Educator Expedition: Focusing on the Soft Skills

By Molly Herber

May 10, 2015

By Anvesh Singh Thapa, NOLS Instructor

Writing our intentions for the week
Writing our intentions for the week

Oftentimes in my feedback from students and instructors alike, I hear that I excel in the hard skills but need to work on my soft skills. Fittingly, I recently discovered the concept of non-violent communication and learned that there was going to be a convention nearby in Cochin, India. This was my opportunity! I didn’t know much about non-violent communication, but have some good friends who are really into it, so I decided to apply.

First, though, I applied for—and was granted—support from the NOLS Instructor Development Fund. So I bought a bus ticket and headed to the state of Kerala for the conference in January.

Non-violent communication (NVC) is a tool that encourages open and honest dialogue. It breaks down into four seemingly simple steps. Although they appear straigh forward, putting them into practice—especially in the heat of an emotional moment—is challenging.

The first step is observation, or objectively stating what you see/hear/remember about a situation. The next is stating your feelings, or expressing what’s happening inside of you. Then you connect your feeling to a need that is or is not being met, and follow it with a request. Each of these steps holds a lot of further explanation and understanding, of course.


Morning session A morning session.

The convention was a week shared with 200 people, some new to NVC and some veterans, who came together to learn, share, and celebrate the use of this communication technique. In all honesty, I’m not sure whether the NVC technique is my thing. I can see its usefulness in some ways, but it still sounds very mechanical to me. Maybe once I get more comfortable with this form of communication, I will be able to put it into my own words. And there’s no better way to practice than out in the field with students. At the very least, I hope to be able to model better communication practices to them.

I appreciate that NOLS supported my trip to the NVC Convention to strengthen my interpersonal skills in communication. If you’d like to learn more about NVC, please visit:

Visit the NOLS website to learn more about NOLS India.

NVC Convention participants All the NVC Convention participants together.

Written By

Molly Herber

Molly is a NOLS instructor and writer. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. When she's not scouting the next post for the NOLS Blog, she's running and climbing on rocks in Wyoming. Follow her on Instagram @mgherber

Up Next

Educator Expedition: Paddling at the South Pacific Sea Kayak Symposium

Southern Chile offers world class sea kayaking. In northern Patagonia, where NOLS is based, the Pacific Coast of South America fragments into a network of islands and fjords that offer some of the most remote, challenging, and beautiful paddling in the world. I had the chance to spend almost five months travelling and working for NOLS in Chile this past winter, and was grateful to receive an IDF grant to attend the South Pacific Sea Kayak Symposium in December.

Read More