Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg is a guide to solve conflicts and communicate effectively.
- Leverage compassion both in interpersonal and internal communication
- Express how you feel with “I” statements instead of “you”
- Voice your needs and requests both non-offensively but clearly
- Look for win-win and full satisfaction instead of compromise
Communication is a major part of everyday life and of our relationship.
If we want to function well with people, we need to learn to communicate effectively.
Avoid These Violent Communication
- Moral judgement (insult, criticism, labels)
- Judgmental words
- Demands (you must)
- Comparisons (violent)
- Accusatory words
The words we use impact the way we behave.
O.J. Harvey studies the world literature looking for how often word depicting people as “good” or “bad” would come up.
He found out that countries with a larger usage of bad words also had more incidents.
This doesn’t say much however. Correlation is not causation and it might as well be that more violence leads to more negative words and not the opposite.
Labels for example impair our observation skills because they imply a judgment (ie.: “liberal” or “conservative”).
The goal of nonviolent communication, or NVC, is to help us communicate our feelings clearly by observing objectively, identify feelings and communicate with compassion.
Imagine as an example that you son left his toys all across the floor.
You would not start yelling at him right away.
Instead, first you observe the situation;
then you ask yourself how it makes you feel (angry, frustrated, worried for the family’s safety?);
next you identify what need you have (clean house, safe environment?);
finally you ponder for a second what’s the best way to voice your request in a way that influence them without hurting them.
Son, when I see your toys spread across the kitchen’s floor I feel frustrated because I need our house to be clean and safe.
Do you think you can pick up your toys and take them to your room when you are done playing?
Starting with “I” instead of “you” is a staple of communication manuals.
Observation Without Evaluation
Observing without evaluating is one of the keys of nonviolent communication and one of the most difficult steps to master.
For example the phrase: “Mark always comes late at work” already implies an evaluation.
Rephrasing it in a way that is object would say: “Mark does not arrive before 9am”.
Another example even more relevant for relationships would be:
You never to listen when I speak to you
Instead it’s better to be specific:
The last two times I tried to talk to you about it you left the room
What to You Want
The author talks about creators and victims, which is basically the internal vs external locus of control.
You go from victim to creator by asking what do you want
Taking responsibility means that you don’t blame anyone else for your own feelings.
What someone does is a stimulus but it’s never the cause of our response.
Our response is up to us, and our overall emotional well being is up to us.
Imagine that someone tells you:
You are the most selfish person I met
Sounds harsh, right?
There are a few ways people normally react to strong accusations:
- Change self-narrative, blame themselves and feel depressed
- Get angry or defensive, lash out and blames back
A better reaction though would be to walk through you own feelings and verbalize them.
I feel offended and dejected when you say that because I have really been trying to take your needs into account
This response will clarify your own feelings and get you more easily down the road of resolution.
The last and best option of them all would be to put your ego aside and ask for clarification:
OK. What makes you say that. Do you think I’m selfish for something specific that I have done?
And later you can add:
How do you think I could show more consideration for you and your needs
When you use this type of communication you will often find out that people will self-soothe and calm down because they feel heard and understood.
Marshall Rosenberg says that many of us are not skilled at communicating our own emotions and needs.
That leads people to passive aggression and grow anger and resentment.
The best you can do, both for yourself and the people around you, is to communicate as directly as possible.
Voicing the Request
Similar to communicating our needs, voicing our request should be done as directly as possible.
The author says that a great way to be cause less defensiveness as possible in the listener is to communicate what you want them to do instead of what you want to stop doing.
Positive language also helps to make your needs clearer.
For example if a wife tells his husband not to spend too much time at work, he might not be sure what she means.
Does it means he is stressing himself too much or that she wants him to spend more time at home with her?
Positive language avoids misunderstandings.
Nonviolent Communication For Self Talk
Marshall Rosenberg says that can use nonviolent communication to talk to ourselves as well.
Way too often indeed we label ourselves negatively and we are way too harsh.
Instead, the next time you are being judgmental towards yourself, focus on your unmet needs.
To listen well Nonviolent Communication recommends the following:
- Listen empathically (try to feel what they feel)
- Don’t try to cheer them up
- Don’t offer immediate solutions or advice
- Ask question
- Repeat their last words (it will lead them to expand and clarify)
- Paraphrase what they said to make sure you understand
If you are interested to read more on communication in relationships check out:
- How to really get to know your partner
- How to increase your shared meaning
- The 5 Love Languages
- The secrets to arguing well
For more great books on communication:
Real Life Applications
Use Positive Language Instead of Negative One
One of the biggest takeaway for me is to use positive language of what you want people to do, instead of what you don’t want them to do.
Bad Battering Example
I feel that using the example of a man beating is wife for communication is wrong and underlines how many people do not understand the psychology of abusers.
Most abusive relationships have nothing to do with bad communication and you only fix them by distancing yourself from the SOB.
Also, in general, watch our for relativism: there is a difference between good and evil.
A Bit Simplistic Examples
Some of the examples are a bit simplistic and too “easy”. I would have liked to see some harder communication challenges to crack.
Empathic Approach For a Better World
I liked how the book stresses that importance of clearly understanding our own feelings and striving to understand the others’ feelings.
It might sound touchy feely… And that’s exactly the mistake that most do.
If everyone read and applied the lesson from Nonviolent Communication we would certainly live in a better world.
Nonviolent Communication is a very good manual on effective communication.
I can recommend it both for general communication and for communication within a relationship.