Life is tough without a coherent system that helps you make sense of what happens. But finding the right system is a task each person must do for herself.

It’s taken a while but the system that works best for me is Non Violent Communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg. I am grateful to Mike Murphy for introducing me to NVC by holding a workshop and starting a weekly practice group.

Nonviolent Communication begins with the premise that we all have needs for autonomy, connection, meaning, peace and physical well being. Everything we do is an attempt to meet these needs.Sometimes we are aware of our and other people’s needs; sometimes we are not. One way to discover needs is to judge; another way is to look at our feelings. When needs are met, we experience certain feelings; when needs are not met, we experience other feelings.

Clarifying feelings helps clarify needs; once we know what our needs are, then we can start brainstorming ways to meet them. We can also have self-empathy for the needs we have that may not be met. This process works for understanding other people’s needs too.

NVC offers a neutral and alternative way to understand human behavior. Not relying on judgments is liberating. I’m pretty good at focusing on other people’s needs but NVC helps me focus on my needs without out feeling bad because I have needs. Finally, NVC is portable, is simple to use as a self check up and helps put space between a thought or feeling and action. The data we retrieve on other humans is big data with lots of noise. NVC helps me find the signal in the data and ignore the noise.