The NVC Dogma of Feelings & Needs

Feelings and Needs, NVC Dogma?

Feelings and Needs Overdone?

In pursuing the study of NVC, I’ve encountered some surprising twists and turns along the path. Marshall Rosenberg and many certified NVC trainers emphasized the importance of feelings and needs at great length. It took me months to learn to think in this way. It took serious efforts to expand my small vocabulary of feelings and needs words.

Then I heard there are some strong beliefs that NVC overemphasizes feelings and needs. (Of course, words like “overdone” and “overemphasize” have judgmental overtones. A nonjudgmental way to express this would be, “Feelings and needs are emphasized more than some may like.” Please see previous post about the use of the word “too” for more on this.)

NVC Feelings and Needs Dogma

Recently on a teleconference, a very real-life issue was raised. Some trainers had heard that a company, about to hire an NVC trainer, changed its mind. They decided to go with a different form of communication training. The person who recommended against hiring an NVC trainer had been specific. He’d gathered that NVC was perceived as dogmatic in its approach.

Much to my astonishment, one of the established NVC insiders on the call expressed a passionate lament. “As a group we talk so constantly about feelings and needs!” He seemed concerned that people may feel nervous or hesitant when they hear the constant repetition of these two words. Some people hear them as all “touchy-feely.” Others may hear them as dogmatic, restricting our freedom to focus on things other than feelings and needs.

Word on the Street

I’d learned in “Street NVC” to adapt the style of expression to the people culture. In the business world, I tend to avoid the words “feelings and needs” as much as possible. I find it’s easy to just say, “I’m curious” rather than “I’m feeling curious.” I’d probably say “I’d like more accuracy and reliability of data” rather than “I need more accuracy and reliability of data.”

A Revealing Truth

Just a couple days ago I had the pleasure of being on another NVC teleconference. Four seasoned NVC trainers shared with deep authenticity and humility. They spoke about what they’d have done differently when they started out as trainers.

Robert Gonzalez said, in effect, that he’d have focused less on the “NVC Model.” He would have preferred to make NVC his own. To share it in a way that is unique to him and his own heart. To be more present in the actual moment of teaching or training, to make it more authentic.

I’m hopeful that many more NVC trainers will develop the inner confidence that Mr. Gonzalez has found. That more trainers will make this practice their own. To find their unique inner creativity when presenting NVC to the world.


Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also referred to as Compassionate Communication. It’s based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands. For more on services offered by Steve Pollack, please visit

In the Miami area? You can attend Steve’s NVC Support Group by

About swpollack

I’m an independent mediator and collaborative communication coach who can help you to co-create greater ease, connection and mutual understanding in your personal and professional relationships. As a non-traditional specialist, my aim is to get concrete results for my clients in a fraction of the time usually required by traditional therapy and counseling. Please visit my business website: . The emotion-based coaching work I do is deeply therapeutic, yet I am neither a psychologist nor a psychotherapist. Instead I work with a holistic, empathic process called compassionate, nonviolent communication. I also facilitate ongoing support groups for people who want to learn this organic process of nonjudgmental communication to help build bridges of connection, harmony, collaboration and understanding. For more about my Build Compassionate Relationships meetup group, visit: . I’ve been offering these services to the public since 2000 in the greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, as well as by phone and through Skype conferencing. . Nonviolent Communication is a process developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It’s based on a very pure, nonjudgmental language of feelings, needs and requests. I’ve found this to be a powerful tool in my mediation work which involves bringing two or more people together despite a painful history of conflict.
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