NVC in the Workplace

It’s easier to consider using Nonviolent Communication (NVC) with people we love and trust than it is with our supervisor, co-workers and other colleagues at work. Opening ourselves up to the vulnerability that often comes with an NVC conversation can be risky at work, where there is less emotional investment and transparency, and more chances to have what we say impact how we are received by other people, with measurable consequences. On the other hand, having more tools to improve communication and build teamwork and shared understanding can make it worth the effort.

One of the best strategies to share empathy and to communicate with honest self expression (two key components of NVC) is to change the language you use to match your environment. A typical practice using the NVC format could sound like this: “When I hear you say you haven’t completed the work you agreed to get done today, I feel worried. I need collaboration and predictability to feel comfortable moving forward with this project” (remember, this is “workshop” speak and meant for clarity of the process. It’s not meant to be used in “real life” natural language, as it sounds formulaic and robotic).

For example, instead of using the word “feeling” as in “I’m feeling worried about our project,” you could drop the word feeling and say, “I’m concerned about our project.” Same with using the word “need”. Switch to, “It’s important to me to meet our deadlines and not get behind in our work together.” Using other words like, “I value this,” or “It’s significant to you, right?” can also fit better into how people generally speak at work and in daily life.

Again, it may be a leap to try bringing NVC into the workplace, yet studies show more empathy at work improves productivity and worker morale. Give it a chance.