I consider this a very important question. After all, if you’re going to invest time, energy and maybe money to learn something such as Nonviolent Communication you want to make sure you’re using your resources effectively. If there are specific situations troubling you, you want hope and trust things can improve, yes?

Some months ago I was coaching someone who was having trouble getting her son to get ready for school in the morning. We worked with various ways she might use Nonviolent Communication in this situation and she was excited to try them out.

The following week we had a follow up call and the first thing she said was,

I tried everything we talked about. I empathised with my son about what was going on for him in the morning. I expressed a specific observation, my feelings, my needs. I made a clear request.

But it didn’t work.

What do you mean, it didn’t work?” I asked.

Well, nothing changed. He still won’t get ready for school on time.”

If by ‘does it work?’ I only mean getting other people to do what I want them to do, then NO, it doesn’t work.

NVC is not a tool for manipulation, coercion or getting my demands met.

If you’re not genuinely seeking to get the needs of both people met, if you’re not concerned about the reasons other people have for fulfilling our requests then NVC is unlikely to work for you.

If on the other hand you want an approach that helps get clearer about the underlying needs of both sides, supports mutual understanding, encourages creativity in solutions and refuses to accept actions motivated by fear, guilt or obligation then NVC might just work for you.

Does NVC really work?

It depends what you mean by ‘work’!

Going back to my coaching situation, although the mornings were still frustrating for my client, something had changed.

Mother and son were starting to communicate in a different way.

She was expressing her reaction to what was going on in a different way. She was not blaming her son for her frustration but getting clearer that it stemmed from her needs for ease and using her energy in a more meaningful way than nagging.

By listening to her son she was starting to understand what might be preventing him from doing what she wanted. She was seeing him as a growing human being trying to meet his own needs and not as an un-cooperative problem child.

She was slowly putting aside her fixed idea about how to organise the morning routine and they were starting to explore together different ways of spending the time before leaving for school.

She was learning how to communicate differently and that takes time, it involves making mistakes and requires patience and persistence.I’m confident things will change and they will find a way they can both enjoy.

Their daily fight had been going on for several years. By changing how she was approaching it she was starting to transform the energy of conflict into one of mutual respect and co-operation.

And that kind of transformation rarely happens with one conversation.