Compassionate or Nonviolent Communication (NVC)… and eating disorders

Last updated on August 10th, 2022

How does NVC fit in with Family-Based Treatment (FBT) for eating disorders?

FBT requires parents to be non-blaming, to give unconditional acceptance, to have low 'expressed emotion' (e.g. shouting). Nonviolent Communication can help do this.

What's NVC, and where you can learn it

Compassionate Communication is behind all the resources I offer. Chapter 13 of my book, in particular, and many of my Bitesize audio clips, show you some truly useful principles, which you can use in any situation.

Compassionate Communication, or Nonviolent Communication, or NVC (all trademarked terms for the same thing) is a practice to bring peace to yourself, and to speak and listen in ways that lead to connection and understanding.

It was originally devised by Marshall B Rosenberg, and continues to develop worldwide through the Center for Nonviolent Communication and its network of Certified Trainers. The approach has been used, and continues to be used, in conflict resolution in war-torn zones, and is just as suitable for ordinary family interactions.

NVC is mostly a set of principles. There are skills to learn and practice and formulae to guide you, but it’s best to think of these as stepping stones to developing a compassionate mindset.

Although Marshall Rosenberg trained as a psychologist, NVC wasn’t intended to be a psychotherapy, though it’s expanded in that direction. It’s not a religion, though it seems to integrate well with people’s spiritual aspirations. It provides a helpful structure to organise our thoughts, make sense of our feelings, communicate with clarity and make decisions in line with our values. It helps us move on when we’re stuck, supports us when we’re in distress, and opens up highways to a full and rich life. It helps us take responsibility for ourselves, empathise with others, and communicate clearly, assertively, and of course, with compassion. Sometimes it goes as deep as the deepest psychotherapy, and it can be as grounding as any meditative practice. It can help you create change in the world. And it can be a tool to say, ‘Bullshit!’

Nonviolent Communication doesn't treat allergy to cats
NVC does everything for me except cure my allergy to cats.

Principles of Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication places an emphasis on what it calls ‘needs’. It defines needs as fundamental, life-enhancing, and universal to all human beings. We have basic physical needs, as well as qualities or values that deeply matter to us. NVC posits that we live and communicate better when we hold our needs as well as other people’s with care. We seek to meet needs, but there is also a place for mourning unmet needs (leading to acceptance), and celebrating needs that are met (awakening gratitude).

NVC assumes that we are all compassionate by nature and that behind every action is an attempt to meet a need. Needs drive the wonderful things people do to live to the full and care for others. But when people are unaware of their needs, when they don’t trust that their needs matter to others, or when they choose ineffective strategies to get their needs met, their actions can be tragic or violent.

Another principle of NVC is that our thoughts and feelings come not from the world does to us, but from how we respond to our needs being met or not met. Thoughts and feelings give us precious indications about what needs, and so we become attuned to them and welcome them in (our own and other people’s) without judgement.

Find courses on Nonviolent Communication

My book uses NVC a lot. There is a whole chapter on tools for wellbeing and compassionate communication (with examples relevant to eating disorders) in Chapter 13. And the next two chapters put so much of it in action too.

If you’d like to learn more, find courses or groups or Certified Trainers world-wide, or if you’d like to make a financial contribution towards NVC, go to the Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Certified NVC Trainers don’t just run courses: they can also support you with much-needed compassion in one-to-one sessions in person or by phone or Skype. I’ve come to find this more effective than any form of psychotherapy I’ve tried.

Great books to teach yourself Nonviolent Communication

I learned a lot of NVC at a time I couldn’t go off to courses. Here are some great books:

The most obvious book to read is Nonviolent Communication: a language of life  by Marshall B Rosenberg.

I also like Being Genuine – Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real by Certified Trainer Thomas d’Ansembourg. He is Belgian, and if you read French you can read the original “Cessez d’être gentil soyez vrai : Être avec les autres en restant soi-même”.

Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids – 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflicts Into Co-operation by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson is a good NVC book for parents.

There are so many more. Check the page numbers as you shop around the PuddleDancer Press list, as some are short booklets, and some are full books.

Do buy direct from PuddleDancer Press in the US, otherwise here are the links for Amazon:

Click here for other books I’ve found helpful on the subject of wellbeing or good communication.


You can learn NVC, from introductory level to highly specialised, by join telecourses using phone or Skype. I got lots of rapid learning when I most needed it by subscribe to very affordable online recordings of such courses from NVC Academy and its associated NVC Marketplace. Some of the introductory course recordings are free. .

NVC Academy Theme of the Month


You could learn straight from the horse’s mouth with this video of a workshop Marshall Rosenberg gave in 2000. Three very instructive hours. Or you could get a flavour of NVC in international conflicts through this video interview of Marshall Rosenberg.

There's a good series of NVC videos on YouTube from 'Cup of Empathy'.

Where to next?

Chapter 13 of my book has lots of NVC presented in a way which in my experience works well for parents.

And there's lots in the Bitesize audio collection:

And I list more resources on communication, on raising our children, on our own wellbeing, here.

Affiliate links

I use the affiliate scheme for Amazon and for The Book Depository: this means I earn commission if you make qualifying purchases on those sites directly after clicking on my book links.

2 Replies to “Compassionate or Nonviolent Communication (NVC)… and eating disorders”

  1. An example of this style of communication using natural language during a hysterical anorexic episode would be most helpful.

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