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conflictual versus benevolent relationship

conflictual versus benevolent relationship

Published: 24-07-2022 - Last Edited: 20-09-2022


Non Violent Communication (NVC – Marshall Rosenberg) as an opportunity to create a deeper connection in your relationships.

Whether it is a conflictual exchange with a spouse, family member, friend, or colleague, we can defuse tensions quickly. Better yet, we can create an opportunity to develop the relationship or even strengthen it after a disagreement.

The palliative to relational difficulties, capable of transcending conflicts and transforming them positively, is benevolent communication.

Let’s clarify what it means and doesn’t mean to be benevolent. Some might think it is not a weakness and softness of the mind but rather its substantial strength and virtuous power.

Benevolence is a voluntary approach that aims at the well-being and happiness of the other; it is a disposition that favors understanding and indulgence. It is also defined as an aptitude for altruism and a propensity to live one’s emotions in complete awareness. In short, it is a state of being that contributes to the harmony of relationships and society: This is not a tiny thing!

Thus, as benevolent communication is likely to transform our conflicts into opportunities to create harmonious relationships and contribute to a better world, we are interested in practicing it!

But could it be challenging to change our communication style? Yes, because we have learned to break our predisposition to communicate benevolently from our earliest childhood. However, we can return to our innate ability and place it at the heart of our relationships. Then, we will be able to transform our sometimes repetitive conflicts into an opportunity to evolve and strengthen the bond that unites us with each other.

You will find below tips borrowed from NVC (Nonviolent Communication) to achieve this. In these few lines, you will find explanations that will allow you to understand better and measure this method’s validity.

Also, I recommend the practical online course of Sophie Parienti, a renowned personal development coach, who taught me this technique (see her approach below).

Discover >>> Sophie Parienti & Jesse Gabler’s practical online course on positive conflict resolution: Transformative Communication for an (Extra)ordinary Relationship!

How a conflictual exchange arise.

Conflict arises in a conversation when unpleasant emotions pass through the filter of the protagonists’ brain interpretations. The latter transforms them into thoughts which in turn generate negative feelings. We will express reproaches, judgments, or criticisms if unaware that they indicate unmet needs.

Read also – Emotions & Feelings, or how to calm your mind (in French).

When resentment is expressed, it puts the person addressed in a defensive position. Feeling attacked by the words, and insofar as their needs are also unsatisfied at that moment, they point to the other person as responsible for their emotional state. A fight ensues where each person tries to be right by rejecting the responsibility of what animates them internally.

Far from allowing a benevolent exchange, such conversations generally lead to a rupture. Understanding that what is at stake for each person is the satisfaction of fundamental and legitimate needs helps to avoid this escalation. Using nonviolent communication daily prohibits conflicts in relationships and promotes intimacy.

How to transform a conflictual exchange into an opportunity to create a connection.

Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication method (NVC) is as effective in transforming a conflict situation as it is simple to integrate. It is a conscious, authentic, and responsible communication that generates empathy and favors benevolent exchange, affinity, and even intimacy.

Here are the four fundamental steps of the technique to transform conflicting relational situations into opportunities for the relationship’s growth. 

1 – Observe what is happening.

Let’s take the example of two people having a conversation, one interrupting the other constantly. An overwhelmed emotion rises upon the one being interrupted. That person gets caught up in a whirlwind of negative feelings, suddenly exclaiming, “We can never talk to you! You are always interrupting me! You never pay attention to others anyway!”

You can imagine the possible consequences of these judgments and interpretations. Suppose this person had integrated and used Marshall Rosenberg’s communication method (NVC). In that case, a conflict could have been avoided.

  • By first becoming aware of their emotion, they would have positioned themselves as observers of the experience. Then, they would have described the situation objectively, without judgment, by simply noting that one was interrupted in their speech and could not express themselves.  

Also Read>>> Signs of a Healthy Relationship

The emotion would then have been calmed by the attention paid to observing the facts. The interlocutor would not have felt attacked by this factual presentation of the situation, and no conflict would have arisen.

But the technique does not stop at the observation of facts and enables one to express feelings constructively.

2. Express your feelings.

Once the facts have been observed, it is a matter of looking at the emotion or feeling generated by the situation experienced. Then, it is to express it without returning to interpretations that would make the other person responsible again. It is necessary to avoid using the personal pronouns you and to use I, for one cannot speak of oneself, of what one feels, by pointing at others.

The list of emotions and feelings that drive us is long, and it is sometimes difficult to identify them correctly.

  • In our example, the interrupted person could feel overwhelmed, disillusioned, upset, angry, etc. Let’s consider that this person feels annoyed at being interrupted several times in their speech. That is what they need to say to their interlocutor after describing the context that gave rise to this feeling.

This work of identification of feelings, which facilitates the awareness of oneself and the expression of one’s feelings, favors the construction of a benevolent link. It allows you to move on to the next step and access more intimacy.

3. Identify your needs.

Even though we all experience more or less the same needs, they are not identically fundamental. They are not prioritized the same way for each of us either. Because our education, our encounters, our culture, and everything at the origin of our belief system have allowed us to elaborate our strategies to satisfy them or limit our ability to meet them.

Here are some fundamental needs: the need for security, understanding, attention, intimacy, creativity, empathy, rest, relaxation, connection, sharing, etc. The list is not exhaustive.

  • Let’s go back to our example. We know that the unpleasant emotion generated by the abovementioned situation correlates with a fundamental need that is not being satisfied. The point here is to identify it; in our case, the need for consideration could be the one that is not satisfied.

Of course, other intermediate and perhaps even deeper needs may lie behind the emotion or feeling experienced by this person. But let’s imagine that this one is identified. This step of expressing the need will allow for the infusion of understanding, compassion, and empathetic curiosity into the exchange.

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Then comes the action that will support the ultimate appeasement of the relationship and favours strengthening the connection.

4. Formulate a request.

At this stage of the conversation, where a connection is established, it remains to open the dialogue, allowing the one inconvenienced to be deeply appeased and continue to talk without affecting the other in return.

The formulation of a request is an invitation to continue a conversation under good conditions. The demand must be expressed positively, i.e., avoiding reducing the situation to failures and bringing it to the level of possibilities. This request must be feasible, concrete, and satisfactory for everyone.

  • In our case, it is a question of finding the means and suggesting it so that one feels considered and the other has the possibility of expressing themselves when they feel the need. At this stage, a common ground that allows the exchange to be valued is in place, and more intimacy is possible.

Marshall Rosenberg’s four stages of communication in action.

Here is what the person who is affected by the situation could concretely express and how the exchange could turn out if they followed the four stages of communication recommended by Marshall Rosenberg:

  • When I speak and am interrupted, I feel overwhelmed. I understand that this is due to my deep need for consideration. What do you think about the idea that we use a “witness” who would allow us time to talk to each other? We would take the object in hand whenever we needed to express ourselves.

At this point in the conversation, it has gone through the filter of the four NVC steps; it is by no means an aggressive exchange but rather a caring one. The communicative bridge between the two people invites more attention to the other. It can also lead to expressing each other’s needs and infusing more intimacy.

Let’s be vigilant! Sometimes, despite using NVC, emotions and other negative feelings persist. That is generally due to a wrong identified need. Behind the one expressed, there is probably a fundamental one more directly related to the feeling. It may also be a poorly formulated request, lacking precision or clashes with the other person’s need. It is then necessary to go back through this same process which, once integrated through practice, becomes a regular and spontaneous communication.

Also Read>>> NVC by Marshall Rosenberg


“How we communicate with others, and ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” Anthony Robbins

Our communication impacts our lives, and it would be better to cheer it up instead of sobering it up by adjusting our speech here and there. That is what Marshall Rosenberg’s method allows us to do. And this is what you can do by integrating it to the point that it becomes your communication habit.

The stepping back involved in each step of NVC allows us to become aware of and learn from ourselves and the other person and to rediscover our innate and too often forgotten faculty of benevolence. It will enable us to live our relationships with others and with ourselves peacefully. Relationships integrating NVC as part of their communication style successfully move away from all ideas of bad or good and can stay focused on the intention to stay connected.

I hope you will have beautiful encounters with authentic, inspiring, and benevolent exchanges. Please take note of these tips from the NVC teachings and apply them daily in your interactions to transform your relationships!

B. Gerber Fleury loves to write, share and inspire. Mother of four, author, she can be reached here on FB.

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