Unleashing Relationship Potential: A Comparative Analysis of the Gottman Method and Nonviolent Communication
Relationships can be the source of our greatest joy and greatest challenges.
When faced with difficulties, seeking effective therapeutic approaches becomes crucial. In your pursuit of relationship harmony, you may have come across two influential methods: the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy by John Gottman and Marshal Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
But how do they differ, and which one is right for you?
Let’s explore the peer-reviewed research to shed light on these approaches, empowering you to make an informed decision.
The Gottman Method
John Gottman, a renowned relationship expert, developed the Gottman Method to provide evidence-based tools for couples therapy. Backed by scientific studies (Gottman & Silver, 1999), this approach emphasizes understanding the dynamics of relationships through observation and assessment.
Clinicians help their clients build friendship, manage conflict, improve communication, and nurture shared goals.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
Marshal Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication centers around fostering empathy, connection, and peaceful conflict resolution. Supported by research (Rosenberg et al., 2014), NVC promotes honest expression of feelings and needs, active listening, and empathy.
Its goal is to create a safe space for compassionate dialogue and understanding.
Both Use an Empathetic Approach
Both the Gottman Method and Nonviolent Communication adopt an empathetic stance, focusing on deepening understanding, empathy, and connection through nonjudgmental listening and compassionate expression.
Since the Gottman Method is was developed specifically for couples therapists to support relationship improvement, it also employs an observational approach, emphasizing the assessment of relationship patterns and behaviors. It uses a framework called the “Sound Relationship House,” which provides a framework for understanding the core components of a healthy relationship (Gottman & Silver, 1999).
Similarly, NVC promotes empathy by encouraging individuals to express their feelings and needs while compassionately listening to their partners (Bond, 2018).
Both approaches offer strategies for conflict resolution (though the Gottmans emphasize that there is no such thing as conflict resolution and use the phrase conflict management instead.)
Since both these models are evidence-based, it is probably not surprising that their advice is very close to identical regarding conflict; they just use different language.
The Gottman Method highlights the importance of managing conflicts constructively by teaching specific techniques, such as “softened startups” to avoid criticism and “repair attempts” to de-escalate tensions (Gottman & Silver, 1999).
NVC aims to transform conflicts into opportunities for connection by encouraging open dialogue, acknowledging needs, and collaboratively seeking win-win solutions (Seybold, 2020).
Both counsel the importance of slowing down to make sure you understand the other perspective before jumping into problem-solving prematurely, and both emphasize the importance of short back-and-forth dialogue (verses longer form dialgues where each person states their case)
While emotional expression is essential in both approaches, the Gottman Method focuses on managing emotions during conflicts by promoting emotional regulation and avoiding harmful patterns like stonewalling or contempt (Levenson & Gottman, 2005).
Gottman Method couples therapists encourage their clients to take a time out when they feel flooded to reduce the risk of saying hurtful things from a place of anger while in fight or flight.
NVC places strong emphasis on emotional authenticity, providing individuals with tools to express their feelings and needs empathetically, fostering a deeper understanding of self and others (Rosenberg, 2015).
Strengthening the Relationship Foundation
The Gottman Method prioritizes building a foundation of friendship, intimacy and shared meaning. It encourages couples to engage in activities that promote connection and bonding, fostering a sense of “we-ness” (Gottman & Silver, 1999).
NVC also nurtures relational bonds by promoting open communication, empathy, and mutual understanding, cultivating a supportive environment (Bond, 2018).
Application of The Gottman Method and Nonviolent Communication
The main differences between these approaches is in their application.
Nonverbal communication is a concept studied in various fields such as psychology, sociology, communication studies, and anthropology. Since it is not tied to a specific therapeutic or counseling approach, the techniques are applied in many different contexts, including advocacy and inclusion work, activism, education, and corporate training environments. While it is also used in couples therapy, it is not limited to diadic communication.
On the other hand, the Gottman Method has only been tested in the field of relational psychology, so the advice is indicated for application in the context of romantic relationships. However, many people apply the strategies to friendships, family, and work relationships in an unofficial context. Anecdotal reports suggest that these methods can be applied in other contexts even thought they have not been tested or published in peer-reviewed journals.
Choosing the Right Communication Method for You
There appear to be more similarities than differences between the Gottman Method and Nonviolent Communication.
Both approaches are built on solid scientific research, encouraging deep understanding, listening, and thoughtful and deliberate collaboration and compromise. You might conclude that you don’t need to choose between these two models, but rather learn from both and apply the specific teachings that resonate for you and your situation.
If you are looking for Gottman Method Couples therapy and live in the state of Pennsylvania, click HERE to schedule an appointment to speak to a Gottman trained therapist. If you are out of state you might want to consider a Gottman Method Intensive Session by taking a few days off work and coming to the city of humanly love.
If you aren’t looking for therapy, check out this free empathy course: Empathy Made Easy by certified Gottman therapist, Laura Silverstein.