“What do you mean, non-violent?! I’ve never made a violent design!”

When you hear the term “non-violent UX” you may think about UX and designs that aren’t “loud” or “in your face” in an affronting way. 

However, when using the term non-violent, I’m referring to the way Marshall Rosenberg uses the term, captured in his book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and other works. It goes beyond avoiding hurting and offending others, all the way to the core of human motivation, purpose, and values. 

Non-Violent Communication is a philosophy, a process, and a practice stemming from a few core principles: 

  • All people, no matter who they are, what they look like, how old they are, or what their circumstances are, share the same list of universal needs.
  • Everything we say and do is an attempt to meet one or more of these core, universal needs.
  • Everyone’s needs matter equally. 

Acknowledging that we all share the same needs allows us to empathize with others, no matter how different our experience and perspective may be. We realize that while strategies conflict, needs never do. And through a process that involves both empathic listening and authentic honesty, we can begin to create a space where new strategies form that actually — and sometimes uncannily — meet everyone’s needs.

In UX, as in all things in life, we tend to form strategies to meet our own needs, or the needs of those we represent. And over and over again we find that these strategies conflict with others’ strategies to meet their needs. Maybe two user groups are vying for the same homepage real estate, or leadership’s requirements for an app contradict the user’s incentive for using the app in the first place.

The magic of Non-Violent Communication lies in focusing beneath these strategies to the needs, and finding what we all have in common.

As my long-time UX mentor says, “objectives, not directives.”

Non-Violent Communication is based on a belief that at heart, what all people want most is to enrich life, and contribute to the happiness of ourselves and others. Can you imagine a project that starts with the acknowledgement that all stakeholders, end users, and team members share the same needs, and a belief that there’s a way to meet those needs equally?  

To learn more about the process of Non-Violent Communication and how it can be applied to non-violent UX and design projects, see this poster (PDF) I created for the IA Conference 2021. To discuss more about how Digital Wave can help you apply these principles to your online initiatives, contact us.