• VPEC

Non-Violent Communication as Powerful Violence Prevention Strategy

Updated: Feb 18



NVC is not only about wanting behavior to change, it’s about wanting underlying motivations to change.

Iris Berfelo, psycho-social therapist and VPEC 2020 workshop leader, is back with us today (read part 1 of her interview), this time to talk about Non-Violent Communication (NVC) as a violence prevention strategy and why it fits in so well with Empowerment Self Defense training.


Thanks for joining us again, Iris!


Q. What makes NVC such a powerful strategy for preventing violence?


A. NVC techniques help us to act in the most trusting and respectful way possible, without the clutter and passive aggression that can lead to distrust and resentment. NVC is a communication framework that reduces friction in our conversations. Most people refer to violence as physically trying to hurt others. NVC also considers violence to be any use of coercion or power over others — including any use of punishment, reward, guilt, shame, duty or obligation.


NVC also considers violence to be any use of coercion or power over others — including any use of punishment, reward, guilt, shame, duty or obligation.

A core belief of NVC is that it is in everyone’s interest that people change. Not in order to avoid punishment, but because they see the change as benefiting themselves. NVC not only about wanting behavior to change, it’s about wanting underlying motivations to change. This is because behavior can be controlled on the short term, but if this behavior is not motivated for the right reasons, the behavior will be back once the power of the other to control that behavior is gone. And the power of the other is rarely forever.

NVC theory suggests that any time a person does what he wants without the motive to serve life (and in a way fearing punishment or feeling guilt, shame, duty or obligation) – we will pay for it. We will win the battle, but we’ll lose the war.


Q. Please tell us about the work you're doing with your daughter, Nina Wennink, an Empowerment Self Defense (ESD) instructor trained through ESD Global and the program assistant for ESD Global Europe.


A. During a visit to the Netherlands, Nina, my daughter stayed with me for a few days. We had a lot to tell each other, much to share, and much to catch up on. Nina told me about her ESD training in New York and was so enthusiastic about it.


She used words that moved me, like empowerment, self-care, self-worth, and talked about standing for what you want to uphold and what is dear to you. She explained that with violence prevention as its core, ESD is about creating security and peace for yourself and for your environment.


I also shared my experiences and knowledge about Non-Violent Communication.


We became fascinated with how we were both actually working on the same theme, one of us with more physically oriented techniques and the other more mentally and verbally oriented techniques.


We became fascinated with how we were both actually working on the same theme, one of us with more physically oriented techniques and the other more mentally and verbally oriented techniques.

Knowing that the human being functions more powerfully and completely when the physical, mental and spiritual parts are balanced with each other, Nina and I started to connect our knowledge and skills. We both attended VPEC 2020 in Jerusalem and the ESD Global Instructor Training that preceded it.


That was the inspiration we needed to officially start PMR (Physical and Mental Resilience) Empowerment.


Q. At VPEC 2020, you co-led an NVC workshop along with an ESD Instructor. What would you like to share with us about your experience?


A. Originally, I had prepared to speak and present at the conference. I had prepared a presentation for that setting.


And then things changed.

I suddenly found out that I’d be giving a short workshop along with an (ESD) instructor, and together, we would present ESD and NVC in one hour.


At least that's how I experienced it. And that frustrated me a lot.

Stress, stress, stress .... how would I fit everything I have been studying and experiencing for years now in half an hour?

And now I am grateful. The collaboration and the consultation between me and the ESD instructor was great. It was nice to be challenged and combine and convey a touching message of physical and mental empowerment in one hour.

What I have learned is that the power and the essence of the message you want to convey in five hours sometimes only needs three minutes.


Q. Through your work with Nina and your workshop at VPEC, what connections have you discovered between NVC and ESD?



A. I know from experience with my clients who have endured severe and unsafe situations that they are looking for healing. I have testimonials from clients who have physically defended themselves but then struggle mentally. I have clients who were mentally powerful but did not have the skills to physically defend themselves.


I know from experience with my clients who have endured severe and unsafe situations that they are looking for healing.

ESD and NVC training both emphasize that in many cases, violence can be prevented or at least reduced with the use of de-escalation techniques and preventing and raising awareness of stress accumulation. Both address techniques for managing stress and adrenaline.


Nina and I are discovering new similarities every day, and finding creative ways to connect the two.


Thanks again for sharing, Iris. See you on Friday!


Stay tuned for Part 3 - Incorporating NVC into your life.


<<< Part 1

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