Compassionate Communication Workshops: April-May 2018

From 30th April to 2nd May 2018, two workshops of Nonviolent Communication were organized in Ho Chi Minh City thanks to the collaborative efforts of Eurasia Learning Institute (ELI), Hon Viet, LIFE Psychology and Authentic Live&Learn. 

The two workshops have cultivated the practice of Nonviolent Communication to nearly 100 participants coming from Business and NGO background. Arnaud Durand, the workshop’s instructor from Switzerland, is a Social-Emotional Learning trainer of ELI. He has spent many years practicing Nonviolent Communication and giving a number of trainings on this approach all over the world.


Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is an approach to an open-hearted living, developed by Marshall Rosenberge in the 1960s. It is based on the assumption that any kind of violence in communication, whether verbal or physical, should be altered by compassion. This approach allows us to recognize the common ground that we share – the basic human needs. From there, we are able to take further actions to a more authentic and understanding way of communication and connection.

The NVC community is active in over 65 countries around the globe, but haven’t been widely introduced in Vietnam. Therefore, the purpose of this course is to nurture the Vietnamese audience with the fundamentals of NVC knowledge and practice in a connected and safe surrounding. The workshop is hoped to open their mind and their heart to take initial attempts of applying NVC to their daily life. 

Feelings and needs as our life’s essential part

In the bustle and hustle of Ho Chi Minh City, the participants underwent a typical morning traffic jam. Arriving in the workshop’s location, many of them shared in the feelings’ check-in that their mind were still spinning after the noisy and suffocating rush.

To revive their inner peace, the workshop started right away with the first practice: imagine a happy moment of this morning, share your feelings during that moment and find out the needs behind those feelings. The participants were encouraged to observe the moment without evaluation, express their feelings honestly and practice deep listening for their partners.

This practice had turned on a positive learning mood for participants and evoked their feeling of safety while communicating. “It’s been a long time since I paid attention to what makes me happy, that’s why the exercise of thinking about a happy moment is what touched me the most”, a participant remarked.

In this practice, by exploring their needs after calling the name of their feelings, the participants started to be aware that feelings and needs are the essential part of daily life.

This was when their journey to practice NVC began. Taking some very first steps in the NVC process, they had got in touch with three out of four components:

(1) Observation: the facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as different to our interpretation

(2) Feelings: emotions or sensations that reflect whether our needs met or unmet

(3) Needs: universal human needs hidden behind feelings and judgments

(4) Request: request for specific actions, free of demand.


Everything we do is in service of need

During the workshop, the participants were asked to do different practices in a group of three. They will take turn to be the speaker, listener and observer. This role switching helped the participants to recognize the importance of each role and how they impact the quality of communication.

“Working in small group helped me feel safe. I’m grateful for the willingness of all members to listen to me and make me feel recognized”, a participant shared.

With some practices, there were very deep emotional exchange in the group. This rarely happens between new friends, but the commitment of non-judgment attitude and deep listening to other participants had made it possible.

Expressing feelings is “the first door leading to the exploration of needs”, said instructor Arnaud. The second door is judgments, in which we listen to the judgments we give to ourselves and others.

Therefore, on the second day of the workshop, the participants were asked to reflect and speak about both feelings and judgments. One of the given exercise is to share about an unhappy situation that hasn’t been solved yet – to observe it as an outside, talk about their feelings and judgments they have for themselves and others, then look for the hidden needs behind them; after that, review our feelings to see whether it has changed after the needs are spoken.

“Looking at the judgments, I dislike myself and others. Looking at the needs behind the judgments, I sympathize for myself and others”, a participant remarked after the exercise.

“Actions reveal people’s needs, so we should not base on actions to solve problems but to look at their needs”, shared another participant.

At the end, instructor Arnaud closed this exercise by a beautiful saying:

“In the mud of judgments, there is the lotus of beautiful needs.”

Making specific requests is a challenge


NVC Dance Floor is the most favourite practice of the participants. This is the final practice and requires them to integrate all the knowledge and components they had learnt during the workshop. What was tough is to be able to make the right requests to move a situation forward. And to make the right requests, “you really need to dig deeper to your core needs”, said instructor Arnaud.

On the floor of each group, five areas (Observation, Feeling, Judgment, Need and Request) were positioned to the order of NVC’s process. Like other practices, while a member was dealing with their issue, the others would play as the Listener and Observer. The participants would step their feet on the area they were working on, then move to the next area when they are done with the previous one.

“I was surprised that when I was on my NVC dance floor, I couldn’t move to the Request area because I couldn’t finish the identification of my core Need”, remarked a participant.

“Coming up with a Request is a really hard part that I don’t think I have learnt how to do it as well as I expected. I hope next time we could have more time to learn how to make a request that balance our needs & other’s needs”, shared another one.

This situation was shared by many other participants. This was where the Listener would step in and give their support by paraphrasing and giving suggestions of feeling and needs if needed in order for the speaker to get deeper into what is alive in him/her.

From there, instructor Arnaud emphasized that while identifying specific requests is sometimes very complex, “working with others might help us figure out the needs quicker”.

Great collaboration made great workshops

These two successful NVC workshops were the result of the great collaboration of Eurasia Learning Institute (ELI), Hon Viet, LIFE Psychology and Authentic Live&Learn. Each organisation took charge of different aspects of the workshops and they did a wonderful job. 

Arnaud Durand, the trainer from ELI brought practical and engaging content and facilitation. His charismatic workshop leading was primarily about how he delivered NVC knowledge in a lively demonstrable approach, and how he took care of the participants and volunteers in a humanistic way.  The participants were also impressed with the Q&A section, where he clarified, captured and interpreted the participants’ concerns and questions with patience, skills and focus.

LIFE Psychology and Authentic Live&Learn made significant efforts to promote the workshops to the right target audience in Business and NGO sections – those who have the highest need for finding suitable communicative approaches to diverse audience groups in many complex situations.

Hon Viet laid out the workshop with a spacious convenient room, great meals and tea breaks as well as perfect facility management. They also found the two wonderful Vietnamese translators, Huynh Nguyen & Nhat Nguyen. They had made a comprehensive Vietnamese translation and flexible co-facilitation with the instructor when needed. 

Going forward

Most of the participants were very interested in maintaining the practice of NVC in their daily life and take part in more advanced NVC workshops in the future.

“I want to attend other course to learn more about NVC, concentrate more on skills and methods to apply NVC as a psychology practitioner”, said a participant.

“I want to practice NVC frequently and become a NVC trainer so NVC can be more widely shared and benefit the community”, shared another one.

After the workshops, a NVC practice group has been created on Facebook and is working very actively. They are going to see each other every month to practice NVC together.

100% of the participants said in the feedback sheets that they will recommend this workshop to their friends and family members.