I often get asked “What’s the difference between NVC and Verbal Aikido?” Well the short answer is that it’s like the difference between a hammer and a screw-driver: they’re both tools that do similar things but in different ways.
From my own experience with both of these communication tools, there have been times where I’ve recognized it was more appropriate to use one or the other. Essentially I’ve found that they are complimentary. NVC works best when dealing with one’s own imbalance or unpleasant feelings, i.e. when I felt that there was some aggressiveness or discomfort within me. Verbal Aikido, on the other hand, is much more efficient in dealing with the aggressiveness or discomfort coming from someone else.
To give you a practical example, NVC would work well if you feel upset because someone is trying to manipulate you… You might say “Hey, when I feel manipulated I get frustrated and I need to feel that I have a choice and that my choice will be respected.” The objective here is to decrease the likelihood of others hearing blame or criticism in the words you use with them, thus avoiding a conflictual situation or escalation.
Verbal Aikido works well when managing someone who might accuse you of manipulation:
“You’re just a manipulator!”
“What makes you say that?”
“You’re trying to get your own way!”
“And what do you believe my intentions to be?”
The objective here is, of course, to avoid a conflictual situation or escalation too, but it is done by focusing externally rather than internally. Indeed there is much in common between Verbal Aikido and Nonviolent communication, because both focus on understanding the source of discomfort, both use empathy to connect with the other and both aim at creating peaceful exchanges and reinforcing relationships. If you’re still wondering which is better, can you really put a hammer and a screwdriver in competition?
Personally I find both tools complementary, one more proficient in dealing with what I want to express, and the other in dealing with what someone else is expressing. However for Verbal Aikido to be truly effective it isn’t necessary for both people to be receptive and practice it, whereas I’ve found that NVC is really most effective when both are trained and open to using it. It really is best to have both tools in your toolbox; you never know which will be most appropriate to hang up your picture!