Preventing Empathic Distress and Social Stressors at Work Through Nonviolent Communication Training: A Field Study With Health Professionals

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One major source of mental health problems in health professionals are personally demanding encounters at work. Thus, a crucial prevention focus is the development of emotional and social skills necessary to effectively manage interactions with clients, colleagues, and supervisors. The aim of our pre-post intervention field study was to evaluate an employee training in nonviolent communication (NVC) within a public health organization. A training group participated in a 3-day NVC training and completed questionnaires before and 3 months after training. Changes in NVC skills, empathic distress, empathy, and social stressors at work were compared with data from a control group without training. Additionally, we observed NVC-trained participants’ communication behavior immediately before and after the intervention. We found a promotion of communication skills in training participants as evidenced by increased emotion verbalization behavior and enhanced use of NVC at work. Empathic distress declined, and an increase of social stressors at work was prevented by enhanced emotion verbalization. The findings demonstrate that NVC training can be an effective means to foster emotional and interpersonal skills and to prevent empathic distress and social stressors at work in individuals working in socioemotionally challenging settings. Possible causal mechanisms explaining the training effects are discussed.

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