Using GPT-3 for preventing conflict during messaging — a pitch for an app

I’m going to pitch an idea for an app, which I would love to see happen, but don’t have time to build myself. My hope is that other people will steal and improve this idea because I believe it has the potential to help a lot of people including myself.

The problem

I love non-violent communication, but in practice I tend to forget it when it is most needed. For those of you that aren’t familiar with non-violent communication (NVC), it is a method for translating what you want to say in a way that is actually helpful to the situation. You can translate your own words, but non-violent communication also stretches to listening in a non-violent way. Both really help with de-escalating a situation and improve overall communication.

An example might be your daughter saying: “I hate you! You suck as a father”.

And hearing it in a non-violent way would be: “I feel frustrated when you cancel our plans. I need quality time with you. Can we please spend some time together tomorrow?”

The underlying idea is that we leave out the judgements and replace them with observations (you cancelled our plan), feelings (I feel frustrated), needs (I need some quality time with my father[1]), and a clear request (can we spend some time together tomorrow?).

Easy-peasy in theory, but very hard in practice.

The app

How great would it be if, whenever you receive a message on your phone, containing a message that might cause conflict, your phone would offer a translation into non-violent communication?

So you might receive the following message: “I don’t want you to come home! You cheated on me you stupid asshole!”

And it would be translated to: “I feel betrayed that you would cheat on me. I need some time to process this. I would appreciate it if you would not come home until I have had a chance to sort through my feelings.”

Or when you want to send something that would cause conflict: “Michael, stop arriving late to work! Do you want me to fire you?”

To something more palatable: “Michael, when you arrive late to work, I feel frustrated because I need punctuality from my employees. Can you please try to arrive on time from now on?”

Now, we can’t expect the app to translate everything perfectly. But a reminder, with a rough translation, could do a world of good. My relationships for instance have suffered from the way I have texted with people in ways that were probably avoidable with non-violent communication.

How to implement the app

Now, this might seem like an incredibly difficult project to implement, but in fact, it is not as hard as it seems. All the examples I have given so far have been generated by GPT-3 with the following prompt:

"[input phrase here]"
Can be rephrased using non-violent communication into an observation (without any judgement), feeling, need, and a request:

You can definitely try it out yourself on, I have been using the text-davinci engine.

Some more examples

All the examples have been generated with one or two prompts:

Input: “I’m trying to respect your opinion, but you’re simply wrong. I can’t help that you believe that covid vaccines don’t work. They do! Read the science bitch!”
Output: “I’ve noticed that you don’t believe that covid vaccines are effective. I’m wondering if you’re feeling afraid or uncertain about them? I need some reassurance that you’re open to considering the science around the vaccines. Would you be willing to read some of the research with me?”

Input: “If you’re not a vegan then you basically let all kinds of animals suffer for your own pleasure, how doesn’t that make you a monster?”
Output: “When I see you eating meat, I feel sad because it reminds me of all the animals that suffer for our pleasure. I need to feel like I’m doing everything I can to reduce that suffering, and I would appreciate it if you would join me in being vegan.”

Input: “You promised to redesign the website as we discussed, but you didn’t. Now, I’m going to quit because I think you are a lazy piece of shit.”
Output: “I observed that you didn’t redesign the website as we discussed, and I feel frustrated because I need clarity and cooperation in order to do my job well. Can we please talk about what happened and how we can move forward?”

Input: “I hate you for invading my country, please go fuck yourself,
Output: “I see that you have invaded my country. I feel angry and betrayed. I need safety and security for my people. Please leave my country.”

Input: “Refugees are stealing our jobs, they should go back to their own country.”
Output: “I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of competition for jobs lately. I’m feeling worried that I might not be able to find a job. I need to feel confident that I can provide for myself and my family. Can we talk about ways to improve the job market?”

Final words

Is GPT-3 doing it perfectly? No, definitely not. Most examples I have given so far aren’t perfect non-violent communication, but I left them in because I wanted everything to be translated by GPT-3. For instance; “I feel betrayed that you would cheat on me.” would not be considered a feeling in the NVC framework. You don’t feel betrayed. You think you are betrayed by the other person and this makes you feel sad, vulnerable and angry.

But the potential is clearly there. It could help us open up the conversation towards other people’s feelings and needs. Even when the guess is wrong, it will remind you that there is another person on the other side with a complex inner life that you probably haven’t taken into account. At the same time, it will also make you look at your own feelings and needs—what is alive in me at the moment?

Now, you might not like the NVC framework, but that is a whole different discussion. GPT-3 should also be adaptable to other frameworks that mitigate conflict.

  1. ^

    It is debatable if this actually a need according to the NVC framework, but the example is there because it was generated by GPT-3.