Nonviolent Communication

The main aims of the workshop on Nonviolent Communication are: identifying what people in the group like and what bothers them in communication with others; drawing up an agreement about working together that will be used as the basis for mutual cooperation and communication; becoming familiar with the principles and techniques of nonviolent communication; and starting work on developing and practising nonviolent communication skills.

Workshop Example



This is usually the second workshop of the training and people have probably not memorised each other’s names, so an introductory game to help remember names might be useful. See the section on Games.

What I (Don’t) Like in Communication with Others

Type of exercise: Wall newspaper in plenary

Duration: 15–20 minutes

Materials: Flipchart paper, markers


Exercise description


On the wall or flipchart stand, put up a large paper with the title What I don’t like in communication with others. The participants volunteer answers and the trainer writes them down on the paper. When there are no more answers, or after ten minutes, go on to the paper with the title What I like in communication with others. At the end, read what has been written on the sheets of paper.



This exercise is a good introduction to the topic and it can be very useful to do it right before

moving on to the Cooperation Agreement.


Cooperation Agreement

Type of exercise: Wall newspaper in plenary

Duration: 15–20 minutes

Materials: Flipchart paper, markers

Exercise description

Participants give suggestions for terms of the Cooperation Agreement. Someone from the training team writes these down so everyone can see them. If the exercise What I (Don’t) Like in Communication with Others has already been done before the Cooperation Agreement, participants may be invited to include elements from the previous exercise.

After a suggestion is written down, the whole group is asked to comment on it. If there is disagreement about a suggestion, the person writing down the suggestions marks it (with an asterisk or in a different colour). Members of the training team participate in this exercise as equals, giving their own suggestions (about how to conduct a discussion, what to do about mobile phones, etc.). An indispensable point in the Agreement is that it is subject to change and that everyone has the right to initiate adding new or deleting existing terms. When there are no more suggestions, those that were not contested should be read out. The suggestions that were not unanimously accepted should also be read out, because it is important to take into account everything that was suggested, as well as reasons for contesting some points. This also introduces the principle of respect for the needs of others, including when that need is not universally shared.


The Cooperation Agreement exercise can also be done as part of the introductory workshop. In any case, it should be a requisite part of every training. Although a lot of time is set aside for the Cooperation Agreement, it is never wasted because, apart from the visible work on communication and cooperation, it fosters a sense of ownership of the Agreement, introduces the basic set-up for cooperation and provides participants with a way to influence the process and take responsibility for it.

Controlled Dialogue*

Type of exercise: Interactive, experiential exercise

Duration: 45–60 minutes


Exercise description

Using the barometer set-up with the poles of Strongly Agree and Strongly Disagree, find pairs with different opinions and an observer for each pair.

Barometer method: Determine two poles in the room: for instance, one wall can stand for one pole – strong agreement with a statement – and the opposite wall for strong disagreement with the statement. When the trainer reads a statement, the participants stand along the barometer, their places reflecting their agreement or disagreement (all positions between the two poles may be taken up).

Suggested statements for the barometer:

  • Every people has the right to secede.
  • The Serbs started the war.
  • If it had been up to the people, there would never have been a war.
  • Homosexuals should be allowed to adopt children.
  • The end justifies the means.
  •  Feminism harms the family.

Once the participants split into pairs, each pair is assigned an observer and tasked to discuss the topic of the barometer for ten minutes, using controlled dialogue. Controlled dialogue is when person A expresses their position and then person B paraphrases person A’s position until person A confirms the paraphrase. Then, person B expresses their position and person A paraphrases it.

Observers are instructed to monitor the course of the discussion: Were there interruptions? Was someone cut off? What was the body language like? How much listening was done? How much respecting others? Were questions asked to clarify? Did the two people have equal time to speak? etc.


Suggested questions to evaluate the exercise:

How difficult was it to stick to the instructions? Was it easy to listen to your partner without interrupting? While your partner was speaking, were you trying to understand as best you could or were you thinking about your own arguments? Did you get the impression that your partner understood you and listened? Did you both have equal time to speak?

What did the observers notice? Was it difficult for them to only observe without participating in the conversation?

Alternative version of the exercise

Individual participants in the discussions can be given different instructions. Instead of telling them to use controlled dialogue, they could be told:

  • Do as you see fit.
  • Win the debate.
  • Convince your partner that your opinion is right.

In that case, the evaluation of the exercise can compare the course of the discussion in pairs using controlled dialogue and those with special instructions.

*  Inspired by an exercise from: Dieter Lünse et al. “Zivilcourage: Anleitung zum kreativen Umgang mit Konflikten und Gewalt” in: Agenda Zeitlupe 9 (Hamburg: Arbeitsgemeinschaft freier Jugendverbände e.V, 1995), p. 96.


Wall Newspaper: What Is Nonviolent Communication?

Duration: 10 minutes

Theoretical Summary: Principles of Nonviolent Communication

Type of exercise: Short presentation

Duration: 10–15 minutes

Materials: Flipchart

Exercise description

The trainer briefly introduces the principles of nonviolent  communication  and  various  techniques (I-speech, active listening, open-ended questions). After the presentation, a handout should be distributed to the participants with a text prepared beforehand. Examples of the text can be found at the end of this subsection.