Communication during conflict has a reputation of being aggressive and unproductive, however it does not have to be that way at all. In fact, working through opposing views using nonviolent communication (NVC) techniques can lead to overall stronger outcomes by weaving the best of all perspectives together. The Nonviolent Communication model is based on empathetically listening and honestly expressing (Center for Nonviolent Communication, 2013b). When a person listens with empathy, they observe the other person openly and without judgment, seeking to understand their feelings, needs, and motivation for their requests. When a person expresses honestly they openly share their observations, truthfully express their feelings and needs, and make their requests without demanding them.
By listening with empathy and expressing honestly, communicators and collaborators are embracing the 3 Rs of communication. They are participating in respectful, reciprocal, and responsive interactions. When listening with empathy and expressing with honesty an individual is being respectful to their communication partner by considering their unique perspective and needs. They are being reciprocal by continuously sharing ideas back and forth. They are being responsive by taking the time to understand the big picture and to come to a common solution. By using the 3 Rs a person is choosing to be a competent communicator.
When working in collaborative situations with a variety of stakeholders, everyone comes to the table with a set of goals. Often the goals are aligned, but the focus is skewed based on the needs and perspectives of the individual organization or contributor. When these organizations or individuals only focus on what will best move their work forward without considering what is best for all, then they are contributing to unproductive conflict. When they take the time to observe and understand what they need and make a clear request, as they observe and understand the needs and requests of the other stakeholders focusing on the goals of the entire group, then they are committed to NVC.
In the field of early childhood, it seems we often live in the silos of our particular interest, home care, for profit centers, non profit centers, Head Start, TANF, higher education, accreditation, QRIS, Strong Start and other special interest groups. Although we all have a common goal focused on creating programs, policies and practices that are in the best interest of all young children, their families and the professionals who work with them, we can become skewed by our particular focus and hold tight to our needs. As a field of practice, I would suggest, all facets of the field of early childhood care and education must embrace NVC techniques and use the 3Rs of communication so we can weave together the best of what each of our perspectives are and reach our shared goal.
Center for Nonviolent Communication. (2013a). NVC Concepts. Retrieved from
Cetner for Nonviolent Communication. (2013b) The NVC Model. Retrieved from: