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on September 22, 2001
Featured Book - "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall B.
Rosenberg, Ph.D.
This book's full title is "Nonviolent Communication: A Language
of Compassion." It was brought to my attention by the founders of
my sons' school, and for that I thank them. This book explains
Rosenberg's philosophy and model for communicating with others in
a compassionate, nonviolent way. It explores the profound
subtleties of the messages behind the words we use, and examines
how to listen, truly listen, to the messages being sent to us by
the people we communicate with, as well as the messages we are
In Chapter 1 Rosenberg begins, "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?"
The Nonviolent Communication ("NVC") model's main precept is to
train oneself to focus carefully on words as they're received,
and to examine the speaker's feelings and needs, along with one's
own, in a nonjudgmental way. The model is comprised of four
components: observation, feelings, needs, and request. The next
level of engagement involves expressing oneself honestly using
the four components, and receiving empathically using the four
components. I'll leave the details for your reading pleasure;
Rosenberg does an excellent job of walking through the model, its
theory and history, its application, and its potential for
profound and positive change. His writing style is engaging,
friendly, straightforward, and sincere. He relates his own
experiences as a youth, a clinical psychologist, and his many
world-wide efforts to promote nonviolent resolution of disputes
and conflicts, thereby providing a good balance between theory
and examples of NVC in action.
Rosenberg's NVC model works in both directions of human
communication: us listening compassionately, and us speaking
compassionately. NVC can be applied in any communication
scenario, whether with a child, significant other, sibling,
parent, business partner, client, neighbor, stranger... anyone
and everyone you communicate with.
I highly recommend this book to you. The NVC tools and
Rosenberg's insights assist me every day, and have profoundly
enriched my interpersonal communications.
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on July 5, 1999
This is the easiest to follow 'how to' book that I've read.
I must say that the first time I composed a total NVC sentence in response to something my daughter had done, I was thrilled with the silence with which she responded. It was like she totally heard what I said.
The premises from which Rosenburg starts are that compassion is a basic human state and that the specific process we use in communicating can make all the difference in how our message is received. Rosenberg says, " When we use NVC in our interactions--with ourselves, with an other person, or in a group--we become grounded in our natural state of compassion. NVC is an approach that can be effectively applied at all levels of communication and in diverse situations from self-talk to international politics.
Rosenberg states that there is nothing new in the NVC process; that it is to remind us about what we already know about relating to each other and to show us how to live in a way that concretely manifests this knowledge. "Through its emphasis on deep listening--to ourselves as well as others--NVC fosters respect, attentiveness, and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart."
The NVC model for communications includes: observing, without judgement, actions that effect our well-being, stating our feelings as we observe the action, saying what needs, values, desires are connected to the feelings, and requesting the concrete actions we would like.
For most of us it is difficult to make observations of people and their behavior that is free of judgement, criticism or analysis. When we include evaluation in observations people often hear us as criticizing them. What's more if our internal language doesn't clearly distinguish between, on one hand, the values we hold and, on the other hand, the objective descriptions of other's behaviors' we're troubled by, even our internal self-talk creates a dyanmic that makes communication difficult and conflict likely.
For the second component of the model many people he suggests it's valuable to increase our vocabulary in the area of feelings and emotions, NOT to be came diagnositicians or (on the other hand) to become pools of emotions, but to use them to get connected with our needs, and to convey our needs to others in a way that our vulnerability makes it easier for others to hear us. In short, that, along with clearity what we want from others, clarity about where we're comming from emotinally enhances connections between people.
Next he suggests we need to learn about our own needs. We're usually all pretty good at thinking about what's wrong with others. So, for example, if we want tools to be put back, we may characterize our children as "lazy" for leaving them about.
The fourth component of the model is learning how to express what we would like in a way in which others are more likely to respond compassionately. (In other words -- how to make effective requests.) We also, he suggests, need tools to learn how to find out if our messages has been adequately heard.
Rosenberg's model is used both for expressing ourselves honestly and receiving empathetically from others. At the beginning of any interaction we always have the choice of receiving information or expressing our own.
If I'm mad at you I have the choice of telling you about my anger or listening to your experience of the situation. In receiving empathetically we still use the model and listen for the other persons observations, feelings, needs, and requests.
In the final chapters Rosenburg discusses the power of empathy, how to express anger fully, the use of protective force, using NVC when talking with ourselves and -- last but not least -- expressing appreciation in ways richer than we commonly do.
Rosenburg includes many songs, poems, stories, anecdotes and exercises in his work in order to illustrate his points. This makes his book enjoyable to read as well as a valuable communications course.
What I would like now is some people with which to practice this model. It's not hard to make up one sentence to try the model out, but to become facile enough to respond easily in this style would take practice, support and more practice.
Judy Nommik, Ph.D.
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on February 7, 1999
Marshall Rosenberg offers a radical challenge to centuries of momentum toward thought and language that creates violence. His teachings illuminate the underpinnings of violence in our world, but maybe more importantly in our families and everyday life. The book addresses violence in its dramatic as well as subtle forms. He covers familiar territory for those who have studied communication and language, however the profound foundations and simple practicality of his message far exceed others' offerings to date. This book is essential reading for anyone seeking to end the unfulfilling cycles of argument in their relationship. It is essential for parents who wish to influence their childrens' behavior by engendering compassion rather than simply achieving obediance. It is essential for mediators encumbered by complex models of negotiation. Although not collaborators, Rosenberg's teachings provide the theoretical understanding and practical application consistent with the writings and research summaries of Alfie Kohn in his books "Punished by Rewards", "Beyond Discipline", and "No Contest" (as well as others by Kohn). If enough people actually make use of the material in "Nonviolent Communication" we may soon live in a more peaceful and compassionate world.
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In the book Nonviolent Communication a Language of Compassion, Dr. Rosenberg takes the reader on a journey first to see how language and it deficiencies are the source of so much conflict and then down the path to resolve this problem and create an environment of growth and nourishing. The book explains the concepts of Nonviolent Communication in detail with specific examples so that it is easy to understand. The process itself is almost a spiritual journey as you move from a "get even" and "protect yourself at all costs" mentality to one of compassion and connection with others. The book does a very thorough job of analyzing communication and all it's hidden facets.
One of the best books I have read on the subject of communication and how to grow and nourish your relationships with others, whether personal or professional. A strong recommended read.
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on November 26, 2002
I have read and studied a lot of psychological theories and models. Most of them are quite complex and take some time to learn a new vocabulary and understand the semantics of it. I started reading Rosenburg's book in the middle. It is the most readable book on self-awareness I have ever read. He makes his process of Nonviolent Communication very accessable right in this small book. His real-life example stories make it easy to connect to his teaching. He really knows how to communicate and it shows in this book. I plan to buy more copies and give away as gifts, not something I tend to do.
This book is a gold-mine for *any* relationship. Co-workers, friends, spouses, children, bosses, enemies, family...I believe what we all want so dearly in this day and age is real human contact and we are not getting it in many of our relationships. This book can help empower us to get the human contact we long for, and the other person will get what they want too.
I admire Mr. Rosenburg's wisdom and human contact so much that I plan to take one of his courses that explore the use of Nonviolent Communication more in-depth.
This book has the tools to really practice peace. We have so much knowledge and experience on how to wage war and violence. Yet peace is still such a mystery. I look at Ghandi in awe. Using the tools of this book, it is a bit easier to look at Ghandi and understand how he did what he did.
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on June 29, 1999
This book's a bit misleading: What Rosenberg proposes and suggests is so simple and in a way so obvious that it seems either oversimplified or not necessary to state it. It's when I tried to apply the approaches he suggests I discovered that (a) they're simple, but not always easy to apply because they mean I have to really change and (b) they usually work if I get myself to apply them.
I like things that suggest EXACTLY how to accomplish something rather than ones that one's that talk only about the theory behind things, so this books approach appeals to my concrete mentality as well as my sense of also liking to have a nice theoretical model to wrap things up in.
Don't bother getting the book if you plan to just scan it and put it down -- you'll just waste your money. If you plan to read it and try to apply it then I'd say there's a pretty good chance it could change your life in a way you (and people around you) will like. The principles in this book sure did that for me.
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on January 21, 1999
I have applied Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in my relationship with my spouse. Topics that once took 2 to 3 days were handled clearly, thoroughly, honestly and compassionately in less than a half hour. I have used NVC to reflect what I was hearing to a large group in a difficult, seemingly intractable conflict, and this helped them come to a resolution with which all were happy. I have used NVC to mediate in a group of 7 people, and with couples. Good results - but people have to be willing. Perhaps I've benefitted the most from this tool in how I've applied it to my own self-talk - my inner dialog. It's helped me translate judgments and self-criticism, so that I could see what was the life-connected impulse they were coming from. Then it was easy and joyful to change without any "shoulds." I can't say enough good things about my EXPERIENCE with this tool. Try it, you'll like it... and try to see Marshall or another trainer live. Practice groups can be useful too
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on March 22, 1999
The following review appeared in CLEVELAND FREE TIMES, March 10-16,1999
Meet Marshall Rosenberg, quiet revolutionary
Based on cover endorsements from John Gray and Jack Canfield (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Chicken Soup for the Soul), Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion sounds like another New Age, self-help book. Yet like Noam Chomsky -- who deconstructed language and then moved on to media and politics -- Rosenberg's work is intrinsically radical. Beginning by addressing language, it subverts our whole status-quo system of power: between children and adults, the sane and the psychotic, and criminal and the law.
Rosenberg starts with a question: "What happens to disconnect us ... leading us to behave violently and exploitively?" In answering, he gives his own story -- from surviving race riots and anti-semitism in Detroit to his training as a clinical psychologist. Ultimately, like the philosopher Michel Foucault, he explores the relationship between "power and knowledge" -- the way discourse is complicit in oppression. Cracking the code, he gives a pragmatic method of identifying feelings, values and needs, illustrating the judgmental language and the power relationships dominating every level of our society.
Not just theoretical, Rosenberg shows NVC at work -- often dramatically -- from dealing with racists in America to surviving attacks in Palestine simply for being an American. Well-written and laid out, with cartoon illustrations, transcripts from actual dialogues and a summary of main points in the margins, Nonviolent Communication is accessible and easy to read -- perhaps deceptively so. Especially in the latter half of the book, Rosenberg makes some challenging points: that compliments and apologies also operate in a system of oppression; that rewards are as harmful as punishment; that, as violence goes, killing is the easy way out. Making the personal political, he takes to task parenting, political activists, corporations, the prison system, education and psychology -- which, years after he finished his training, he still finds harmful in its emotional distancing, diagnosis and hierarchy. His distinction between "punitive" and "protective" force -- and how to discern when force is necessary -- should be required reading for anyone making U.S. foreign policy or policing our streets.
Demanding the ultimate form of responsibility -- and vulnerability -- it's no wonder that, like Chomsky, Rosenberg has received relatively little media and mass attention. Perhaps in future studies, he will further explore the implications of his work -- especially for superstructures such as international relations, institutionalized racism, capital punishment and how his work bridges the spiritual and the political. But meanwhile, with all hype aside, the self-help diva Jack Canfield is probably right: "the principles and techniques in this book can literally change the world."
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on January 24, 2000
I have never read a clearer, more straightforward, insightful book on communication. After studying and teaching assertivenes since the 70s, this book is a breath of fresh air. Rosenberg adds the brilliant insight into the linkage of feelings and needs and taking responsibility and creates a true tool. Another fine 1999 book on conflict communication is Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton and Heen of Harvard's Negotiation Project. Yet even these authors do not have the insight of Rosenberg into the role of feelings-needs. Amazingly easy to read, great examples, and challengening to put into practice. This book is a true gift to all of us.
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on March 23, 2002
I first bought this book and read the first chapter. Then I gave up. I must say that I have a very cartesian mind. The book opens with some poetry. Well that is not precisely my kind of stuff. It then says that human beeings are fundamentally good and that education/society worses that all. This cliche in vogue since Rousseau was too much for my "scientific" mind. The book stayed there for about one year...
Meanwhile I read many other books and somehow my mind "opened" to a new and fertile terrain. However I did not realise this was the case until I reopenend THIS book. This time I read
it cover to cover. And after that ... I read it again. This is the most influential book I have ever read. It is masterpiece. And YES it is "compatible" with scientific and skeptical oriented minds...
It is full of pragmatic solutions to an every day life problem: communication. There are also some real short case studies
at the end of each chapters. They help grasp the spirit behind the key ideas. There are even a few exercises at the end of the book. Best of all, there is no help from metaphysical entities
such like gods or energies. There is so much in this book that it is hardly conceivable that it takes only about two hundred pages. The Occam Razor principle has been well used. There is not so much poetry after all, and we understand that the author uses it to dialogate with himself, like probably many other beeing on this planet. The book does not appear to be logically
structured at first, but in fact it is: every chapter follows the other in a precise and intuitive order. I suppose there
is a rational behind, may be some well-though psychological theory, but it is not apparent at first (anyone has a key about that ?). This makes the book easy to read. This also helps anyone to target the book to his own needs. I preferred to read it back systematically to satisfy my personnal need for the big picture thing.
A masterpiece.
6 stars possible ?
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