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Tame Your Emotions with the Emotions Compass for Non-Violent Communication


  • Emotions are intricate psychological states involving subjective experiences, physiological responses, and behavioral expressions.

  • Nonviolent Communication (NVC)is a method that emphasizes expressing feelings and needs openly and empathetically.

  • The heart of NVC is the understanding that all human actions are ways to meet universal needs. Recognizing these needs is key to better communication and emotional awareness.

Defining Emotions: A Scientific and Practical Overview

What Are Emotions?

Eggs showing different emotions
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Emotions are complex psychological states that involve three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response. These components create happiness, sadness, anger, and fear.

The Science Behind Emotions

From a scientific perspective, emotions are often studied within psychology and neuroscience. The brain's limbic system, particularly the amygdala, is crucial in processing emotional responses. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin also influence how we experience and regulate emotions.

Newer scientific discoveries show that there are no clearly defined universal emotions. Instead, emotions are and their correlating behaviors are mostly learned and socially influenced. We acknowledge these newer findings and still work with a more static understanding of emotions. This allows people to first get in touch with themselves and work with emotions on a practical level.

Practical Definitions of Emotions

Emotions can be defined as the body communicating with us about our needs and desires for practical purposes. They serve as internal signals that guide our decision-making, help us navigate social interactions, and motivate us to take action.

The Role of Emotions in Everyday Life

Emotions are omnipresent in our daily lives, affecting everything from personal relationships to professional performance. Here are some key ways emotions influence our everyday experiences:


Emotions play a crucial role in decision-making processes. Positive emotions like joy and excitement can encourage us to reproduce the situation in which we experience them. They tell us “do more of that”.. In contrast, negative emotions like fear and anxiety can serve as warning signals to proceed with caution. The say “do less of that”.

Social Interactions

Emotions are fundamental to social interactions. They help us connect with others, express our needs and desires, and build empathy and understanding. Effective communication often hinges on our ability to recognize and manage our emotions and those of others. Examples are directly addressing someone’s body language “I see you are walking around with a smile all day. What happened?” or relating to others emotions like “I hear the frustration in your voice. Can I help you with something?”.


Emotions are powerful motivators. They drive us to achieve our goals, overcome challenges, and seek rewarding experiences. Understanding the emotional drivers behind our actions can help us stay motivated and focused on what truly matters to us. Here emotions relate to our core values and how we see our own story unfold in the world.

What is Non-Violent Communication?

In a world where conversations can quickly become conflicts, non-violent communication emerged as a beacon of hope, guiding us toward understanding and empathy. Developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s, NVC is a communication approach focusing on empathy and honest self-expression. It provides us the tools to identify, understand, and articulate our emotions, minimizing the risk of harm or misunderstanding.

Non-violent communication (NVC) is a method of interacting with oneself and others that emphasizes expressing feelings and needs openly and empathetically. It fosters understanding, compassion, and connection rather than judgment, criticism, or aggression. The core of NVC lies in recognizing that all human actions have a positive intent, are attempts to meet universal needs and that understanding these needs is critical to communication and emotional awareness.

The Purpose and Benefits of Non-Violent Communication

The primary purpose of NVC is to develop a language of compassion instead of dominance. It helps us avoid habitual responses that involve blame or judgment, leading to more fulfilling relationships. The benefits of practicing NVC are profound:

  • Enhanced Emotional Intelligence : NVC encourages individuals to be mindful of their feelings and needs, promoting greater emotional awareness.

  • Conflict Resolution : By focusing on shared human needs, NVC fosters mutual respect and understanding, even in disagreement.

  • Deepened Connections : NVC creates a safe space for open and honest sharing, deepening individual bonds.

  • Improved Mental Health : Practicing NVC can lead to reduced anxiety and depression as it promotes empathy and self-compassion.

How Non-Violent Communication Facilitates Emotional Understanding

NVC involves four key steps that assist in identifying and processing emotions. The following is an extremely short summary of a process that spans several books:

  1. Observation: Begin by observing what is happening in a situation without attaching any judgment or evaluation. This step requires mindfulness and presence.

  2. Feelings: Identify and express how the observation makes you feel. This could range from happiness, sadness, and frustration to excitement, ensuring these feelings are connected to your needs.

  3. Needs: Recognize the need that is the root cause of your feelings. Understanding this connection is crucial for emotional clarity. You create your own emotions - not someone/ something outside of you.

  4. Request: Make an explicit request about what action could meet the identified need without demanding or expecting a specific outcome. Alternatively, ask about the other person’s understanding of the situation.

Practical Applications with metaFox's Emotions Compass for Non-Violent Communication

metaFox offers an array of products designed to enhance emotional intelligence through NVC. One standout product tailored for this purpose is the "Emotions Compass for Non-Violent Communication."

The Emotions Compass is a visual and interactive tool that helps users pinpoint their feelings. Categorizing emotions into various families and intensities allows individuals to traverse from broad, general feelings to more nuanced and specific emotions. This specificity is key in NVC, as accurately identifying one's emotions is the first step towards expressing needs and making requests that foster cooperation and empathy .

This Compass serves as a practical tool in applying the principles of NVC in everyday scenarios. Here's how they can be utilized across different contexts:

In Personal Relationships

Imagine a scenario where misunderstandings and frustrations are commonplace. Using the Emotions Compass, individuals can engage in a structured dialogue that begins with observations free from criticism. For example, instead of saying, "You never listen to me," one might use the compass to express, "I feel upset when I tell you about my day, and there's no response." This method facilitates identifying emotions without blaming the other person, leading to more apparent, empathetic exchanges.

In Educational Environments

Educators can use the Emotions Compass to teach students the value of empathy and self-awareness from an early age. For instance, when conflicts arise among students, teachers can facilitate a process where each party uses the cards to express their observations, feelings, needs, and requests. This practice resolves conflicts more amicably and equips students with vital life skills in emotional intelligence and conflict resolution.

In Self-Reflection

Individuals seeking personal growth can use the Emotions Compass as a self-help tool. Reflecting on personal emotions and needs through the structured format of NVC can illuminate patterns in behavior and interaction, fostering greater self-understanding and personal development.

The Role of the Emotions Compass in Professional Settings

For Life Coaches

Life coaches can utilize the Emotions Compass to assist clients in navigating their emotional landscapes during coaching sessions. By helping clients precisely identify their feelings, coaches can more effectively guide them in exploring underlying needs and developing strategies for fulfilling them. For instance, a client who initially identifies feeling 'upset' might, through the Compass, discover that the more precise emotion is 'disheartened' due to unmet needs for achievement and recognition.

For Educators

The Emotions Compass can be a vital tool for teachers and students in educational settings. Educators can use it to understand their students' emotional states better, thus tailoring their approach to meet students' needs more effectively. Additionally, teaching students to use the Compass themselves can empower them with a lifelong skill for emotional self-awareness and self-regulation, enhancing both their learning experiences and interpersonal relationships.

For Mental Health Professionals

Mental health professionals can incorporate the Emotions Compass into therapy sessions to facilitate deeper emotional disclosure from clients. It can help clients articulate feelings they might otherwise find difficult to express, opening pathways for therapeutic exploration and healing. For example, a client struggling with anxiety might discover, through the Compass, that their primary emotion is actually 'fear' of loss, guiding the therapeutic process towards addressing these fears.

Tips and Tricks for Using the Emotions Compass Effectively

  • Start Broad: Begin with general emotion categories and gradually narrow to more specific feelings.

  • Validate All Feelings: Reinforce that all emotions are valid and there are no 'right' or 'wrong' feelings.

  • Encourage Curiosity: Approach the process with curiosity rather than judgment, fostering a safe space for exploration.

  • Integrate with Needs: Once an emotion has been identified, explore the underlying needs or values associated with that feeling.

The Benefits of Using the Emotions Compass

Implementing the Emotions Compass in professional practice offers numerous benefits. It enhances emotional literacy, promotes empathy, and facilitates more transparent communication between individuals. Aiding in the accurate identification and expression of emotions can significantly improve the quality of relationships and the overall emotional well-being of clients or patients.

For those looking to deepen their understanding of NVC and how tools like the Emotions Compass can enhance their professional practice, resources such as Rosenberg's book, "Non-violent Communication: A Language of Life," and specialized training or counseling in NVC can be invaluable.

Navigating emotions and communicating effectively are skills critical to personal growth and healthy relationships. Through the application of Non-Violent Communication and the use of tools like the Emotions Compass, professionals across various fields have the power to guide their clients toward these goals, fostering a world where communication is rooted in understanding and compassion.