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Role Play Situations

These role-plays are divided into three categories:


  1. General interpersonal situations involving family members, partners, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.

  2. NVC "leader" situations where you are leading NVC trainings or organizing NVC events.

  3. Social change situations where you are wanting to contribute to or effect change in the outlook or behavior of specific groups, institutions and organizations.


What we are looking for in the role-plays is your ability to stay in NVC consciousness, to make choices on when to empathize or express, and to remain connected to feelings and needs. We are not looking for a full resolution of any of these situations.


A) General Interpersonal Situations

  1. As a parent or teacher, you see a child, age 5, poised to throw a block at another child's head. (What would you do or say to either or both children?)

  2. You are part of a team creating a flyer for a public event. In printing out the final copy, you made some changes which you thought were minor, but turned out to be important for another team member. The more you explain your decision, the angrier he appears to be. He raises his voice and gesticulates with large arm movements, placing his face within 5 inches of yours while addressing you at a volume that can be heard throughout the building.

  3. Your boss says to you, "Your work has been slipping lately. I'm not sure how long I can keep you in this job."

  4. You bought a set of clay pots in which to plant herbs. As you remove a pot from the tight packaging, you are shocked to discover your thumb poking right through the pot, which then crumbles. You bring the whole set back for an exchange. The store owner says quietly, "This is not a defective item because it was in perfect shape when you bought it. I'm sorry but there is really nothing I can do about it."

  5. Your boss requests you to drop a project you are working on and in which you are emotionally invested. Instead she asks that you take on a different piece of work. When you ask why, she appears reluctant to discuss it, but then says something to the effect that the funding agent no longer supports that kind of project. You believe she is not telling you the truth.

  6. You want your teen-age son to get a shot from the doctor and he is resisting. You try to empathize, "Are you feeling anxious because you would really like to be spared that pain? Are you feeling annoyed because you would like to be going to town with your friends instead? Are you feeling...?” Your son interrupts with a look of disgust, "Mom, have you ANY idea how stupid you sound when you talk like that?"

  7. As you are riding a bike, the door of a parked car swings open suddenly. You swerve to avoid hitting it and fall down. You realize you are not hurt, but very shaken. You want to communicate what you are feeling and what behaviors you would like to see in car drivers. As you start to speak, he exclaims, "Wow, you were riding really fast there!"

  8. You had invited your new neighbors to dinner and then had helped them get settled. You were happy to help, especially since they are elderly and speak limited English. But now they drop by daily, often staying longer than you would like, describing innumerable problems and asking for help. You feel impatient; you want the visits to stop but are nervous about their feelings getting hurt.

  9. You are a teacher and your partner is expressing jealousy towards the many students who visit your office after class for extra guidance. You empathize and then tell your partner that you don't experience any attraction towards any of your students and it would never cross your mind to engage with them other than as their teacher. Your partner looks you in the eye and says calmly, "I don't believe a word you are saying."

  10. You are the owner of a garage that employs a handful of mechanics and assistants. One of the assistants comes to you and sighs "All I ever do is the scut work around here. Sometimes I feel I am just a drudge, working my life away."

  11. You work at a factory where there has been tension between supervisors and workers. You are able to empathize with both groups and get along well with the supervisors as well as your fellow workers. As tensions in the factory heat up, you find yourself one day in the bathroom facing three of your fellow workers. "Listen," they say, "stop straddling the fence here. You are either on our side or on the side of the boss. Now choose!"

  12. Two of your friends had a conflict. One of them came to you and you listened and reflected empathically to her. The next day the other friend calls you up on the phone and says, "What kind of a friend are you? Talking about me behind my back! I want an apology from you right now, or just forget about ever seeing me again. And not some wimpy Giraffe apology! I want to hear a real honest apology! You betrayed me as a friend and I want you to say you're sorry!"

  13. Your friend says, "My daughter hasn't talked to me for two years. I just feel worthless."


B) NVC "Leader" Situations

  1. You run into a man on the street whose wife is in your practice group. He greets you hesitantly and then says, "You know, I had no objection when we first started this Giraffe stuff, but I must admit I've been shocked. Peggy used to be a really caring woman -- she was responsible and considerate of everyone around her. Now she only cares about herself and when I tell her to look at what's going on for me and for the kids, she just quotes me this NVC bullshit she gets from your group. Do you know our family is falling apart?"

  2. At a workshop, you ask a participant in a role-play to express a feeling. The participant responds, "A feeling? Umm... rejected: I feel rejected."

  3. After watching you introduce the Jackal puppet and demonstrate life-alienating communication, a participant says, "You can say you're using these animals symbolically, but representing jackals that way will end up hurting the real jackals living on our planet. It's not a very responsible thing to do for a training that's supposed to be about compassion."

  4. A workshop participant says, "I don't agree with you. Sometimes children do need punishment in order to learn. I don't mean necessarily severe or corporal punishment. But as parents and adults, we must accept the responsibility of punishing children when necessary."

  5. A workshop participant says, "This stuff you're presenting is all very fine theoretically, but real people don't talk like that."

  6. A workshop participant says, "Isn't what you're teaching really a philosophy of selfishness? I mean, it's constantly about MY feelings, MY needs... Sometimes you have to think about other people and do what's right, and not always be focusing on what YOU are needing or feeling. There ARE some things that are just right or wrong."

  7. After hearing you present ways in which NVC can contribute to our lives, a workshop participant exclaims, "WOW! Can it help me lose weight?"

  8. During a workshop you are leading, one of the participants says: "I am really not trusting this thing about everyone having the same needs. Some people just really care only about themselves."

  9. At an NVC event, someone says, "This Marshall Rosenberg sounds like another New Age guru."

  10. A workshop participant says, "I really like everything you're sharing with us about NVC. It's a great process. The only thing is I'm noticing in some of those spontaneous role plays you guys were doing...I mean, even you trainers sometimes could hardly get a word out ...or say a sentence without stuttering. So I'm just wondering...what it takes to really get this NVC, or if it's possible even."

  11. During a presentation at a workshop of about 20 people, a participant volunteers, "You know, this is just like what I was reading about the other day. There is a whole school of thought that supports exactly what you are saying. The only difference is that when they speak about "observation," they mean more than what you are saying. It's more like perception, but actually it's more than perception, because perception could just be mental, but here it's the perception of anything that comes through the senses, and you know, I think -- is it in Buddhism that even thinking is considered one of the senses? So actually if we are talking about observation in that sense, you can be observing smells and thoughts and that means that... (he continues)."

  12. At a church meeting featuring restorative justice and NVC, someone asks, "Explain to me how NVC can help to heal victims of rape."

  13. After the first day of a weekend workshop, two participants approach you with this feedback, "We're not finding we are learning very much here. It seems like maybe you just aren't too confident with NVC yet. We really liked the last workshop with that other trainer whom you were helping out... Is there a possibility that we could have her present tomorrow?"

  14. A workshop participant says, "What is the point of communicating that way? I've tried similar techniques in the past and I just seem to get bogged down with all this I-feel-like-this-you-feel-like-that, and we really go nowhere and nothing is resolved. Now you and I just had a pretty good conversation; how would it have been different if we had done it the NVC way instead of the normal way we just did?"

  15. A workshop participant says, "Let's say I've got a teenage son who is completely rebellious. He will not do anything that I ask. How can I get through to him?"

  16. At an NVC event, someone from another organization says, "I hear that your NVC organization is pretty much of a mess itself... people at each other's throats, wanting to get rid of each other, decisions being made ignoring a lot of people... I mean what makes you think this is going to work for us if it doesn't work for you?"

  17. At a community workshop on NVC, a participant bursts out, "What do you mean by saying that 'child-molester' is a label?' What do you mean 'There is no such thing as a child molester!' I can show you several right in this neighborhood. You guys better wake up and realize that your so-called compassion is putting our kids in jeopardy!"

  18. At an NVC event, someone says, "How come you folks charge so much for these NVC workshops? Is this a business?"

  19. At your first workshop, a participant says, "I'm so tired of hearing those Marshall Rosenberg stories you keep telling. Why don't you tell your own stories?"


C) Social Change Situations

  1. Identify an area or an organization (e.g. school, hospital, police department) where you would like to contribute to change through the introduction of NVC. Take the role of a trainer who has been given a 15-minute appointment to meet the head of such an organization (e.g. principal of a school, president of a company). Following a brief greeting, this person says to you, "What is NVC? What will it do for us?"

  2. Identify a social or political issue that is of concern to you (e.g. sweat shops, gay rights, capital punishment, etc.). Role-play an interaction with someone representing a group who differs strongly from you on this issue and whose views and behaviors you would like to address.

  3. Your cousins in-laws opened up an opportunity for you to do a workshop for the leaders and staff of the National Alliance. You feel nervous about this organization, which puts out literature such as: America becomes darker --racially darker -- every year, and that is the direct result of our government's immigration policy; We White people, we descendants of the European immigrants who built America, will be a minority in our own country; Malicious aliens (European Jews) came into our land and spread spiritual poison among our people, so that our spirits become corrupted and our minds become confused." What might you do or say at the workshop to address your concerns?

  4. During a meeting of your regional NVC organization, someone says, "I'd like to keep our curriculum and trainings focused on interpersonal communication. We're kind of losing the essence of NVC with all this emphasis on social change. We are not a political organization. We have a diversity of views among us, but I believe that our organization must stay politically neutral to do the work we are here to do -- which is to pass on the skills of NVC."

  5. You would like to speak to the head of an organization which is behaving in ways you consider harmful. When you call to make an appointment, an administrative assistant answers the phone and says, "We understand your position, and I will communicate it to (the head of the organization). We really value your input. Thank you for your interest."

  6. You are meeting with some people to affect an issue that has deep significance for all of you. While discussing the actions of the government (corporation, group, etc.) which is behaving contrary to your values, the person next to you says, "These jerks don't care about anything, they are just out to gain personal power."

  7. Your team was asked to put together a proposal for a major training for a school system. You have met several times to plan the training. Now is the final meeting of the team before the proposal is due, and you still have many items to address. As the discussion gets heated, a team member says, "I feel really scared to say this, but I really need some empathy right now. This is bringing up a lot of stuff for me, and I can't really be present for the discussion. I know we have a deadline, but it's more important to me that we function in line with NVC principles."

In the final assessment we use these roleplays... or any others of your choice
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