There are many reasons out there why startups fail, one of them might be the lack of focus on customer needs or a failed investment. But in the end, it all comes down to communication. The ability of a founding team to communicate openly, clearly and constructively is the number one skill for effectively working together and towards a common goal.
When starting a business together, founding teams are under a lot of stress. Especially in those situations, many of us tend to communicate badly. Good news is: there is a method out there called “nonviolent communication” which can be implemented early on to emphasize awareness, responsibility and empathy within a team.
With the High-Tech SeedLab’s focus on supporting early-stage startups to successfully launch their business, our support ranges from tailored coaching, a monthly stipend to expert workshops on various topics. One of the workshops we newly introduced this year is on the topic of nonviolent communication, giving our cohort the opportunity to reflect on their own communicative behaviour and increase their ability to communicate in an open, honest and non-aggressive way, even when confronted with a conflict situation.
What is nonviolent communication?
Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a conflict communication framework tool to work through conflicts in a productive way. It is NOT a tool to end disagreements, but can be seen rather as a method designed to increase empathy and improve the quality of life of those who utilize the framework tool (and the people around them). Using NVC helps us reframe how we express ourselves and hear others.
The father of NVC
The framework of NVC was developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s and 1970s when he was looking for a new approach to conflict resolution, and is based on concepts used in person-centered therapy. Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life is somewhat the bible for everyone interested or working within the field of NVC. The framework is based on openness and trust-based vulnerability and when used correctly, it can be transformational in overcoming team dysfunctions. NVC helps separate observations from emotions and express concerns more clearly and professionally.
The 4 steps of communicating nonviolently
The framework of NVC is based on openness and trust-based vulnerability. NVC is designed to get rid of the narrative people automatically build in their heads, which disables them from working effectively and often is the cause for interpersonal conflicts.
There are four steps to the NVC framework: It allows us to speak in terms of what we observe, how we’re feeling, what our needs are, and how we respond to other’s requests.
- Observations: This step requires to take a mental step back and just describe what’s happening in the situation without judging or evaluating the situation. It is important to stress the importance of this first step. Often with observation, we get stuck on a preconceived set of feelings. You already have judgments about what you are seeing or hearing, and you can’t help but be affected by them. So remember: Simply describe what you see, but not what you think of it.
What happened; a concrete, verifiable fact that provides a description that all parties would agree on.
- Feelings: Check in with yourself and identify concrete adjectives to describe the sensation you’re feeling when looking at the situation. Are you scared? Does the situation make you feel conflicted? Tense? Make sure to use words that are specific to your situation – not words that imply what the other person is doing.
Describe your physical sensations or emotional states.
- Needs: List the needs that are connected to the feeling(-s) you’ve identified. What would make you feel better in this situation? Try to make clear what it is you need in order to move forward. Is it clarity? Support? Trust?
Universal needs that motivate our behavior.
- Requests: It is important to make clear that needs and requests are actually different. Whereas needs are the missing pieces, requests are what you use to get them. Usually, you are looking for something from another person that will enrich your life, your work or your experience. Accordingly, you want to take their feelings and needs into account. The best way to do this is to build flexibility and freedom into your ask. (Examples: “I am wondering if…”, “Would you be willing to…?”)
An invitation to the other person to collaborate to meet your (my/our) needs.
All steps together using an illustrative example may look like this:
When I see people struggling to start a business in Berlin
I feel sad but also encouraged
Because I want to help them
So please learn about the High-Tech SeedLab’s support program and, if resonates with you, apply for our upcoming batch 2022 (Jokes aside: applications will only open in October 2021, but feel free to follow us on LinkedIn to not miss out on any news).
By focusing on the four steps, you will be able to become self aware first and bring the situation down to the needs we all have without attacking the other person. While this might be difficult at first – simply because we’re not used to focusing on our needs – it will become easier when practiced regularly. Focusing on our needs will make hard conversations much easier to handle.
The High-Tech SeedLab’s 10-month acceleration program is designed to help early-stage teams to test their idea and business model, build or finalise a minimum viable product, and successfully launch their business. Our startups are active in the fields of high-tech, sustainability and women in tech.
If you are interested to learn more or want to support, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.