Author: Marshall Rosenberg
|Nonviolent Communication (1999) helps us be more effective in our communication, whether we’re negotiating with our boss or trying to resolve conflict. It encourages us to focus on other people’s feelings and needs, instead of judgment and blame. It can help you understand what is going on inside yourself and others, make requests with more confidence and listen better, respond creatively to conflict situations, and create win-win solutions.|
Nonviolent communication is a way of sending and receiving information that is powerful enough to heal the deepest wounds. It allows us to speak our truth, be fully heard, and offer empathy in return. The basic principles are often attributed to Marshall Rosenberg. He was a social worker who developed the practice by drawing on Eastern meditative practices.
But NVC is more than meditation for social workers. It’s also a powerful tool for creating change as leaders. As I explored in a previous article, it can help us leverage compassion instead of anger to resolve conflict and build productive teams. In this Nonviolent Communication Summary, we’ll focus on using the NVC methods described in this book to communicate more effectively in situations where language may be the only way to fight back against injustice.
The NVC method works because it gives us real tools for communicating not just our needs and feelings, but also the needs and feelings of others. It teaches us how to use language as a lever, even in situations where direct action is difficult or impossible. This concise summary includes all of the core concepts and practices that make NVC work for families, teams, romantic partners, groups, individuals, and businesses.
Nonviolent Communication Summary Key Points
Separate your observations from your judgments to avoid the conflict
The first step toward reducing needless conflict is to be aware of how you’re communicating with someone. If you’re saying something like, “You never clean your room!” you’re making a judgment, which is about as helpful as pointing out that they have a problem. You might think they’re making the wrong decision. However, no matter what you think, telling them so doesn’t help them to change their behavior. Think back to a time when you felt judged. I’m willing to bet you felt defensive, angry, and maybe even a little hopeless. Now think back to a time when you were in conflict with someone and you did not feel judged. Think of how that conversation went.
People don’t typically like being judged. It feels especially bad when you feel like someone is attacking or criticizing you. The part of your brain responsible for making quick decisions about whether something is safe or a threat gets activated when you’re on the receiving end of negative judgment. So yes, you can judge people without saying anything directly to them; just think about how you’d describe a stranger to a friend or how you talk about celebrities to your friends.
The key takeaway is that we’re all guilty of judging others. Still, it’s important to remember that judgments are always based on observations and not about who the person is, fundamentally.
Understand others need to get a positive response to your requests or actions of them
Rosenberg says we are not as judgmental as we think. She says, “Most judgments are translations of our actions into requests or demands”. We make judgments to inform ourselves of our own needs and values.
“We can learn from this,” Rosenberg says. “Rather than judge others, we can translate our actions into requests or demands and ask whether others are willing to fulfill them”. My need for food is not the same as my need for chicken soup. My demand for a cellphone is different from my demand for an Android phone. If I translate my actions into requests, I may find that the person I am judging is not in compliance with my needs. So, there is no reason to condemn him.
At the very least, this approach allows me to understand why I feel the way I do about someone else. It can lead to empathy and if that happens, I may be able to adjust my actions so that they will be more successful.” With this approach, any two people can work together and achieve success by using their interaction to clarify their own needs and values instead of judging each other.
If we could be more specific, our judgment would be more effective and less hurtful. We would also have more meaningful conversations with one another. This makes sense in that we all want to feel that the people around us are aware of us and what we need. When the waiter arrives at our table without a pencil, we express our need for a pencil.
Nonviolent communication can help you improve how you talk to yourself
There’s a concept in nonviolent communication called empathy with past and present selves. In nonviolent communication summary, we talk about the importance of acknowledging one’s own needs and then giving others the empathy they need to feel acknowledged too.
This is especially important when it comes to your past and present selves. Throughout our lives, we inevitably experience different kinds of trauma and harm. Maybe you’ve had experiences growing up where you felt marginalized, misunderstood, or not listened to, or perhaps you had a teacher or parent that betrayed you or let you down. Maybe you’ve made mistakes or acted unethically in some way before, whether minor or significant and are upset with yourself for it.
We often carry around painful memories like these for years without truly processing them. We might still be angry about that time you told your friend you thought she was ugly and she cried, or even still angry at the person who destroyed your self-confidence from the past.
In addition to more traditional communication conflict resolution skills, nonviolent communication also teaches a set of skills for talking with yourself. Using empathetic self-talk, you can break cycles of destructive inner monologue and make good decisions about how to deal with the situation. So, for instance, if you’re thinking “I hate the way I acted when I was 13! Why didn’t I know that would embarrass my family?!” you might find ways to dialogue with your 13-year-old self to say things like, “I understand why you did that, and I forgive you for it.
Nonviolent Communication Quotes
“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.” –Marshall B. Rosenberg
“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently, those people deserve to be punished.” –Marshall B. Rosenberg
Nonviolent Communication Review
I recognize the author’s main goal, which is to promote peace, empathy, and understanding. I think these are great values, but people have a thick crust of fear, anger, and hostility built up. When I first read Nonviolent Communication, it seemed like a good idea but didn’t immediately seem like something I’d be able to use in real life. It sounded sort of alien. Over time, though, it grew on me. Recommended.
To whom I would recommend Nonviolent Communication Summary?
- Anyone who needs to stop getting into conflicts.
- Any person who can’t stop judging other people.
- Is anyone interested in learning about the natural mediators in ourselves?