Helpful Tools

Helpful Tools

As H. Holley Humphrey has stated, NVC is “a mixture of communication skills and awareness to use when you genuinely want to connect. You can use it to applaud someone’s victory or to help uncover what’s really troubling her. The result is often a deeper sense of connection, relief, and joy!”

(HHH): “An empathic listener will stay with you as long as she honestly can until the conversation seems complete.” Perhaps she will say, “Sounds like you’ve gotten discouraged” and you might reply, “You’re right, but now my search is over.”

(HHH) “With the focus consciously on the speaker, both people have a deeper, more meaningful experience. It becomes a mutual exploration. It is done “with” someone not “to” them.”

(HHH) “How Can You Listen More Empathically? Primarily, it’s about quality attention. Your heartfelt attitude of acceptance and alertness helps the speaker express clearly what she is trying to say. First, focus on discovering her unmet needs, with the intent to connect. Don’t get caught up in “doing it right.” It’s not about being clever. Sometimes even just connecting silently is plenty. It’s your intent that counts. To guess her unexpressed need, ask yourself, “What might she be feeling? What might she be wanting?” During pauses in her speaking, help her clarify her feelings and needs (or just her needs) with guessing phrases such as:

1. Seems as if you wish … ?
2. Were you wanting … ?
3. Are you hoping… ?

Don’t be dismayed by “No” answers. Simply use that information to hone your next guess.
If you get stuck, you might say,
“I’m stuck right now. It would really help me to listen better if I knew more about what you are wanting. Can you help me out?
Here’s a sample dialog (from HHH):

“Nobody seems to care about what’s happening in the world today!”
“Sounds like you’re feeling discouraged?”
“I just hate all the wasteful destruction.”
“You’d like a safer world?”
“Yeah. I want people to value education instead of jails.”
“Seems as if you wish that people would wake up and change their priorities before it’s too late?”
“Would you like to hear how I deal with it?”
Two more suggestions:


“When people seem to be complaining they are really poorly expressing their own feelings and needs.”Hearing “You’re so selfish” , you might say “Were you hoping I would help you out instead of reading a book?” If a grown son says “There’s no use talking to you,” you could try “Are you wishing I would just listen without trying to fix it?”

HHH “Again, to receive criticism empathically listen for the unspoken need. In hearing it as that person’s need, you’ll be less tempted to defend yourself and more available to connect.”


Read her 10 Obstacles to Empathic Listening.

HHH: “Empathic listening is a combination of
1. Having the intention to connect.
2. Focusing on clarifying the speaker’s needs first.
3. Remembering that criticism is someone’s poorly expressed feelings and unmet needs.
4. Checking the timing before offering your feelings, suggestions, corrections, etc.

H. Holley Humphrey is a certified trainer for the Center for Nonviolent Communication in Grants Pass, Oregon.

A workbook is available. Reach her at 541-862-2086, fax 541-862-2043, ore on her wensite. 

Several of us in the training would welcome the opportunity to give presentations to churches, schools, businesses and other groups you are part of. For me, hearing of Marshall’s successes with Compassionate Communication between Israelis and Palestinians, warring tribes, conflicted organizations, and alienated students, among others, I see NVC as a tool that can make a huge difference toward individual and world peace. Feel free to call me at 206-938-8385 to explore using NVC in a personal situation where you might need some empathy or role playing, or to ask questions. Can you imagine how wonderful it would feel to be listened to so compassionately? Take a step today–check the web sites, join a practice group, call for more information, listen to understand.