How to Use Nonviolent Communication in Conflicts and Disputes

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King portrait with key words behind such as nonviolent

It was my pleasure on Saturday October 10, 2020 to attend a two-hour session with Anthony Streiff on the topic of Applied Nonviolence in an Unequal World sponsored by Conflict Resolution Minnesota. Given his commentary I wanted to share with you some of my take aways from his insights and some of his sources to help you with conflict resolution, dispute resolution, and collaboration. Keep in mind this is my spin on what he shared, so this may not be exactly as Anthony Streiff intended. If I am not true to his intentions, I apologize. I recommend you consider following him on LinkedIn to learn more. He has considerable experience and education in this area.

All of us can and should take time out to center ourselves daily with mindfulness. This can be with prayer, meditation, reflection, or other similar techniques. We initiated our session with reflection and taking the time to feel our breath and center ourselves. It is a good idea in general to have a daily process like this to clear your head and it will help you to be calmer too.

As a result of the session I left with five major take aways that I can use that may help you too. These were links to feelings and needs inventories from The Center for Nonviolent Communication, an analogy related to judgments, a 10 minute video by Marshall Rosenberg on nonviolent communication, a daily five minute non-violent communication practice from A Cup of Empathy by Marianne Van Dijk from Amsterdam, Netherlands, and distinguishing feelings from thoughts with implications. Finally, some of my own thoughts to help you with nonviolent communication when working with others.


Feelings and Needs Inventories


Everyone has feelings. This link takes you to The Feelings Inventory from The Center for Nonviolent Communication. This inventory addresses both feeling that are and are not being met. It is a starting point to help you and others to help sort out your and their feelings. This link takes you to the Needs Inventory from The Center for Nonviolent Communication. Similarly, it too is a starting point to help you and others to sort out needs. By identifying feelings, it may be possible to take additional steps to work together to resolve conflicts or disputes.


An Analogy Related to Judgments


Anthon Streiff offered what I thought was a nice analogy regarding judgments. We will judge ourselves and others when in conflict. His suggestion is to hold judgments in a glass. Examine the glass. Look at the glass. This is not something to ingest. Ingesting glass will kill us. Rather recognize that we are judging and simply holding those judgments in the glass. I liked the analogy personally. While holding the judgment in the glass explore how you and the other party is feeling. The other party needs to be heard. They may be feeling powerless. They may need to be seen. They may be feeling invisible or desperate. They need to be respected. As a further extension of this thought process a video of Marshall Rosenberg being interviewed on his experience of working with warring factions around the world for 40 years was shared.


Marshall Rosenberg on Nonviolent Communication


The first 3 and half minutes of this 10 minute video provides insights on connecting to what the other party is feeling. Asking open ended questions was the key. Listening with empathy makes all the difference in the world. By sincerely caring and building trust it is possible to develop dialogue. It is important to understand both feelings and needs. (See the inventory links above). So, what can I do daily to improve? As Anthon Streiff shared this is like weightlifting. You must start small and work consistently to improve. It is a process.


A Daily Five-Minute Nonviolent Communication Practice


A daily five-minute nonviolent communication practice from A Cup of Empathy by Marianne Van Dijk from Amsterdam, Netherlands video was shared with us. Although her commentary is with life partners, it also has implications in conflicts with others too. This is a five-minute guide to self-empathy that you can apply daily. Essentially you are asked to write down each of these items. Check your core feelings, your thoughts behind those feelings, your observations associated your thoughts written in neutral terms, your needs given your observations (this is the most important step using the needs list as a starting point), and determine your request, that is the actions you are requesting. The action you are asking needs to be specific and concrete. If you do this daily according to Marianne Van Dijk, you will grow in your nonviolent communication.


Differentiating Feeling and Thoughts


One of the keys for me was to realize the difference between feelings and thoughts. For example, someone may say they feel like they are being manipulated. Being manipulated is a thought. The feelings behind being manipulated may be feelings of distress, helplessness, feeling dejected, or feeling miserable for example. It is important to distinguish feelings from thoughts with this model. This made me think and maybe it will for you too. Differentiating feelings from thoughts will cause me to consider using less violent language when identifying feelings and help me focus on the underlying feelings. Just as in a negotiation it is necessary to dig deeper to identify interests, it is also very important dig deeper to understand the feelings behind those interests.

As one last thought from my own observations, I wanted to share the NIP model with you.


The NIP Model


As a mediator I have found the NIP model to be helpful as shared previously in this blog. NIP stands for:

Notice feelings,

Investigate further, and

Problem solve together

This can work vey well in that environment where you work collectively to determine the facts, the issues associated with the facts, the feelings and emotion behind those issues, to explore interests. Behind every position is at least one interest. Expanding on the NIP model from the commentary above I learned it is important to separate feelings from thoughts. I intend to make use of the two handouts on both the needs inventory, and the two pages of the feelings inventory with when needs are met and when needs are not met going forward.

Hopefully this information may help you to as we learn and work together to resolve conflicts and disputes with others.


About the author


Mike is a professional speaker, mediator/negotiator that helps clients resolve issues and be more productive as a conflict resolution expert with the IRS and others. Is conflict blocking your results? You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]