Sharing Empathy


Considering Nonviolent Communication

In workplaces or schools, we’ve all experienced frustration when we can’t communicate our thoughts effectively or achieve mutual understanding. Especially with family or friends, misunderstandings can sometimes lead to conflicts. This article explores “NVC (Nonviolent Communication),” a potential solution to such miscommunications.

NVC is an approach in dialogue and communication to foster deep empathy and understanding with others, thereby reducing conflicts and clashes. It mainly consists of the following four steps:

  1. Observation of the situation: Objectively viewing how someone else’s actions affect you without passing judgment.
  2. Confronting emotions: Reflecting on how someone’s actions have triggered your feelings.
  3. Identifying one’s desires: Introspecting what desires have led to those emotions.
  4. Making requests to others: Considering options that can enrich both parties’ lives.

A key concept in NVC is to refrain from evaluating others, oneself, or the environment, as judgments can become barriers to understanding. Additionally, it emphasizes facing one’s and others’ emotions clearly and frankly to uncover mutual needs. These steps ultimately aim for mutual understanding accompanied by empathy.

NVC 人と人との関係にいのちを吹き込む法 (日本経済新聞出版社)


Can the Past Be Changed?

The “Freedom Project” practices communication using NVC with prisoners. They have committed crimes and carry past wounds of fear, guilt, shame, condemnation, coercion, threats, and punishment. By objectively viewing the motives behind their actions, this approach helps ease their emotional wounds. As a result, they are freed from oppressive feelings, rejoin society with deeper connections, and significantly reduce recidivism.

For example, one former prisoner initially felt misunderstood and misinterpreted by their partner due to their past. However, by employing NVC techniques such as “When you did ‘X’, I felt ‘Y’”, they fostered a more honest and fulfilling relationship.

I once heard “the past can be changed.” This means that while the factual past can’t be altered, changing our interpretation of it can transform its significance to us. For instance, even if one couldn’t attend their desired university, a fateful encounter at the university they did attend might make them grateful for their choice. Like the examples here, NVC can be a means to alleviate suffering by altering our interpretation of the past.

How nonviolent communication liberated one former inmate (The Seattle Globalist)

Imagining the Context Behind Words

Communication is underpinned by empathy. We feel happy when we get ‘likes’ on social media, and we tend to become more talkative when someone nods and agrees with us during a conversation.

Conversely, communication without empathy can sometimes be violent. This includes hostile comments and slander on social media and unintentionally hurting others (or being hurt) in conversations with colleagues, partners, or friends.

NVC suggests that the root of such violent communication lies in subjectively judging things as “right/wrong,” thus hindering empathy.

It might be challenging to immediately adopt an objective viewpoint, but it’s crucial to imagine that there’s always some important thought behind people’s words and actions.

I recently read a book titled “On Nights Filled with Melancholy,” where a facility head teaching music and art to a young protagonist says something memorable. I’d like to share these words with readers at the end of this opinion piece:

“Do not judge a work based on your preferences or narrow-mindedness. Instead of limiting stories with your judgment, use them to expand your perspective. Otherwise, your frame will never widen.”

The Power of Nonviolent Communication (Phycology Today)

NVC in the Workplace

Smooth communication is essential for efficient work in the workplace. Given this background, interest in applying NVC in the workplace is growing both domestically and internationally. How can NVC be implemented in the workplace? Let’s consider two examples, the latter demonstrating communication improvement from an NVC perspective.


Boss: “Mr./Ms. A, can you finish this document by today?” A: “Well, I’m quite busy today…” Boss: “Everyone is busy. Just get it done by today, okay?” A: “Okay…”


Boss: “I’d feel reassured if you, who are skilled in this area, could handle this document. If you’re busy, I can adjust your other tasks. Can I count on you?”

Here, we focus on the NVC step of “focusing on one’s needs and making requests to others.” In the first example, the boss fails to express the underlying need (cooperation) and ends up making a non-negotiable demand. In contrast, in the second example, the boss requests cooperation considering the other’s situation, likely leading to a more willing acceptance of the task.

In the “workplace,” where power dynamics often play a role, it’s worth reconsidering how to communicate empathetically, focusing on the needs of both oneself and others.