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Interpersonal conflict

People don't always get along. That's something we have to accept. What we don't have to accept are toxic interactions. We have the ability to change how we communicate. While we can't change the other person, how we decide to interact with people will influence the outcome.

Interpersonal conflict
Interpersonal conflict

Nonviolent communication

Nonviolent communication, or NVC, was created by Marshall Rosenberg. It's a process of communication that helps us slow down and communicate with people in a way that reduces conflict. It has three to four steps depending upon who you ask.


Observe what happened and articulate it. What did the person say or do? Don't read into it though. You don't get to read the other person's mind or tell them what they think or feel. You might say, "when I heard you say that I'm mean..."


After making the observation, what did you feel? Continuing the example, we might say, "When I heard you say that I'm mean, I felt really anxious in my stomach." Notice that we are focusing on what we feel, not what we think the other person was trying to do to us.


Now we try to get in touch with the underlying needs that the feelings point toward. We don't have feelings for no reason. They feelings are information to help us navigate the environment. Feelings point toward needs. We have to follow them like breadcrumbs to pilot ourselves through life. For our example we might say, "When I heard you say that I'm mean, I felt really anxious in my stomach. I need to feel safe in my communication with you." We say this because the knot in our stomach is telling us that we don't feel safe. We feel attacked. We need to change that by letting the other person know what's happening.


Finally, we make a request. Notice that it isn't a demand. We don't have the right to coerce people or attack them back. We tell them what we need and then make a request. In our example it might look like this. "When I heard you say that I'm mean, I felt really anxious in my stomach. I need to feel safe in my communication with you. Would you please tell me what I did that hurt you rather than call me mean?"


While we don't have the right to force people to meet our requests, we do get to make boundaries. We can decide that if a person isn't willing to engage us in nonviolent communication and ignores our requests, that we stop making plan with that person or reduce our contact with them. Learning to create and enforce boundaries is a critical component to mastering interpersonal conflict.


If you are experiencing a lot of interpersonal conflict, please contact me. I work with people to improve their nonviolent communication skills and boundaries. Learning nonviolent communication also yields the skill of understanding our feelings better as well as what we need. Not only do we learn how to communicate better, we learn to access the truer and deeper parts of ourselves as well.

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