“Young people that are going through the time of their lives of gender identity or sexual orientation self-exploration can encounter various stereotypical notions and expectations that are hurtful to them. Consequently, these wounds can affect other areas of life such as self-perception or development and continuation of both present and future relationships. A reflective possibility of how we felt during these hurtful situations or what we needed at that moment can be both liberating and invigorating for many of us. At the same time, sharing these personal experiences with those who went through similar situations can help us realize that others, too, encounter the same obstacles in their lives. To create an environment where facilitators and participants will feel safe is necessary when a group engages in work based on internal self-reflection of one’s experiences and sharing (some of) these with others.”

NESEHNUTÍ facilitator

Non-violent communication (NVC) is an approach to communication that is based on the understanding of the needs of everyone involved. Its key feature is empathy — not just towards oneself but also others. 1 Non-violent communication techniques help us to comprehend our inner experiences better — what happens inside us and why — as well as inner experiences of others. The above-mentioned values served as a vital basis for our work on developing these techniques for 2 main reasons:

To safely reflect one’s lived personal experience and be able to see it in a new light, it is necessary to select tools that help us to better understand our inner experience in certain situations as well as why we felt that way. At the same time, for the goals of this programme, the used techniques must offer the possibilities to understand one’s previous experiences while avoiding harming one’s integrity. NVC activities based on empathy for self serve as an appropriate technique for this type of self-reflection. They facilitate the understanding of our inner experience through self-reflection of emotions and needs on such level of self-understanding that is safe for all participants. NVC techniques should not be understood as psychotherapeutic help, and they are not meant to substitute it.

The creation of a safe space for sharing personal experience pertaining to a sensitive issue is an important condition for people that are personally dealing with this sensitive issue to be able to, and above all, want to share their experiences with others. It is key that any opinions and experiences, negative or positive, are respected to maintain a safe space within a group. Non-violent communication techniques that are based on empathy for others can be an appropriate instrument for creating a group-level safe space.

Since NVC techniques might be new to many of us, it is suitable to test them on a neutral topic first — this way, participants can familiarize with the technique and understand its principles. Applying these techniques directly to a sensitive topic can be baffling and unpleasant for participants. For these reasons, the below-mentioned NVC-based techniques are listed as “opening activities”. There are numerous possibilities of how to use them for talking about issues with the aim of reflecting personal experience and sharing it in a safe setting.

In this guide, we work with 3 techniques based on the fundamental principles of non-violent communication — with Dyad technique, Feelings Cards, and Needs Cards.

  1. “Co Je Nenásilná Komunikace?” NVC Brno, https://nenasilnakomunikace.org/co-je-nenasilna-komunikace/. Accessed 2020. ↩︎

*Empathy for self is a basic technique for understanding your inner world and its experience. Using this technique, we can learn to reflect on our feelings and needs better — they shape our inner experience every day. Based on this self-knowledge, we are then able to realize more easily what we want to or do not want to in our life, why we acted in certain past moments the way we did, and we are more capable to set our boundaries of what we (do not) wish to share with others. more…
*Empathic listening is an ability to understand another person; to discover what plays out in their inner world on the level of feelings and needs without projecting our own opinions, judgements, and thoughts onto their ideas, words, and actions. This way, we give room for the other to fully express themselves while respecting them. Thanks to empathic listening, the other may feel they are understood, can stay authentic and do not have to fear condemnation by others. more…