Cover of book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

by: Marshall B. Rosenberg

Check out the book on Amazon | your public library.
28 Highlights | 24 Notes
  • Words Are Windows
    (or They're Walls)

    I feel so sentenced by your words,
    I feel so judged and sent away,
    Before I go I've got to know,
    Is that what you mean to say?

    Before I rise to my defense,
    Before I speak in hurt or fear,
    Before I build that wall of words,
    Tell me, did I really hear?

    Words are windows, or they're walls,
    They sentence us, or set us free.

    When I speak and when I hear,
    Let the love light shine through me.

    There are things I need to say,
    Things that mean so much to me,
    If my words don't make me clear,
    Will you help me to be free?

    If I seemed to put you down,
    If you felt I didn't care,
    Try to listen through my words,
    To the feelings that we share.

    –Ruth Bebermeyer
    Note: poem by Ruth bebermeyer, #eq
  • NVC guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention.
    Note: why NVC
  • As NVC replaces our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, or attacking in the face of judgment and criticism, we come to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light. Resistance, defensiveness, and violent reactions are minimized.
  • First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life? The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without introducing any judgment or evaluation - to simply say what people are doing that we either like or don't like. Next, we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated? And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified.
    Note: nvc process
  • NVC Process

    The concrete actions we
    observe that affect our well-being

    How we feel in relation
    to what we observe

    The needs, values, desires, etc.
    that create our feelings

    The concrete actions we request
    in order to enrich our lives

    Note: nvc process
  • “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.”
    Note: #eq, Quote by Rumi
  • It is important here not to confuse value judgments and moralistic judgments. All of us make value judgments as to the qualities we value in life; for example, we might value honesty, freedom, or peace. Value judgments reflect our beliefs of how life can best be served. We make moralistic judgments of people and behaviors that fail to support our value judgments.
    Note: how we judge
  • Communication is life-alienating when it clouds our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
  • We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.
  • Communicating our desires as demands is yet another form of language that blocks compassion. A demand explicitly or implicitly threatens listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply.
  • NVC does not mandate that we remain completely objective and refrain from evaluating. It only requires that we maintain a separation between our observations and our evaluations. NVC is a process language that discourages static generalizations; instead, evaluations are to be based on observations specific to time and context.
    When we combine observation with evaluation, people are apt to hear criticism.
    Note: observing without evaluating, criticism
  • The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once remarked that observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.
    Note: #eq, observing without evaluationg
  • Distinguishing Observations From Evaluations
    The following table distinguishes observations that are separate from evaluation from those that have evaluation mixed in.
    CommunicationExample of observation with evaluation mixed inExample of observation separate from evaluation
    1. Use of verb to be without indication that the evaluator takes responsibility for the evaluationYou are too generous.When I see you give all your lunch money to others, I think you are being too generous.
    2. Use of verbs with evaluative connotationsDoug procrastinates. Doug only studies for exams the night before.
    3. Implication that one's inferences about another person's thoughts, feelings, intentions, or desires are the only ones possibleShe won't get her work in.I don't think she'll get her work in. or She said,“I won't get my work in.”
    4. Confusion of prediction with certaintyIf you don't eat balanced meals, your health will be impaired.If you don't eat balanced meals, I fear your health may be impaired.
    5. Failure to be specific about referentsImmigrants don't take care of their property.I have not seen the immigrant family living at 1679 Ross shovel the snow on their sidewalk.
    6. Use of words denoting ability without indicating that an evaluation is being madeHank Smith is a poor soccer player.Hank Smith has not scored a goal in twenty games.
    7. Use of adverbs and adjectives in ways that do not indicate a evaluation has been madeJim is ugly.Jim's looks don't appeal to me.
    Note: observing without evaluating
  • Distinguish feelings from thoughts.
    Distinguish between what we feel and what we think we are.
    Note: feelings vs. thoughts
  • Distinguish between what we feel and how we think others react or behave toward us.
    Note: feelings vs. thoughts
  • Connect your feeling with your need: I feel … because I need …
    we can deepen our awareness of our own responsibility by substituting the phrase, “I feel … because I … ”
    For example:
    “I feel really infuriated when spelling mistakes like that appear in our public brochures, because I want our company to project a professional image.”
    Note: connecting feeling with need
  • Stage 1: In this stage, which I refer to as emotional slavery, we believe ourselves responsible for the feelings of others. We think we must constantly strive to keep everyone happy. If they don't appear happy, we feel responsible and compelled to do something about it.
    Note: emotional slavery to emotional liberation
  • Stage 2: In this stage, we become aware of the high costs of assuming responsibility for others' feelings and trying to accommodate them at our own expense. When we notice how much of our lives we've missed and how little we have responded to the call of our own soul, we may get angry. I refer jokingly to this stage as the obnoxious stage because we tend toward obnoxious comments like, “That's your problem! I'm not responsible for your feelings!” when presented with another person's pain. We are clear what we are not responsible for, but have yet to learn how to be responsible to others in a way that is not emotionally enslaving.
    Note: emotional slavery to emotional liberation
  • Stage 3: At the third stage, emotional liberation, we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear, guilt, or shame. Our actions are therefore fulfilling to us, as well as to those who receive our efforts. We accept full responsibility for our own intentions and actions, but not for the feelings of others. At this stage, we are aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others. Emotional liberation involves stating clearly what we need in a way that communicates we are equally concerned that the needs of others be fulfilled.
    Note: emotional slavery to emotional liberation
  • In the course of developing emotional responsibility, most of us experience three stages: (1) “emotional slavery” - believing ourselves responsible for the feelings of others, (2) “the obnoxious stage” - in which we refuse to admit to caring what anyone else feels or needs, and (3) “emotional liberation”-in which we accept full responsibility for our own feelings but not the feelings of others, while being aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others.
    Note: emotional slavery to emotional liberation
  • In the course of developing emotional responsibility, most of us experience three stages: (1) “slavery” - believing ourselves responsible for the feelings of others, (2) “the obnoxious stage” - in which we refuse to admit to caring what anyone else feels or needs, and (3) “emotional liberation”-in which we accept full responsibility for our own feelings but not the feelings of others, while being aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others.
    Note: emotional slavery to emotional liberation
  • In addition to using positive language, we also want to word our requests in the form of concrete actions that others can undertake and to avoid vague, abstract, or ambiguous phrasing.
    Note: how to make requests
  • Like this father, we often use vague and abstract language to indicate how we want other people to feel or be without naming a concrete action they could take to reach that state.
    Note: how to make requests
  • When we simply express our feelings, it may not be clear to the listener what we want them to do.
    We are often not conscious of what we are requesting.
    Requests may sound like demands when unaccompanied by the speaker's feelings and needs.
    The clearer we are about what we want, the more likely it is that we'll get it.
    Note: how to make requests
  • If I clearly understand
    you intend no demand,
    I'll usually respond when you call.
    But if you come across
    like a high and mighty boss,
    you'll feel like you ran into a wall.
    And when you remind me
    so piously
    about all those things you've done for me,
    you'd better get ready:
    Here comes another bout!
    Then you can shout,
    you can spit,
    moan, groan, and throw a fit;
    I still won't take the garbage out.
    Now even if you should change your style,
    It's going to take me a little while
    before I can forgive and forget.
    Because it seems to me that you
    didn't see me as human too
    until all your standards were met.
    —“Song from Brett” by Marshall B. Rosenberg
    Note: poem, Marshall Rosenberg poem
  • The Chinese philosopher Chuang-Tzu stated that true empathy requires listening with the whole being: “The hearing that is only in the ears is one thing. The hearing of the understanding is another. But the hearing of the spirit is not limited to any one faculty, to the ear, or to the mind. Hence it demands the emptiness of all the faculties. And when the faculties are empty, then the whole being listens.There is then a direct grasp of what is right there before you that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the mind.”
    Note: #eq, what is empathy
  • Instead of offering empathy, we tend instead to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, on the other hand, requires us to focus full attention on the other person's message. We give to others the time and space they need to express themselves fully and to feel understood.
    Note: empathy
  • My friend Holley Humphrey identified some common behaviors that prevent us from being sufficiently present to connect empathically with others. The following are examples:
    • •Advising: “I think you should … ” “How come you didn't … ?”
    • •One-upping: “That's nothing; wait'll you hear what happened to me.”
    • •Educating: “This could turn into a very positive experience for you if you just … ”
    • •Consoling: “It wasn't your fault; you did the best you could.”
    • •Story-telling: “That reminds me of the time … ”
    • •Shutting down: “Cheer up. Don't feel so bad.”
    • •Sympathizing: “Oh, you poor thing … ”
    • •Interrogating: “When did this begin?”
    • •Explaining: “I would have called but … ”
    • •Correcting: “That's not how it happened.”
    Note: empathy