Red Green Repeat Adventures of a Spec Driven Junkie

Nonviolent Communication - Chapter 11

Conflict Resolution and Mediation

Apply nonviolent communication to parties not involved with you as a speaker or listener. Help resolve conflicts between individuals using the nonviolent communication approach.

Crucial Element

Although nonviolent communication focuses on needs of yourself or the listener. When using it for mediation between parties, it is crucial to establish a human connection between them.

Above all other mediation techniques such as: understanding issues, background research, etc. if the mediator cannot connect with the humanity of each party, reaching a resolution will be difficult.

What does establishing a human connection mean? It means the parties have trust in you. They are vulnerable enough to share their needs with you and the party they are in conflict with.


The primary driver of mediation using nonviolent communication is: once the parties understands each others’ needs, they can communicate with each other directly and resolve the situation themselves, without the mediator.

The mediator’s role is to have each party express their needs.

Once everyone expresses their needs, solution building is a team effort, until there is satisfaction for everyone. This produces a better result than each party asking for a compromise.

To me, this makes a lot of sense as it puts the resolution work on the individuals most involved with the conflict. At the end, the parties will be taking action towards the solution and also benefit the most from resolving the conflict.

Satisfaction vs Compromise

The difference between satisfaction and compromise:

satisfaction meeting everyone’s needs
compromise asking each party to give up a need until there is resolution

This slight difference highlights the approach of a nonviolent communication based conflict resolution and mediation. It’s going for the best possible outcome, not the shortest effort outcome, that satisfies neither party.


These are five steps to conflict resolution & mediation using nonviolent communication.

  1. Express our own needs.
  2. Search for the real need of the other.
  3. Verify we have accurately understood the other party’s needs. If not, continue to search for need.
  4. Provide empathy to hear other person’s needs accurately.
  5. Propose strategies to resolving the conflict, framing them in positive action language.

Clarifying Statements

In searching for a need, parties may express themselves in a difficult manner such as:

  • “That’s a stupid question.”
  • “I don’t want to talk about it.”

In these cases, the party may feel they are misunderstood or their need for understanding is lacking, respectively.

Going forward as mediator, searching for need may involve a guess from the context: “I sense you feel are being misunderstood. Am I not understanding you properly?”, “I understand it is difficult open yourself up to us, but I will keep everything between us to work to a solution.”

If the party just responds plainly with a: no, that indicates there is still an unfulfilled that is blocking them from expressing themselves. In this case, continue to search and guess at their need.

Needs vs. Strategies

It is easy to confuse the two as each party may express their needs as a strategy.

Definitions in the context of nonviolent communication:

strategies require someone to take a specific action.
needs do not require anyone else taking any particular action.

When searching for needs, focus on the actual needs and do not allow a person’s strategy distract from this search.

(If the other party could comply with a party’s strategy, would there really be a conflict?)


strategy “I want you to listen more.”
need “I need your attention and when I see you looking at your phone, I feel ignored.”

Always start with needs!

Resolution: Actionable Items

Once everyone expressed their needs, we develop strategies to resolve the conflict.

Strategies are similar to the previous form, the key difference: frame strategies in positive action language.

What does this mean?

  • First: there is clear action that is verifiable by both parties. Instead of: “listen”, it can be: “repeat back what you heard.”
  • Second: they are in a positive context. Instead of: “repeat back”, it can be: “would you be willing to share what you heard.”

Recent Mediation Example

One mediation I had with my wife where she had a hard time with her parents.

The situation: my in-laws were furious with us and yelled at my wife for not being a good mother.

My normal reaction previously: would be break down my in-laws argument and show my wife that the statement and eventually they are wrong. My statement would start a conversation that would end up being a bigger conversation about the character of my in-laws (whom I know a lot less than my wife!)

This time, I ask myself: “what unfulfilled needs did my in-laws have at the time?” and the answer dawned on me. I shared my realization with my wife and it calmed her down immediately. I did not have to apply logic or defaming of character. The realization made sense to her and we decided a process that would avoid the same situation in the future.

This application of nonviolent communication to mediation is efficient. The previous method could and has spiraled out of control and started a bigger fight between my wife and I.

Using nonviolent communication here produced a result where there is no hurt feelings or negative energy in destroying another. Instead, energy used to produce solutions.


As this is week 11 for me in writing about nonviolent communication, I feel there is a big difference in my understanding now compared to before. I am able to apply nonviolent communication to myself and others around me.

Using it in a mediation setting is an advanced topic, but it is a fantastic way for one to learn as it allows one to step back and rationally apply the process. When one is in conflict, emotions run high and remembering to apply nonviolent communication is easily skipped.

The most important step in mediation using nonviolent communication: connection with humanness in each party.