The Four Tools

The Four Tools

The four components of Nonviolent Communication are powerful tools to show us where to focus our attention to support compassionate, powerful communication and clear, life-serving decision-making.

First Tool: Distinguishing Observations from Evaluations

The first tool provides the handle that allows us to effectively use the other three tools to build compassionate relationships. The ability to discriminate between the external events that are happening in our lives and our internal reactions to those moment-to-moment occurrences (judgments, categorizations, and evaluations) opens the door to clarity of experience and expression. It helps to remove barriers that often keep us from connecting deeply with ourselves and others and from enjoying life.

Second Tool: Owning Our Feelings and Recognizing the Difference Between Our Feelings and Our Thoughts

We feel every moment of our lives: sometimes our feelings are as very calm, sometimes very powerful, sometimes positive, sometimes painful. Feelings are life-sustaining barometers that let us know when the weather is clear and when a storm is brewing or upon us. Acknowledging and understanding our feelings can guide us in taking ownership and responsibility for what’s going on inside us and help us identify what we deeply value and want in life. If we mistake our thoughts (judgments and evaluations) for our feelings we lose the clarity that supports powerful, life-serving decision-making. If we blame others for our feelings, we give up our power to take charge of our experience. Center for Nonviolent Communication List of Feelings

Third Tool: Differentiating Between Our Needs and Our Strategies for Getting What We Need

Needs, such as love, connection, understanding, and joy) are the qualities or values of life that sustain us and enable us to grow. They are shared by everyone — they are universal. They offer a deep understanding of what motivates us. They are the doorway to compassion for ourselves and all beings. They are the ground of our connection with all life. If we confuse our strategies (our specific desires) with our needs we can get stuck. We can hold so tightly to our strategies that we do not allow ourselves the vision to explore all the ways we could possibly meet our needs. We can experience conflict when we lock horns with another over how to proceed even as our deep needs and values are the same. If we focus on strategies from the standpoint of what someone (ourselves or others) deserves, we risk losing compassion and connection and not seeing the life-infused motivations for all choices. Center for Nonviolent Communication List of Needs

Fourth Tool: Offering Requests Rather Than Making Demands

A clear, doable, positive request is a powerful approach for getting what we value in life. A person may choose to do what we demand of them, but if they act in any way from fear, guilt, shame, or obligation we will not have their goodwill. And without this they will not be working with us or we with them. In ways often subtle and at times unconscious, demands will be eroded and the needs and lives of all those involved in the demand will be affected. Working with others by means of clear and doable requests and shared decision-making leads to powerful processes and outcomes that result from truly cooperative undertakings.