Non-violent communication in the family

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Joe Dispenza

Non-violent communication in the family

Conflicts are common in families and are not bad in themselves. However, they can become so when they are not managed properly and cause wounds that do not heal. What role does nonviolent communication play in this context?

Last update: May 28, 2022

Non-violent communication is a model developed by Marshall Rosenberg which makes it easier for people to communicate with empathy and assertiveness. In the family context, this concept applies to communication between different members.

The tools offered by non-violent communication make it possible to transform a conflictual situation that can arise in daily coexistence and relate with kindness, respect and harmony.

This communication model, also called empathic communication, aims to replace defensive or avoidant response patterns to the judgments and criticisms of other family members with others based on empathy.

Reactions of resistance, defense and violence are minimized, as when we focus on clarifying what we observe, feel and desire, instead of devoting ourselves to diagnosis and judgment, compassion tends to emerge naturally.

Empathic communication removes barriers between people to foster understanding.

Guidelines for non-violent communication in the family

In case of conflict between two family members, non-violent communication proposes to follow the following steps:

  • Observation of the facts: how I see them and how the other sees them.
  • How do we feel (me and the other)?: with empathy, without judging, refusing, etc.
  • What are the authentic needs behind the feelings discovered?
  • Make a request aimed at achieving the goal or genuine desire (necessity). What can and should we ask ourselves or the other to solve the problem and enrich our life.

After making the request, it is necessary make sure the message has been understood satisfactorily with direct questions.

The idea is to understand how the interlocutor understood our words and to be able to correct any misinterpretation (Rosenberg, 2013). In summary, the structure suggested by Rosenberg (2013) is the following:

  •  "When you do or say ..."
  • "I feel that…"
  • "Why do I need ..."
  • If you agree, I would like you to… ".

A further step is to follow the steps described with the different family members. First, by perceiving what they think, feel and need and then discover what they want to enrich their lives by listening to the request they make of us. Likewise, let's invite them to do the same and we establish an assertive communication flow.

Non-violent communication: lexicon of feelings and needs in the family

The expression of emotional states must be clear and precise in order to help us connect with others. Rosenberg distinguishes between pleasant feelings, when needs are met, and unpleasant feelings, when needs are not met.

On the one hand, it mentions pleasant feelings such as affection, trust, enthusiasm, hope, peace, happiness, gratitude, interest, inspiration and openness. On the other hand, he lists unpleasant feelings such as desire, aversion, confusion, anger, restlessness, fear, sadness, anger, pain and shame.

However, there are two elements that frequently hinder the expression of feelings. One is the lack of emotional literacy in the family, which complicates the members' ability to express themselves openly and clearly.

Another obstacle is the common fear of showing oneself vulnerable to others, when the very vulnerability facilitates the resolution of conflicts (Vivas, Gallego and González, 2007).

As for the expression of needs, it means connect the feeling with everything we need for our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Again, Rosenberg provides a list of human needs, including connection, closeness, autonomy, integrity, participation, freedom, and interdependence, which can guide us in understanding which need we have not met.

Non-violent communication allows understanding based on empathy and respect.

A useful tool at home: the box of feelings

The sentiment box is a useful tool to use at home to foster non-violent communication. It consists in leaving on a table, accessible to all, a box with pieces of paper inside.

Through this resource, all family members can share the different events that caused them discomfort during the day.

At the end of the day, each member will read a random piece of paper and propose a solution or a nice comment to find a solution to the problem. This dynamic helps to be aware and responsible in terms of thoughts, feelings and actions; as a result, he has to make better decisions.


Non-violent communication helps us connect with ourselves and with others. Thanks to it, we can increase understanding and empathy, basing coexistence on honesty and commitment.

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