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David Windle

Opposite Leg Ltd


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Nonviolent Communication and NLP


Recently, I have been reading about Marshall Rosenberg’s theories of Nonviolent Communication and noticed the striking parallels with some of the most useful NLP training techniques.

Marshal Rosenberg began developing his Nonviolent Communication techniques in the 1970s before setting up the Centre for Nonviolent Communication.

NVC draws on many of the teachings of Carl Rogers and the Person Centred Approach to Counselling to build a communication model which ensures that all participants’ deepest needs are met and feelings attended to.

Rosenberg built on Riane Eisler’s notion that modern humanity is stuck in a ‘Dominator Culture’ whereby communication is often damaging to at least one, if not all, of the communicators involved. This paradigm can clearly be seen in educational settings where pupils are forced into behaving through threatening language and application of sanctions. Of course teachers may say that this is necessary for maintaining order, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Fundamentally, Rosenberg suggests that we should route our communication in both trying to understand the feelings and needs of the other, and expressing our own feelings and needs clearly.

It comes back to that Steven Covey quote:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

The only way to resolve a conflict is to stop people digging their heels further into their position and ask them to empathise with the enemy.

The next step is to state your own position in terms of your needs and feelings, rather than as a judgement on your opposition. By doing this you open the door for two way empathy, which will lead to the establishment of some common ground between you.

One of the best exercises for accessing this level of deep empathy is the Perceptual Positions technique often used in NLP.

Set up three chairs in a small circle.

In chair 1 you describe the situation as you see it, from your point of view.

Then move to chair 2, from where you take the opposing position and make every effort to describe the situation as if you are the person with whom you are in conflict. Make sure you speak in the first person to fully inhabit the role.

Finally, hop over to chair 3, from where you describe the situation as an impartial observer, evaluating both points of view objectively.

If you are stuck in a communication rut or conflict with someone, give this a try – the results could be surprising!

Find out how we can help your communication skills at



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David Windle


Read more from David Windle

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