Intercultural Nonviolent Communication


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What is Nonviolent Communication ?


NVC  is a communication technique for the purpose of achieving mutual understanding through relationship-building. NVC Improves the quality of personal and professional relationships. This method is attributed to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg an American psychologist to help people exchange the information necessary to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully. He is the founder and Director of Educational Services for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, an international non-profit organization.

In this video, Dr Marshal Rosenberg talk on how violence and terrorism he experienced inspired his nonviolence communication method: http://bit.ly/cKF9Ar

“The basic problem… lies not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each side’s needs, desires, concerns, and fears.” Roger Fisher and William Ury authors of “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In”


The concept in Nonviolent Communication is a four stage model:

1) observing,

2) feeling,

3) needing,

4) requesting.

By clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than judging,  we  become able to listen fully with empathy and compassion. In keeping our attention focused on these areas, we help others do likewise – we establish a flow of communication, back and forth, until compassion manifests naturally.

To learn more about the benefits of  NVC please check this document: key_facts_nvc

What is Intercultural Competence?

Intercultural competence is the ability of successful communication with people of other cultures.

The potential for misunderstandings between two different cultures communicating is very high increasing the risk for conflicts and violence.  Through translation errors or wrong interpretation of  body language,  intercultural miscommunication occur and what you do or say may be perceived by the opposite culture as funny, rude or confusing. With these considerations in mind, the combination of possibilities for misinterpretations is increasingly elevated. Using Nonviolent communication method is very useful to reduce the risk of intercultural miscommunication.

If you are new to a country or interact in a multicultural environment, it might be helpful to learn some typical cultural traits such as directness, avoiding conflicts, facts orientation, expressing emotions, business etiquette etc. to avoid typical ‘faux pas” but beware of  bias, prejudices and stereotypes that will prevent you to have an authentic conversation with people with different cultural backgrounds. It is better to show your ignorance and humility, identify your needs and learn how to ask for what you want with cultural sensitivity. As human beings we are all compassionate by nature and enjoy giving to others.  I have observed this natural compassion in both western and eastern cultures.

I also think it is important to start by a  Meta-communication process (communicating about communication) by sharing both cultural similarities and differences with tact to make sure the way you talk is understood and that you hear correctly the other person’s needs; otherwise you can get a clash later by overlooking what your partners are really expecting from you.

Conclusion: Intercultural communication does not differ from other types of interpersonal communication. To avoid conflicts, you can use your natural empathy and apply the NVC model with great success. For future expats, I highly recommend  to read Rosenberg’s book and practice how to use NVC skills.


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