to the intelligence of those we’re trying to reach.

I find it doesn’t take more than a few sentences to explain why the process is called what it is, and I’ve not yet had anyone walk away because they didn’t understand! And while most people are not experts in the idea or practice of Nonviolence it comes with a great heritage and list of nonviolent heroes.

On this topic I highly recommend Miki Kashtan’s series of articles currently being published in the Puddledancer Press Quick Connect Newsletter. You can find the archive here.

4)  Branding

I strongly believe the more powerful the brand, the more potential it has to reach people in a consistent and meaningful way.

Nonviolent Communication might not be the most catchy phrase I can imagine but its been called this for many years and the large majority of those who know it, know it as Nonviolent Communication. While I understand people marketing it under names they have more resonance with (such as ‘Compassionate Communication’) I believe doing this undermines the brand identity and creates confusion.

I did some research recently and NVC is marketed worldwide under 20 different names – and that’s only taking into account Certified Trainers! I despair when I see this and really wonder how much more effective we could be at spreading NVC if we were consistent in how we name it.

5)  Action

I like the action focus of the word and concept of ‘Nonviolent‘ which is missing for me in the idea of ‘Compassion‘ (a common preferred alternative).

‘Compassion’ has more of a sense of ‘being with’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘gentleness’ (for me). And while I want those qualities as well, the action and the focus on change is more important in my own longings for how this world could be.

I want an awareness and a style of communication that changes things … without using violence in any way.