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Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships / Edition 3

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships / Edition 3

by Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD, Deepak ChopraMarshall B. Rosenberg PhD
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What is Violent Communication? 
If “violent” means acting in ways that result in hurt or harm, then much of how we communicate—judging others, bullying, having racial bias, blaming, finger pointing, discriminating, speaking without listening, criticizing others or ourselves, name-calling, reacting when angry, using political rhetoric, being defensive or judging who’s “good/bad” or what’s “right/wrong” with people—could indeed be called “violent communication.”
What is Nonviolent Communication? 
Nonviolent Communication is the integration of four things: 
• Consciousness: a set of principles that support living a life of compassion, collaboration, courage, and authenticity
• Language: understanding how words contribute to connection or distance
• Communication: knowing how to ask for what we want, how to hear others even in disagreement, and how to move toward solutions that work for all
• Means of influence: sharing “power with others” rather than using “power over others”
Nonviolent Communication serves our desire to do three things: 
• Increase our ability to live with choice, meaning, and connection
• Connect empathically with self and others to have more satisfying relationships
• Sharing of resources so everyone is able to benefit

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781892005281
Publisher: PuddleDancer Press
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Series: Nonviolent Communication Guides Series
Edition description: Third Edition, Third edition
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 10,947
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD (1934–2015) founded and was for many years the Director of Educational Services for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, an international peacemaking organization. During his life he authored fifteen books, including the bestselling Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (PuddleDancer Press), which has sold more than one million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 30 languages, with more translations in the works.

Dr. Rosenberg has received a number of awards for his Nonviolent Communication work including:
2014: Champion of Forgiveness Award from the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance
2006: Bridge of Peace Nonviolence Award from the Global Village Foundation
2005: Light of God Expressing in Society Award from the Association of Unity Churches
2004: Religious Science International Golden Works Award
2004: International Peace Prayer Day Man of Peace Award by the Healthy, Happy Holy (3HO) Organization
2002: Princess Anne of England and Chief of Police Restorative Justice Appreciation Award
2000: International Listening Association Listener of the Year Award

Dr. Rosenberg first used the NVC process in federally funded school integration projects to provide mediation and communication skills training during the 1960s. The Center for Nonviolent Communication, which he founded in 1984, now has hundreds of certified NVC trainers and supporters teaching NVC in more than sixty countries around the globe. A sought-after presenter, peacemaker and visionary leader, Dr. Rosenberg led NVC workshops and international intensive trainings for tens of thousands of people in over 60 countries across the world and provided training and initiated peace programs in many war-torn areas including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Middle East.

He worked tirelessly with educators, managers, health care providers, lawyers, military officers, prisoners, police and prison officials, government officials, and individual families. With guitar and puppets in hand and a spiritual energy that filled a room, Marshall showed us how to create a more peaceful and satisfying world.

Read an Excerpt

Nonviolent Communication

A Language of Life

By Marshall B. Rosenberg

PuddleDancer Press

Copyright © 2003 PuddleDancer Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-892005-69-4


Giving From the Heart

The Heart of Nonviolent Communication

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, PhD


Believing that it is our nature to enjoy giving and receiving in a compassionate manner, I have been preoccupied most of my life with two questions: What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively? And conversely, what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?

My preoccupation with these questions began in childhood, around the summer of 1943, when our family moved to Detroit, Michigan. The second week after we arrived, a race war erupted over an incident at a public park. More than forty people were killed in the next few days. Our neighborhood was situated in the center of the violence, and we spent three days locked in the house.

When the race riot ended and school began, I discovered that a name could be as dangerous as any skin color. When the teacher called my name during attendance, two boys glared at me and hissed, "Are you a kike?" I had never heard the word before and didn't know some people used it in a derogatory way to refer to Jews. After school, the same two boys were waiting for me: they threw me to the ground and kicked and beat me.

Since that summer in 1943, I have been examining the two questions I mentioned. What empowers us, for example, to stay connected to our compassionate nature even under the worst circumstances? I am thinking of people like Etty Hillesum, who remained compassionate even while subjected to the grotesque conditions of a German concentration camp. As she wrote in her journal at the time,

I am not easily frightened. Not because I am brave but because I know that I am dealing with human beings, and that I must try as hard as I can to understand everything that anyone ever does. And that was the real import of this morning: not that a disgruntled young Gestapo officer yelled at me, but that I felt no indignation, rather a real compassion, and would have liked to ask, 'Did you have a very unhappy childhood, has your girlfriend let you down?' Yes, he looked harassed and driven, sullen and weak. I should have liked to start treating him there and then, for I know that pitiful young men like that are dangerous as soon as they are let loose on mankind.

— Etty Hillesum in Etty: A Diary 1941–1943

While studying the factors that affect our ability to stay compassionate, I was struck by the crucial role of language and our use of words. I have since identified a specific approach to communicating — both speaking and listening — that leads us to give from the heart, connecting us with ourselves and with each other in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish. I call this approach Nonviolent Communication, using the term nonviolence as Gandhi used it — to refer to our natural state of compassion when violence has subsided from the heart. While we may not consider the way we talk to be "violent," words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or ourselves. In some communities, the process I am describing is known as Compassionate Communication; the abbreviation NVC is used throughout this book to refer to Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication.

NVC: a way of communicating that leads us to give from the heart.

A Way to Focus Attention

NVC is founded on language and communication skills that strengthen our ability to remain human, even under trying conditions. It contains nothing new; all that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries. The intent is to remind us about what we already know — about how we humans were meant to relate to one another — and to assist us in living in a way that concretely manifests this knowledge.

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. In any exchange, we come to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. NVC trains us to observe carefully, and to be able to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in any given situation. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

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. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. Through its emphasis on deep listening — to ourselves as well as to others — NVC fosters respect, attentiveness, and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart.

We perceive relationships in a new light when we use NVC to hear our own deeper needs and those of others.

Although I refer to it as "a process of communication" or "a language of compassion," NVC is more than a process or a language. On a deeper level, it is an ongoing reminder to keep our attention focused on a place where we are more likely to get what we are seeking.

There is a story of a man on all fours under a street lamp, searching for something. A policeman passing by asked what he was doing. "Looking for my car keys," replied the man, who appeared slightly drunk. "Did you drop them here?" inquired the officer. "No," answered the man, "I dropped them in the alley." Seeing the policeman's baffled expression, the man hastened to explain, "But the light is much better here."

I find that my cultural conditioning leads me to focus attention on places where I am unlikely to get what I want. I developed NVC as a way to train my attention — to shine the light of consciousness — on places that have the potential to yield what I am seeking. What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.

Let's shine the light of consciousness on places where we can hope to find what we are seeking.

This quality of compassion, which I refer to as "giving from the heart," is expressed in the following lyrics by my friend Ruth Bebermeyer:

I never feel more given to
than when you take from me —
when you understand the joy I feel giving to you.
And you know my giving isn't done to put you in my debt,
but because I want to live the love I feel for you.
To receive with grace
may be the greatest giving.
There's no way I can separate the two.
When you give to me,
I give you my receiving.
When you take from me, I feel so given to.

—" Given To" (1978) by Ruth Bebermeyer from the album Given To.

When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person's life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver. The receiver enjoys the gift without worrying about the consequences that accompany gifts given out of fear, guilt, shame, or desire for gain. The giver benefits from the enhanced self-esteem that results when we see our efforts contributing to someone's well-being.

The use of NVC does not require that the persons with whom we are communicating be literate in NVC or even motivated to relate to us compassionately. If we stay with the principles of NVC, stay motivated solely to give and receive compassionately, and do everything we can to let others know this is our only motive, they will join us in the process, and eventually we will be able to respond compassionately to one another. I'm not saying that this always happens quickly. I do maintain, however, that compassion inevitably blossoms when we stay true to the principles and process of NVC.

The NVC Process

To arrive at a mutual desire to give from the heart, we focus the light of consciousness on four areas — referred to as the four components of the NVC model.

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. An awareness of these three components is present when we use NVC to clearly and honestly express how we are.

Four components of NVC:

1. observations

2. feelings

3. needs

4. requests

For example, a mother might express these three pieces to her teenage son by saying, "Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share in common."

She would follow immediately with the fourth component — a very specific request: "Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?" This fourth component addresses what we are wanting from the other person that would enrich our lives or make life more wonderful for us.

Thus, part of NVC is to express these four pieces of information very clearly, whether verbally or by other means. The other part of this communication consists of receiving the same four pieces of information from others. We connect with them by first sensing what they are observing, feeling, and needing; then we discover what would enrich their lives by receiving the fourth piece — their request.

As we keep our attention focused on the areas mentioned, and help others do likewise, we establish a flow of communication, back and forth, until compassion manifests naturally: what I am observing, feeling, and needing; what I am requesting to enrich my life; what you are observing, feeling, and needing; what you are requesting to enrich your life ...

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

Two parts of NVC:

1. expressing honestly through the four components

2. receiving empathically through the four components

When we use this process, we may begin either by expressing ourselves or by empathically receiving these four pieces of information from others. Although we will learn to listen for and verbally express each of these components in Chapters 3–6, it is important to keep in mind that NVC is not a set formula, but something that adapts to various situations as well as personal and cultural styles. While I conveniently refer to NVC as a "process" or "language," it is possible to experience all four pieces of the process without uttering a single word. The essence of NVC is in our consciousness of the four components, not in the actual words that are exchanged.

Applying NVC in Our Lives and World

When we use NVC in our interactions — with ourselves, with another person, or in a group — we become grounded in our natural state of compassion. It is therefore an approach that can be effectively applied at all levels of communication and in diverse situations:

• intimate relationships

• families

• schools

• organizations and institutions

• therapy and counseling relationships

• diplomatic and business negotiations

• disputes and conflicts of any nature

Some people use NVC to create greater depth and caring in their intimate relationships:

When I learned how I can receive (hear), as well as give (express), through using NVC, I went beyond feeling attacked and 'doormattish' to really listening to words and extracting their underlying feelings. I discovered a very hurting man to whom I had been married for twenty-eight years. He had asked me for a divorce the weekend before the [NVC] workshop. To make a long story short, we are here today — together, and I appreciate the contribution [NVC has] made to our happy ending. ... I learned to listen for feelings, to express my needs, to accept answers that I didn't always want to hear. He is not here to make me happy, nor am I here to create happiness for him. We have both learned to grow, to accept, and to love, so that we can each be fulfilled.

— a workshop participant in San Diego, California

Others use it to build more effective relationships at work:

I have been using NVC in my special education classroom for about one year. It can work even with children who have language delays, learning difficulties, and behavior problems. One student in our classroom spits, swears, screams, and stabs other students with pencils when they get near his desk. I cue him with, 'Please say that another way. Use your giraffe talk.' [Giraffe puppets are used in some workshops as a teaching aid to demonstrate NVC.] He immediately stands up straight, looks at the person toward whom his anger is directed, and says calmly, 'Would you please move away from my desk? I feel angry when you stand so close to me.' The other students might respond with something like, 'Sorry! I forgot it bothers you.'

I began to think about my frustration with this child and to try to discover what I needed from him (besides harmony and order). I realized how much time I had put into lesson planning and how my needs for creativity and contribution were being short-circuited in order to manage behavior. Also, I felt I was not meeting the educational needs of the other students. When he was acting out in class, I began to say, 'I need you to share my attention.' It might take a hundred cues a day, but he got the message and would usually get involved in the lesson.

— a teacher in Chicago, Illinois

A doctor writes:

I use NVC more and more in my medical practice. Some patients ask me whether I am a psychologist, saying that usually their doctors are not interested in the way they live their lives or deal with their diseases. NVC helps me understand what patients' needs are and what they need to hear at a given moment. I find this particularly helpful in relating to patients with hemophilia and AIDS because there is so much anger and pain that the patient/health care-provider relationship is often seriously impaired. Recently a woman with AIDS, whom I have been treating for the past five years, told me that what has helped her the most have been my attempts to find ways for her to enjoy her daily life. My use of NVC helps me a lot in this respect. Often in the past, when I knew that a patient had a fatal disease, I myself would get caught in the prognosis, and it was hard for me to sincerely encourage them to live their lives. With NVC, I have developed a new consciousness as well as a new language. I am amazed to see how much it fits in with my medical practice. I feel more energy and joy in my work as I become increasingly engaged in the dance of NVC.

— a physician in Paris, France

Still others use this process in the political arena. A French cabinet member visiting her sister remarked how differently the sister and her husband were communicating and responding to each other. Encouraged by their descriptions of NVC, she mentioned that she was scheduled the following week to negotiate some sensitive issues between France and Algeria regarding adoption procedures. Though time was limited, we dispatched a French-speaking trainer to Paris to work with the cabinet minister. The minister later attributed much of the success of her negotiations in Algeria to her newly acquired communication techniques.

In Jerusalem, during a workshop attended by Israelis of varying political persuasions, participants used NVC to express themselves regarding the highly contested issue of the West Bank. Many of the Israeli settlers who have established themselves on the West Bank believe that they are fulfilling a religious mandate by doing so, and they are locked in conflict not only with Palestinians but also with other Israelis who recognize the Palestinian hope for national sovereignty in the region. During a session, one of my trainers and I modeled empathic hearing through NVC and then invited participants to take turns role-playing each other's position. After twenty minutes, a settler announced that she would be willing to consider relinquishing her land claims and moving out of the West Bank into internationally recognized Israeli territory if her political opponents could listen to her in the way she had just been listened to.

Worldwide, NVC now serves as a valuable resource for communities facing violent conflicts and severe ethnic, religious, or political tensions. The spread of NVC training and its use in mediation by people in conflict in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere have been a source of particular gratification for me. My associates and I were once in Belgrade for three highly charged days training citizens working for peace. When we first arrived, expressions of despair were visibly etched on the trainees' faces, for their country was then enmeshed in a brutal war in Bosnia and Croatia. As the training progressed, we heard the ring of laughter in their voices as they shared their profound gratitude and joy for having found the empowerment they were seeking. Over the next two weeks, during trainings in Croatia, Israel, and Palestine, we again saw desperate citizens in war-torn countries regaining their spirits and confidence from the NVC training they received.


Excerpted from Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg. Copyright © 2003 PuddleDancer Press. Excerpted by permission of PuddleDancer Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Deepak Chopra xiii

Acknowledgments xvii

1 Giving From the Heart 1

Introduction 1

A Way to Focus Attention 3

The NVC Process 6

Applying NVC in Our Lives and the World 8

NVC in Action: "Murderer, Assassin, Child-Killer!" 13

2 Communication That Blocks Compassion 15

Moralistic Judgments 15

Making Comparisons 18

Denial of Responsibility 19

Other Forms of Life-Alienating Communication 22

3 Observing Without Evaluating 25

The Highest Form of Human Intelligence 28

Distinguishing Observations From Evaluations 30

NVC in Action: "The Most Arrogant Speaker We've Ever Had!" 32

Exercise 1 Observation or Evaluation? 34

4 Identifying and Expressing Feelings 37

The Heavy Cost of Unexpressed Feelings 37

Feelings versus Non-Feelings 41

Building a Vocabulary for Feelings 43

Exercise 2 Expressing Feelings 47

5 Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings 49

Hearing a Negative Message: Four Options 49

The Needs at the Roots of Feelings 52

The Pain of Expressing Our Needs versus the Pain of Not Expressing Our Needs 55

From Emotional Slavery to Emotional Liberation 57

NVC in Action: "Bring Back the Stigma of Illegitimacy!" 61

Exercise 3 Acknowledging Needs 65

6 Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life 67

Using Positive Action Language 67

Making Requests Consciously 72

Asking for a Reflection 74

Requesting Honesty 76

Making Requests of a Group 77

Requests versus Demands 79

Denning Our Objective When Making Requests 81

NVC in Action: Sharing Fears About a Best Friend's Smoking 85

Exercise 4 Expressing Requests 88

7 Receiving Empathically 91

Presence: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There 91

Listening for Feelings and Needs 94

Paraphrasing 96

Sustaining Empathy 101

When Pain Blocks Our Ability to Empathize 103

NVC in Action: A Wife Connects With Her Dying Husband 105

Exercise 5 Receiving Empathically versus Non-Empathically 109

8 The Power of Empathy 113

Empathy That Heals 113

Empathy and the Ability to Be Vulnerable 115

Using Empathy to Defuse Danger 117

Empathy in Hearing Someone's "No!" 120

Empathy to Revive a Lifeless Conversation 121

Empathy for Silence 123

9 Connecting Compassionately With Ourselves 129

Remembering the Specialness of What We Are 129

Evaluating Ourselves When We've Been Less Than Perfect 130

Translating Self-Judgments and Inner Demands 132

NVC Mourning 132

Self-Forgiveness 133

The Lesson of the Polka-Dotted Suit 134

Don't Do Anything That Isn't Play! 135

Translating "Have to" to "Choose to" 136

Cultivating Awareness of the Energy Behind Our Actions 138

10 Expressing Anger Fully 141

Distinguishing Stimulus From Cause 141

All Anger Has a Life-Serving Core 144

Stimulus versus Cause: Practical Implications 145

Four Steps to Expressing Anger 148

Offering Empathy First 149

Taking Our Time 152

NVC in Action: Parent and Teen Dialogue A Life-Threatening Issue 154

11 Conflict Resolution and Mediation 161

Human Connection 161

NVC Conflict Resolution versus Traditional Mediation 162

NVC Conflict Resolution Steps-A Quick Overview 164

On Needs, Strategies, and Analysis 165

Empathy to Ease the Pain That Prevents Hearing 170

Using Present and Positive Action Language to Resolve Conflict 172

Using Action Verbs 173

Translating "No" 174

NVC and the Mediator Role 175

When People Say "No" to Meeting Face to Face 181

Informal Mediation: Sticking Our Nose in Other People's Business 182

12 The Protective Use of Force 185

When the Use of Force Is Unavoidable 185

The Thinking Behind the Use of Force 185

Types of Punitive Force 186

The Costs of Punishment 188

Two Questions That Reveal the Limitations of Punishment 189

The Protective Use of Force in Schools 190

13 Liberating Ourselves and Counseling Others 195

Freeing Ourselves From Old Programming 195

Resolving Internal Conflicts 196

Caring for Our Inner Environment 197

Replacing Diagnosis With NVC 199

NVC in Action: Dealing With Resentment and Self-Judgment 204

14 Expressing Appreciation in Nonviolent Communication 209

The Intention Behind the Appreciation 209

The Three Components of Appreciation 210

Receiving Appreciation 212

The Hunger for Appreciation 214

Overcoming the Reluctance to Express Appreciation 215

Epilogue 217

Bibliography 220

Index 223

The Four-Part Nonviolent Communication Process 231

Some Basic Feelings and Needs We All Have 232

About Nonviolent Communication 233

About PuddleDancer Press 234

About the Center for Nonviolent Communication 235

Trade Books From PuddleDancer Press 236

Trade Booklets From PuddleDancer Press 242

About the Author 244

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