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Designing Neuroinclusive Cultures Through Nonviolent Communication/ Compassionate Communication

Teachers from La Vertice School
Teachers from La Vertice School

For this year, one of the voluntary efforts that we focused on is to provide trainings for schools in the Philippines around "Designing Neuroinclusive Classrooms Through Nonviolent Communication (NVC)" or otherwise known as Compassionate Communication. We have trained 50+ teachers from two different schools (La Vertice School and Creative Learning Paths School) and our goal is to at least have 100 teachers trained before the end of this year.

So what is Nonviolent Communication or Compassionate Communication?

Nonviolent Communication or Compassionate Communication is a form of interpersonal communication founded by psychologist Dr. Marshall Rosenberg that is inspired by compassion and solidarity.Used by a world network of mediators, facilitators and volunteers, NVC helps to improve relations and to act with practical and effective means to promote peace.

“NVC is a specific approach to communicating (speaking and listening) that leads us to give from the heart, connecting us with ourselves and with each other in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish.”

- Marshall Rosenberg

Nonviolent Communication is a giving and receiving of messages that centers on two very important questions:

What’s alive in us?

What can we do to make life more wonderful?

In a nutshell: NVC guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and on how we hear others. It is based on the intention of creating the quality of connection with other people and oneself that allows compassionate giving to take place. It trains us to observe carefully, be able to specify behaviours and conditions that are affecting us, clearly articulate our feelings and longings in the given situation and express our requests in a language of compassion. Crucial to NVC is the practice of “empathy”.


Worksheet on SEE-HEar-Feel Empathy
Worksheet on SEE-HEar-Feel Empathy

In NVC we use the term empathy to describe the energy of presence, creating inner calm and focus so that we can hold non‐judgmental awareness. Marshall's book defines empathy as:

  • "A respectful understanding of what others are experiencing"

  • "empathy occurs only when we have successfully shed all preconceived ideas and judgements"


The next few statements might seem so familiar to you. Empathy Blockers are statements you have heard from others or statements that you have used for yourself or for others that instantly create disconnection.

As you read through the list, remember the times that you were in a difficult situation,

  • What lines did you hear from other people during that period?

  • How did you react?

  • How did the connection go from there?

You can also use the list to reflect on your connection with others.

  • Which among the roadblocks do you find yourself using?

  • When did you use it?

  • How did the connection go from there?

Things that Block Empathy:


Threatening: “If you are not able to get to work on time we’ll have to review your job here?”, “Do it or else.”

Ordering: “I’ll see you immediately in my office.”, “Don’t ask me why, just do it because I said so.”

Criticising: “You don’t work hard enough.”, “You’re always complaining.”

Name-calling: “Only an idiot would say that.”, “You stupid fool.” “You’re neurotic.”

“Should’’ing or “Ought”ing: “You ought to face the facts.”, “You shouldn’t be so angry.”


Withholding Relevant Information: “If you knew more about this you would see it differently.”

Interrogating: “How many hours did this take you?” “How did it happen?" “What are you doing now?”

Praising to Manipulate: “You’re so good at report writing, I’d like you to do this one.”

Expectation: “You should have known this by now. Don't let it get to you.”


Diagnosing/Labeling: “You are very possessive.” “You’ve always had a problem with time management.”

Untimely Advice: “I don’t seem to be managing.” “If you’d just straighten up your desk you would not be in this panic.” “Why didn’t you do it this way?” “Just Ignore him.”

Changing the Topic: “I’m worried about my son’s progress at school”. “Yes it is a worry…Did I tell you that I’m applying for a new job?”

Persuading with Logic: “There’s nothing to be upset about. It’s all quite reasonable – we just… then we…”.

Topping: “I smashed the car last week…… ” “When I smashed my car…”

Put down: “Don't be silly, don't be ridiculous!”

Stealing the thunder: “Now you know how I felt when something like this happened to me.”


Refusing to Address the Issue: “There’s nothing to discuss. I can’t see any problems.”

Reassuring: “Don’t be nervous.”, “Don’t worry, it will work out.”, “You’ll be fine.”

Cheering up: “Let's not dwell on this too much. Here let me tell you something funny.”

Downplaying: “Oh don't cry, it's not the end of the world. Other people have it more difficult.”

Distracting: “Why don't we look at this amazing object instead?”

Download the following worksheets to explore your understanding of empathy and empathy blockers.

Empathy and Empathy Blockers
Download PDF • 136KB

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