How does Clean Feedback compare with Non-Violent Communication?

One of the most useful models to emerge from the world of Clean Language is Caitlin Walker’s Clean Feedback. When people use it, it changes relationships for the better, in a big way.

For example, my colleague Jackie Lawlor has been teaching the model to staff in doctors’ surgeries in the West Midlands. She tells me that one group have really taken it on board – and now their practice is topping the NHS league tables in terms of results.

It takes a little effort to learn, and to use, but it is worth it.The idea is to separate out

  • what you saw or heard (evidence)
  • the meaning you made up about that (inference)
  • and the effect it had on you, or on the situation (impact).

For example, I could say, “I notice (from the website statistics) that you are reading this blog post. The meaning I make from that is that you are interested in feedback. The impact that has on me is that I want to write more blog posts about feedback.”

If I make a different meaning, it’ll have a different impact. “I notice you are reading this blog post. The meaning I make from that is that you are trying to figure out whether I’m an intelligent human being, and whether my courses are likely to be worth buying. The impact of that is that I become nervous and I want to fill my blog posts with academic references.”

It’s the meaning-making that makes the difference in this model. And it appears to be absent from another popular feedback model, Non-Violent Communication.

My colleague Olaf Lewitz says that when you add this to standard NVC, “it makes Non-Violent Communication non-violent”.

During our Clean Language For Agile Coaches workshop recently, students worked with us to compare and contrast these two models with two others, Crucial Conversations and ORID.

Here’s the comparison table we came up with:

Clean Feedback NVC Crucial conversations ORID
Evidence Observation See/hear Objective
Inference Story Reflective
Impact Feeling Feel Interpretive
Need Act Decisional

What have we missed? What else should we consider? Please comment below.

9 thoughts on “How does Clean Feedback compare with Non-Violent Communication?”

  1. I think it’s a good idea to use a mix of tools so that you can respond to the client’s experience in the moment (rather than subject them to your own rigid structure). When I have taught clean, participants thought it was very useful for data mining. (they were mainly statisticians and analysts). I don’t think data mining is useful if a client needs compassion, so NVC can be very helpful in that instant.

  2. I wonder what kind of feedback model Trump used before he sacked FBI’s Comey?

    Thinking about James Lawley’s “six types of information to feed back” model, what was the frame, the external and internal influences at play in that Trump decision?

    It’s good to have a model of some kind for feedback to at least step back and remove the emotion as much as possible. However it seems to me no matter how much we try to stick to a Clean or whatever process, there are always factors that influence how we approach the conversation and direct it to an outcome we want.

  3. Great article! For me missing linking between categories. And is there relationship between Evidence and Inference or Observation and Feeling or … ? And what kind of relationship is that?
    I called this relationship: “bridge which linking two categories”. Bridge is similar to pre-framing or framing.
    One of the most “short bridge” is “and” or in NVC is it “when, because,…”.
    “Longer bridge” is “You might not like what I’m saying but for me it is very important…” for bypassing critical factor.
    What is yours (bridge) between categories?

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  5. What if the meaning I make is something negative, doesn’t that make the communication “a little violent” again? Then if I reframe it, like changing the feeling of frustration that I experienced over someone’s comments to “perhaps not understanding”, the meaning and and impact change and it’s not the same feedback anymore.

  6. @Kyle I agree. If you “tone down” your feedback, it’s not your feedback any more. The magic of Caitlin’s model, I think, is that the meaning is not usually experienced as “violent” because it is firmly owned by the person giving the feedback.

    You can’t really argue with it – that is the meaning they made – but by hearing it, you can understand why they are upset or whatever. And you can potentially adjust the thing you do that causes them to make that meaning, if it’s important enough for you to do so.

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