For more than 20 years, I’ve been practicing Nonviolent Communication (NVC). As a journalist, mediator, partner and mother, I’ve found the compassionate communication model, and the Internal Family Systems model, to be excellent tools to create connection and resolve conflict.
Developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the late 1960s, NVC helps to renew relationships. Using a nonjudgmental needs-focused framework, it brings clarity and relief to parties in disagreement.
I first came across Rosenberg’s language model in 2000 when my son, Justin, was 4 years old. At the time, I was doing research to create a course to help children process intense emotions safely. And to help parents better understand their strong feelings.
I felt such a deep connection to NVC’s reframing of an issue into observations, feelings, needs, and requests. I incorporated the four skills into my emotional intelligence course. And I named it, “All About Feelings.” Syllabus for “All About Feelings.”
For several semesters, I offered the relational literacy course to local homeschooling families. That led to my spearheading an alternative educational program for homeschoolers. The program combined several philosophies I hold dear. They are: Aware Parenting, Unschooling, also known as Self-Directed Learning, and NVC.
In 2005, I was fortunate to have the support of my husband, Joe, and several like-minded families who all pitched in to turn inspiration into reality.
Called the Compassionate Learning Center, the one-year program used NVC to manage disagreements. Rather than rely on punishments and rewards. NVC helps to resolve problems from a different mindset. It creates heartfelt connections based on the understanding that everyone is intrinsically motivated by the same basic needs, such as acceptance, safety, trust, understanding, honesty, autonomy, empathy, respect, learning, community and more.
While I discovered NVC in my late 30s, I was drawn to the art of language much earlier. In my 20s, I earned a bachelor’s degree in communications while working for a local newspaper, formerly known as The Tampa Tribune. I spent 10 years there, mostly as a reporter and copy editor. I also did a stint as a copy editor at the St. Petersburg Times, now known as the Tampa Bay Times. And I wrote a monthly parenting column for two years for a local women’s publication. My columns covered a variety of issues, including my personal challenges:
* accepting my young son’s range of emotions
* using a non-punitive approach to discipline
* trusting his innate desire to learn
* helping him heal from trauma through crying, raging, play and laughter
In 2015, I came across another wonderful language tool called Internal Family Systems (IFS). IFS is a non-pathologizing and empowering psychotherapy model. It views our internal conversations – our thoughts and emotions – as aspects or parts of ourselves. And its framework is very effective in releasing traumas.
It was at a mediation training in 2017, though, when I realized the value of using IFS to de-escalate conflict. The training was led by psychologist Dick Schwartz, the founder of IFS, and attorney and mediator David Hoffman, founding member of the Boston Law Collaborative Institute and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. I write about using IFS techniques in mediations here.
In short, IFS offers a language and a framework to help parties speak for the intense emotions and thoughts that often drive disputes. Using a language that creates space to address the underlying feelings that can be triggered when parties disagree allows people to be witnessed more easily. When that happens, people are more open to discussing the issues from a calmer, more centered place.
I’ve found NVC and IFS to be powerful communication skills that often feel like they’re magical in their ability to get to the heart of the matter. Using the two models in my personal life and in mediations inspires me to have tremendous hope for creating the kind of world I want to live in, one that supports the safe expression of strong emotions, and that values the basic needs of all species.
I live in St. Petersburg, FL, where I facilitate Authentic Interactive Communication Groups. These groups help participants to safely practice NVC and IFS in real time. A Florida Supreme Court Certified County, Family Law and Dependency mediator, I also mediate for several Judicial Circuit Courts in Florida. I incorporate NVC and IFS into my mediation practice.
If this web site interests you, please check out my two other complementary pages:
Relationship Conflict Resolution