Book Summary: Nonviolent Communication

Book: Non-Violent Communication

NonViolentCommunication

Nonviolent Communication

These are the passages I took away from the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall RosenbergAll content credit goes to the author(s).

What is Nonviolent Communication?

  • Purpose: To help us connect with ourselves and others, in a way that makes compassionate giving possible; that allows everyone’s needs to be met.
  • Compassionate Giving: When we do something for ourselves or others, where our sole intention is to enrich life. Not for reward or to escape punishment.
  • NVC: Language of a sort that helps us to connect with ourselves and others. It is a language of life, based on human feelings and human needs, that helps us communicate what would make life more wonderful for ourselves.

Communication that Blocks Compassion

  • Moralistic Judgements: The use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of those who don’t act in harmony with our values.
  • Denial of Responsibility: When we attribute to others how we behave, think and feel.
  • Demanding: When we communicate our desires as demands. A demand explicitly or implicitly threatens listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply.
  • Deserving: When we suggest that certain actions merit reward while others merit punishment.

The Process of Non-Violent Communication

1. Observations

  • When we combine observation with evaluation, others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying. Instead, observations are to be made specific to time and context.
  • e.g. “Hank Smith has not scored a goal in 20 games” rather than “Hank Smith is a poor soccer player.”

2. Feelings

  • The second step is to express how we are feeling using words that clearly describe our emotional states… It’s important to distinguish the expression of actual feelings from words and statements that describe thoughts, assessments, and interpretations.
  • e.g. “I feel happy about what you did for me.”

3. Needs

  • Needs are common to all of us and contain no reference to specific people taking specific actions. Instead they refer to the “life in action within us” that is being fulfilled or not fulfilled.
  • We all have common needs:
    • Sustenance
    • Safety
    • Empathy
    • Honesty/Clarity/Trust
    • Celebration
    • Creativity
    • Love
    • Community
    • Autonomy
    • Meaning
    • Purpose
  • e.g. “I’m sad that you won’t be coming for dinner because I was hoping we could spend the evening together.”

4. Requests

  • A request is a reference to a specific person taking a specific action that we hope will meet our needs.
  • Requests should be made in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want.
  • e.g. “I’m frustrated because I’d like to be clearer about what you are referring to. Would you be willing to tell me what I’ve done that leads you to see me in this way?”

NVC on Expressing Appreciation

  • Express appreciation as a way to celebrate, not to manipulate, the way our lives have been enriched by others.
    • (1) State the action that has contributed to our well-being
    • (2) State the particular need of ours that has been fulfilled
    • (3) State the feeling of pleasure engendered as a result.

e.g. “Marshall, when you said these two things [showing me her notes], I felt very hopeful and relieved, because I’ve been searching for a way to make a connection with my son, and these gave me the direction I was looking for.”

NVC on Anger

At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled. Thus anger can be valuable if we use it as an alarm clock to wake us up—to realize we have a need that isn’t being met and that we are thinking in a way that makes it unlikely to be met. To fully express anger requires full consciousness of our need. In addition, energy is required to get the need met. Anger, however, co-opts our energy by directing it toward punishing people rather than meeting our needs.

NVC on Self-Judgments

If we learn to evaluate ourselves in terms of whether and how well our needs are being fulfilled, we are much more likely to learn from the evaluation without losing self-respect. Our challenge then, when we are doing something that is not enriching life, is to evaluate ourselves moment by moment in a way that inspires change both: (1) in the direction of where we would like go, and (2) out of respect and compassion for ourselves, rather than out of self-hatred, guilt or shame.

NVC on Empathy

Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. Instead of offering empathy, we often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.

In NVC, no matter what words others may use to express themselves, we simply listen for their observations, feelings, needs, and requests. Then we may wish to reflect back, paraphrasing what we have understood. We stay with empathy, allowing others the opportunity to fully express themselves before we turn our attention to solutions or requests for relief.

NVC on Requests vs Demands

“A demand is when a person believes that if they don’t do what the other is requesting; they will be punished, rejected, guilted or shamed. The person requesting is seen as coercive, and the listener’s capacity to listen is diminished.”

We can help others trust that we are requesting, not demanding, by indicating our desire for them to comply only if they can do so willingly. The objective of NVC is not to change people and their behaviour in order to get our way; it is to establish relationships based on honesty and empathy that will eventually fulfill everyone’s needs.

NVC on 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
  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.

Emotional liberation involves stating clearly what we need in a way that communicates we are equally concerned that the needs of others be fulfilled.


Once again, all content credit goes to the author of this book. I’ve simply shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most useful.

That’s it for now. Cheers ’till next time!

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