The ability to express your frustrations in a mutually non-triggering way is a core skill in relationships. In this post, I’m doing a high-level comparison of three models for interpersonal communication that I’ve come across: Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication (NVC) model as presented in the book by the same name, Nate and Kaley Klemp’s Reveal and Request (R&R) model explained in their book The 80/80 Marriage, and the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) model developed by the Center for Creative Leadership.


Rosenberg’s NVC model has four components:

  • Observation: Explain the situation/occurence/behavior without mind-reading or judgment, sticking to only what is observable
  • Feeling: Express the feelings that you experienced, being mindful to separate these from your thoughts, and noting that just because a statement begins with “I feel” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re expressed a feeling (e.g. he particular warns against anything starting with “I feel that…”, “I feel like…”, or “I feel you/he/she/they…” as being danger signs of thoughts or mind-reading creeping in)
  • Needs: What is the unmet need behind the feelings that you’re experience? Examples of common needs are subsistence, security, novelty, freedom, connection, and meaning. Within these broad categories, needs cen be finer still (e.g. authenticity can be seen as a leaf node of meaning). Rosenberg asserts that understanding that we have these needs and they are part of our common humanity is perhaps the most important step in learning to practice NVC and to live empathically.
  • Request: Make a request for concrete actions that can be carried out in the present moment

An example: “When you cancelled our date night last night, I felt hurt, because my need for connection isn’t met. Would you be willing to give me more of a heads up next time, so I can perhaps make other plans?”


In the Klemp’s Reveal and Request model, you first reveal your emotional experience to your partner (“with the spirit of radical generosity”, which I suppose means to do it lovingly and with the intention of strengthening your relationship) and then follow this up with a clear request.

An example: “When I spent 45 minutes cooking dinner for the family and you showed up 10 minutes late, I felt sad and disappointed. My ask is that, next time, please text me if you know you’re going to be late." (source)

Compared to the NVC model, R&R condenses the observations and feeling steps above into a single reveal step, dispenses with the needs statement, and leaves the request step in place.


The Center for Creative Leadership claims of SBI: “Our research-backed, widely-recognized model for delivering feedback… SBI, is proven to reduce the anxiety of delivering feedback and also reduce the defensiveness of the recipient.”1

The SBI model has three components:

  • Situation: Describe the situation, being specific about when and where it occurred
  • Behavior: Describe the behavior, without mind-reading, as though you are a newspaper reporter, sticking to the observable facts
  • Impact: Describe what you thought or felt in response to the behavior

An example: “Yesterday during the BBQ, you left me by myself for half an hour with a group of your friends that I’d just met. I felt really alone and uncomfortable.”

Compared to the NVC model, SBI separates the observation step into two distinct parts (situation, behavior) and maps the feeling step into impact. It dispenses with the needs statement, and the request step is left woefully unaddressed (we can assume that SBI is a jumping off point for point for setting up actionable feedback).

For those of us in relationships, the simplicity and similarity between these three models is encouraging. Having tried all of them in the wilds of my actual relationships, I can say that I enjoy the NVC model the most – the needs step I think is crucial in taking the conversation to a place of vulnerability in a way that omitting it fails to do. It raises questions like “Why do you have that need?”, which often spurs an extremely connective conversation about family of origin or childhood experiences. I have an inquiry out to the 80/80 Marriage folks about why they chose to omit this step in R&R. SBI, as a primarily workplace-oriented model, perhaps omits the needs statement as being too intimate for that setting. However, I’m perplexed why they don’t specify the necessity of a clear request – this forward-looking step seems of paramount important in a professional setting. For a romantic relationship, SBI feels a bit too brusque.

There’s more to be said here, in particular about the obligations of the listener/receiver in these situations. But we will save that for another post.

  1. While I couldn’t find evidence of such research or widespread recognition, I did work at one leading trading firm that engaged CCL and this was the first feedback model that I heard of. Perhaps falling victim to the primacy effect, I therefore thought it was worth including in this list. ↩︎