Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Austin

Wise Words: Dian Killian

Nonviolent Communication Promotes Judgment-free Expression

by Sheila Julson

When we disagree with people, it’s easy to make snap judgments about the other person, resulting in verbal conflict and even physical violence. Inspired by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his principles of nonviolence and social action, Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. founded The Center for Nonviolent Communication in the 1960s and developed Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to teach compassionate, nonviolent strategies for us to effectively communicate and understand each other.

Today, facilitators are carrying on the late Rosenberg’s vision of collaborative communication. Dian Killian, Ph.D. is a certified trainer through The Center for Nonviolent Communication and a certified life coach. Through her business, Work Collaboratively, LLC, she has been facilitating NVC workshops for 15 years. She recently shared with Natural Awakenings the concepts behind NVC and what’s in store for her February workshops in Austin, which are co-sponsored by HoustonNVC.

What is Nonviolent Communication?

It’s all about restoring connection—connection with ourselves, so we have more choice—and also connection with others. During the course of a day, we can have differences with people where we might have a thought or judgment about the person or a situation, but we can resolve that and hear what’s going on with the other person. NVC teaches us to come up with a solution that works for both people.

Through NVC you learn self-empathy, and by practicing self-empathy, we can become clear about what really matters to us on a core level, manage our own response and have more choice. It gives us the skills and tools to speak with other people to find out what’s going on with them. We don’t give up our own needs, but we find a solution that works for both people.

Can Nonviolent Communication help ease our natural instinct to judge, especially in today’s negatively divisive culture?

Absolutely. I’m not the only one saying that our country is really divided, and one program people are interested in now is how to communicate across political divides. How do we find a way to hear each other? That’s really crucial, in my opinion, if we’re going to move forward as a culture and a country.

I’m convinced that some of the greatest violence that occurs in the world is how we speak to ourselves. If we’re unhappy with a choice that we made, how do we speak to ourselves in a way that’s constructive and positive, leading us to what we really want to manifest in our lives? How do we make friends with our inner critic? We’ve all inherited things we’ve heard while growing up, like ‘I’m not good enough.’ NVC shows us how to ‘compost’ those into something that will be life serving.

What makes Nonviolent Communication unique?

This process has four simple steps: observation, which is about what you’ve heard or seen, without evaluation mixed in. That can be a lot harder than it sounds, because it’s easy for us to think our judgments are true. Step two is noticing what we’re feeling, and sensations in our body. Then third, we identify what matters to us about the situation on a core level, in terms of needs. The fourth step is to make a request of others and ourselves. This request can be a connection request or a concrete, positive and doable request. What’s key is that it’s free of demand.

NVC is not just about resolving conflict, or getting other people to do things, it’s a very powerful practice to celebrate what is working in our lives and generate more of that. Once we identify the core values and we know how to make powerful requests, we can start manifesting things more easily and powerfully in our lives.

What can attendees expect from your Austin workshops?

On February 5, there will be a general introduction program that gives people a taste of NVC before they sign up for the two-day program the following weekend. It’s very hands on and interactive. We will dive in and give people a first-hand experience to see how powerful it is and how it works. In the two-day program February 9 and 10, we’ll support people in practicing NVC through role-playing, fun games and activities, like Empathy Poker and the NVC Dance Floors. We’ll practice all four NVC steps in depth.

There’s also a special two-day program February 7 and 8 for social workers, therapists and professional coaches that will explore how to integrate NVC listening practices to support their clients.

Each workshop is limited to 30 participants to provide everyone with individual coaching and support.

For more information, or to register for the workshops, visit or call 718-797-9525.

Upcoming Events Near You
Read the Digital Magazine



Global Brief
Health Brief