Dorset’s NVC Journey

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I am excited to share a journey with you, a journey that invites us to focus our awareness on our communication. With more awareness comes more understanding, and with more understanding comes more relief, peace and harmony.

The process of Nonviolent Communication was created by Dr Marshal Rosenberg, an American psychologist and mediator who was a student of Carl Rogers. He was fascinated by what drives some people to love giving compassionately while others seem to delight in causing others pain. He found that connection between people is maintained and enhanced if we concentrate on two things – what is alive in each of us (our feelings and needs), and what can we do to make life more wonderful.

I have had a life-long interest in the psychology of relationships and a longing to understand the roots of emotion. I also have a deep and unrelenting need for safety – for myself and for others. This longing for safety and the understanding of emotion stemmed from my fearful childhood, growing up with an violent alcoholic father. In the nineties this led me to become a counsellor, hypnotherapist and neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, specializing in the field of codependency. During this time I was working at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland giving week-long intensive workshops on codependency and the dynamics of intimacy. Many participants were couples who were on the verge of breaking up, and came to the residential as a last hope.

I researched every conflict resolution process I could find, and in 1999 I went to a one day introduction to Nonviolent Communication (NVC), followed by a two-day Mediation Workshop with the founder of NVC – Dr Marshall Rosenberg. I was struck by the elegant simplicity of the process, but more by the understanding that the root of all my feelings was about whether my needs were being met or not. Simply put, if I was happy it was because my needs were being met, and if I was unhappy it was because my needs were not being met.

In 2002 I was facilitating a Dynamics of Intimacy Workshop in Ireland and I was invited to do a mediation between a group of African refugees living in a hostel in Kilkenny and the local Irish volunteers that were looking after and supporting the refugees. I had done no more training of any sort in NVC other than the 3 days, done 2 years before, so I declined the invitation because of my lack of experience. The Irish lady volunteer who invited me to mediate persuaded me because three women had been hit in ten days and she was so afraid it would happen again and she was desperate.

I mediated between the elected leader of the Africans and the leader of the Irish. When they entered the room they could not look at or face each other. After two hours I saw them actually look at each other and I took this to be a good sign.
The second day we had another two hour session, at the end of which they both stood up, leaned over the table, shook hands, and agreed to work with each other.

Then they turned to me. The Irishman looked puzzled, and said, “How did you do that?”
I replied that it was a process I had learned called NVC. The African looked at me and said, “My people need to learn this!” and the Irish man looked at him and said, “My people too!”

Then he looked at me and said, “When can we learn this? Can you teach us?”

Two days later I delivered my first NVC training – to 26 Irish volunteers, and 25 Africans –  after which I was thanked officially by the Irish Refugee Council, a department of the Irish government.

Well, I was hooked. I always wanted to actually do something to create more peace in the world and this was how I was going to do it. I went straight to Switzerland to do a nine-day NVC International Intensive Training (IIT) with Dr M. Rosenberg.

Following the IIT, in late September 2002, I flew to Bali to meet my partner for a holiday. On October 12 we were in Ubud, enjoying an outdoor evening meal with friends, when we heard two explosions coming from the direction of Kuta. It was the Bali bombings. The next day we volunteered to be counsellors and to donate blood at the Sangla hospital in Denpasar. A few hours after I arrived I was asked to manage the Crisis Centre – a building where friends and relatives of the wounded or dead could come to find their lost ones. I had a lot of opportunity to practice my empathy skills with bereaved and grieving victims, ambassadors, consuls, Indonesian generals, and members of the Australian police and secret service. I learned about my limits. I worked about 18 hours a day, and became more stressed and tired every day, until I burned out from overwhelm. I passed my job on to another person so I could take a break. By this time the Australian forces had set up, and they helped us immensely by taking away the 88 dead Australians, and taking the injured Australian and British to their temporary camp hospital that they had erected at the airport. I had never been in a war or crisis zone before. I had never worked in a situation where there were 202 dead people in the morgue and the trucks surrounding the morgue, (because the morgue was too small to handle the numbers). I learned that trauma can sneak up on me, and surprise me, because I was unaware of it. When I left this job my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I received a lot of empathy to heal my PTSD when I got home, and have now fully recovered.

Since then I have worked all over Indonesia, from Aceh in Sumatra to Jayapura in West Papua. Safety is still very important to me. Students that I taught ten years ago are now trainers themselves, and I believe that the end of the 55 year war for independence in West Papua is now a little closer.

Before I came across NVC, I had never had a relationship last more than 3 years.  I discovered NVC in 1999.  In 2001 I began a relationship that was to last 16 years, until my partner died of cancer in 2017. I put the longevity of this relationship entirely down to my practice and teaching of NVC.

It is my greatest joy to share something that has made such a difference to the quality of my life.

My deepest longing is that you get as much out of this process as I have.

Dorset Campbell-Ross  NVC Trainer, Mediator and Coach
Certified by The Centre for Nonviolent Communication (

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