10 Tips for Getting What You Want by Speaking with Empathy

Since the 1960’s Marshall Rosenberg has championed a model of speaking with and from empathy, know as Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Undergirding NVC is the notion of a connection between personal feelings and universal needs, which generally dwell below the surface of our awareness and consequently our conversations and communications.  Empathy, a respectful understanding of another one’s experience, can help surfaces these need and feelings.  In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not regret later. NVC works as well for requesting understanding and agreement when needs are not being meet, as for celebration/acknowledgement when needs are being meet.

The magical and tricky part of NVC is a) honest expression of you needs and requests and b) receiving what someone has to say back with an ear tuned to empathic.

  1. Observe what is happening/impacting your well-being. “When I hear, see, notice…objective description
  2. Be specific about your feelings about what you observe, not your evaluation of the situation. “I feel excited, dread, inspired, dismayed, etc…”
  3. Have a rich vocabulary that expresses needs rather than thoughts. More on this tomorrow
  4. Get to know your needs and be specific about them “Because I need … insert universal need.”
  5. Make requests not demands of others, of concrete actions that enrich your lives. “I appreciate… or Would you be willing to…
  6. Pay attention to your tone, pacing and pitch. Sarcasm is not your friend here- as much as I adore a sharp wit at time, it’s not likely to get you closer to the finish line without regrets. The same goes for making moralistic judgments and comparisons.
  7. Listen for the other person’s needs behind what they communicate back to you
  8. Match your body language to your verbal language. Crossed arms and furrowed brow may not help you get where you want to go, but taking a full breath and keeping your arms loose and free just might help.
  9. Do actively assume responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions.
  10. Don’t assume responsibility for some else’s thoughts, feelings and actions.
For more information see: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. or The Center for Nonviolent Communication
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