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Communicate a difficult message without hurting feeling


We believe that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, shame, etc. These "violent" modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.

We designed a communication process to help you deal with this challenge. This practice is to be used face to face and alone with your interlocutor.

Careful here, this practice does not work if one of the two parties has "voluntarily" injured the other and the source of the problem is not an error, and if the other person is angry.


Describe the facts without judgment

Describe as factually as possible, and without judgment, the situation you reproach the person you are speaking to. Don't get away from the facts.

Example: "Last time you see, you have...[Insert factual fact]"


Share your feelings

Many emotions are at stake in this type of return. You must speak on the same level as your interlocutor: that of emotions. Expressing your emotions will create an emotional bridge and defuse tensions with the other person.

  • For example you can say:

  • .... It made me angry,
  • .... It scared me,
  • .... This surprised me,
  • .... It saddened me.

Let your interlocutor express his feelings

Once you have expressed your emotions, let your interlocutor react, or ask the following question: "And you, what did you feel?".

Listen and do not interrupt your interlocutor.


Let your interlocutor express the ideal situation / cause of the error

It is possible that your interlocutor expresses directly the root of the problem / his need after having given his emotions.

If not, ask the following question: "What pissed you off/scared/surprised/ saddened you?

For example: Your interlocutor will say: "This is so irritating for me because[the root of the problem / his or her need]. Isolate the root of the problem for the next step.


Define the ideal situation for you

Once the emotions of your interlocutor are released and his need expressed, it is time to express the situation to the ideal you expect.

First acknowledge the reception of your interlocutor's feedback. For example, you can say: "I understand correctly.

Once its done, it is time to express the situation to the ideal you expect.

"I understand correctly. For me, I would have preferred that...[describe the situation ideally for yourself]


Translate the ideal situation into an action plan with your interlocutor

In order to avoid new similar difficult situation, share mutually what you expect in the form of actions with your interlocutor :

"Are you okay if next time we.... ?" or "What do you think we should do next time to avoid this situation?"

Center for Nonviolent Communication
Organisation internationale vouée à la promotion de la communication non-violente
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