Nonviolent communication is a method of a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. It focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one’s own inner experience), empathy (defined as an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person), and honest self-expression (defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others).
Melissa was made aware of Non-violent communication via the work of Bob Marshall (check out his episode on Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast), and his blog where he published several articles about Nonviolent Communication. Thanks to this work, and some of the Marshall Rosenberg Nonviolent communication videos on YouTube, Melissa got started with NVC. A journey that changed her view of communication and what matters when it comes to building stronger teams.
But how can we, as Scrum Masters benefit from this method?
A simple context where NVC may be useful is when teams and team members want to get and give feedback. NVC can be very useful to phrase our feedback in a way that highlights what we are looking for (our needs being met) without expressing judgement over others (our opinions of them). But that’s only one of the contexts where NVC may be useful. There are many others.
I bet your team has a lot of written communication with stakeholders and within the team. Is that right? Well, then you know that written communication has a lot of potential for misunderstandings and to generate conflicts. How can we avoid that? By using better approaches to communicate. Melissa also explains how we can use NVC ideas to make written communication less conflictuous and more likely to have the impact we hope.
What we need to be able to communicate effectively
NVC is a good method to structure our communication, but before we can use that method we need to understand how we feel. NVC, being a needs/emotions driven communication method requires us to be aware of our own emotions and feelings. So we need to learn about emotions and needs. And especially we need to enlarge our vocabulary about needs and feelings so that we can communicate them in a way that is understandable by others. This is especially important if you are not a native speaker of the language you use at work.
Where should I get started if I want to know more about NVC?
When it comes to getting started with NVC, Melissa has a few recommendations for us. The first is the book by Marshall Rosenberg: Nonviolent communication, A Language of Life, but is also very important to practice every part of the method as well as read and learn about emotions, feelings(PDF) and needs.
In this episode Melissa also shares simple practices you can take into use immediately to help you practice NVC and help your team learn about, and maybe even get started with NVC.
About Melissa Lang
Melissa has worked in many diverse jobs over the last 20 years: ethnomusicologist, cook, IT project manager, agile coach. In all of those jobs, her main focus has been on strengthening team work and facilitating communication. As a dedicated agilist for 10+ years Melissa has worked at a range of companies, from start-up to multi-national corporation. Currently she is coaching teams from Barcelona and Hamburg at Xing AG where she has been employed since December 2011.
If you want to follow Melissa’s writings, be sure to follow her blog over at Medium.