I’ve been reading about non violent communication.

Non violent communication (NVC) is about empathising, removing your own judgements and pre-conceived ideas, listening to what is actually being said and trying to understand the needs behind it.

I am not your typical NVC customer. None of these guys would have endorsed it. Ten years ago I would not have given this the time of day. Even six months ago I would have been cynical.

Then I got to thinking about the sheer amount of energy that’s required for working in a disruptive field like digital. It can be really hard, month in, month out, to help colleagues and clients build confidence, skills and an understanding of how users consume information online.

On any typical day, I will receive at least one email like this example:

I need to establish a presence on [channel] for the [content] that I am writing.

Because of the importance and impact of this work, affecting as it will all our work internally and across [audience], I think we should have a link on the homepage.

I will also need you to set up publisher rights for myself and X and possibly Y [Z – do you have an opinion on this?].

Can you let me know your thoughts soonest?

Read this in the wrong frame of mind, and you’d be forgiven for assuming the sender is self-important, demanding and has little knowledge about how interested or otherwise their audience is in this content. Who are they to tell me they will have publishing rights, and that their work is the most important thing on my to do list? The urgent final line only grates further.

Apply a bit of NVC, and it’s possible to demonstrate to this person that you are listening and trying to identify the real needs that are driving this request.

For example, ‘I need to establish a presence on this channel…’ is not a need. Nor would it be a need if, when asked, this person said ‘my boss has asked for…’. However, gently reflecting this request back to the originator, and asking questions about their work, should reveal who the intended audience is, and what it is that we are trying to say. Crucially, in terms of productivity, we can also learn when this piece of communication will deliver most impact, and prioritise accordingly.

This example is fairly specific, but I think NVC works really well across all types of channels and audience needs.

Marshall Rosenburg has written a really easy to read book about NVC – I recommend it, if you’re needing some clarity about dealing with competing demands and opinion.