Is NVC Listening different from Active Listening?

 In Ask Glenda, Blog, Effective Dialogue, Uncategorized

(Time to read: 1-2 minutes)

My impression is that there are many different understandings of what Active Listening is, some of which may include NVC listening. NVC listening is a precisely defined approach first articulated by Marshall Rosenberg.

 When I learned active listening, we were taught to paraphrase back what we heard. In NVC listening, we listen for the deeper meaning in what the other person says – what is important to them, what (positive) value they are wanting satisfied.

A Possible Difference

The following example is designed to illustrate the difference:

  • What is said: “I hate my mother. She never listens to me.”

  • An active listening paraphrase: “Do you feel frustrated with your mother because she doesn’t listen to you?”

  • Colloquial NVC listening for the deeper meaning:
    “You’d really like to know that your mother hears and understands what’s important to you?”

Similarities: Both approaches seek to reflect back the other person’s experience, and both offer their reflections as questions, recognizing that each person is the expert about what is true for them.

I notice the difference between the negative, “don’t want” quality of the closer paraphrase “she doesn’t listen to you” and the more positive, dream/vision/value quality of the “hears and understands what’s important to you”.

Hearing the Positive In the Negative

I find that, once people are confident that their frustration has been heard, they enjoy connecting to what they are wanting – it opens up a hopeful, creative space in them.

And it can be challenging for a listener to hear the “positive underneath the negative”. That’s what we practice when we study NVC – getting good at hearing at that level.

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