Nonviolent communication - the inner attitude brings success

The concept of "Nonviolent Communication (NVC)" was developed by the US psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg starting in 1963. The aim of NVC is to develop human relationships in such a way that those involved spontaneously and willingly contribute to each other's well-being. 
A group of giraffes in a field.


What is nonviolent communication?

On the one hand, NVC is based on an inner attitude consisting of mindfulness, respect and empathy and on the other hand on a holistic and positive view of human beings. Methodologically, it is about two points:
  • Feel one's own feelings and needs and express a concrete request, and in doing so, 
  • sensitively and empathically perceive and consider others' feelings and needs. 
NVC aims to shape our relationship with each other in such a way that we understand and appreciate our respective needs and together find ways to fulfil them amicably. This especially applies in cases of conflict.
Therefore, NVC should be used to develop an appreciative relationship in order to broaden the scope of our cooperation and enhance our joint creativity in living together. Voluntarily, the parties should shape their communication flow in such a way that more trust can be built and the joy of living can be improved.

The four components

The basic model of NVC consists of the components observations, feelings, needs and requests. These components are used to describe a situation, but without evaluating it.
Observations: What am I hearing and seeing? 
Feelings: How do I feel about the situation?
Needs: What needs are guiding my feelings?
Asking: Asking the other person for what I need.

Application of the techniques and their advantages

If NVC is desired by the participants and applied conceptually correctly, there are a number of advantages which can also be seen in project management.
In communication and work in the project team

With NVC, communication channels are open and active listening is encouraged to better understand the needs of team members. The constructive feedback promoted by NVC leads to greater clarity in communication and fewer misunderstandings. Overall, team dynamics are improved and the trust of team members is strengthened.
Conflict management in the project

Conflicts occur in every project and often stem from misunderstandings, which are the start of the escalation of the conflict. NVC offers the possibility of resolving a conflict through increased empathy and understanding, or perhaps even avoiding the core of the evil, the misunderstanding.
In project meetings

Many project teams suffer from too many and inefficient meetings. The reasons for this are manifold, but often they are deficits in conversation and a lack of understanding of what others want. NVC leads to more effective meetings and improves the ability to solve problems that arise in a sustainable way. 
In project decisions

Decisions have to be made in a project, but time and again they are ignored, made too late or incorrectly. This is where NVC comes in, optimising the decision process and delivering qualified decisions.

Limits of the concept

NVC is based on free will, i.e., all participants must engage in this model without pressure or coercion. However, this very voluntariness is already a limitation for its application in project management and raises the question of how this barrier can be circumvented? It is best if project managers allow continuous learning of their team members and work to improve the communication practices in their project. Furthermore, there are (cultural) differences in every team, and keeping these in mind would also be helpful in order not to trigger emotional outbursts or even hurt others.


NVC can be helpful in everyday communication as well as in peaceful conflict resolution in personal and professional settings. Project managers who develop strategies to overcome resistance with empathy will be able to promote acceptance of NVC and improve their project work and become more productive overall.

Nonviolent communication - the Author
Author: Dr. Roland Ottmann
Keywords: Project management, Communication

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