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Starting a Practice Group

What is a practice group?

A Practice Group is a group of people who commit to practicing Marshall Rosenberg's teachings because they want to become more fluent in the consciousness and language of Nonviolent Communication. They want to bring these skills into their daily lives on a more consistent basis.

Many people find that Practice Groups are a key to being able to more easily apply NVC skills to their daily interactions. Since many of us have habitual patterns of thinking and communicating, getting together with people who support, practice and encourage each other to use NVC skills helps create new habits. The group becomes a practical learning experience, as well as a place to share, to belong and to give and to receive compassion.

To create a safe and supportive environment most groups create agreements. For example: 1) confidentiality (what is discussed here stays here and is not repeated outside the group); 2) starting and ending on time; and 3) making it a priority to practice the skills during the group's time.

Your community may already have one or more Practice Groups available for people to join. Please check Practice Groups for more information.

If there aren't groups available, anyone can start a Practice Group. Although it is often helpful to have someone involved who has some experience with NVC, it is not necessary. Marshall's Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life and Lucy Leu's Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook are both excellent guides to explore NVC. They each have study questions and exercises that a Practice Group can use to guide them. Lucy Leu's book also has several very helpful chapters on starting and maintaining successful groups.

Groups establish meeting times/dates/locations and the structure of the meetings. A convener might facilitate, find a facilitator or suggest rotating the responsibility for facilitating among some or all group members. Guest mentors or facilitators might occasionally be invited to participate.

Possibilities for group structure include:

  • Reading and Practice: Use Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg together with The Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook by Lucy Leu to guide your practice for deepening understanding of NVC principles. Workbook exercises are coordinated with chapters of Marshall's book. Groups can work on one chapter per meeting or spend several meetings on one chapter.
  • Videotapes and Practice: Use videos of Marshall or CNVC Certified trainers as the focus for discussion or practice. You can find these at the Center for Nonviolent Communication, Puddledancer Press, the NVC Academy and other locations.
  • Real life experiences: Use "what's alive" in the group for practice. One person might describe a situation of pain or joy from the previous week followed by one or more others from the group guessing feelings and needs related to the situation. Gently work through the whole process if you can. Let the first person tell the story with or without observation, feelings, needs and request. Support that person with guesses. Move on to another story as time permits.
  • Role Play: Use situations of real life to practice the principles and practices of NVC. One member tells a story, then that member and another role play how it might have been done differently. Or if it is too hard, confusing or maddening for the storyteller, two other members might role play how it might have gone differently.
  • Empathy Group: The focus is on giving and receiving empathy. Participants might take turns with one speaking and others responding with empathy followed by feedback on empathy given or the group can divide into pairs or smaller groups to practice giving and receiving empathy.
  • Topic based: Focus is a particular subject such as parenting. A lesson might be offered followed by practice with real life or imaginary situations.

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