Customer Reviews: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
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on December 17, 2003
Initially I thought this book wouldn't be relevant to me since I didn't consider myself a "violent" communicator. A few pages into the book however, it became evident to me that despite my easy-going nature, I had much to learn about communication. Dr. Rosenberg identifies learned communication that disconnects us from each other and is at the very root of violence. He then offers a simple yet powerful 4 step model that leads to respectful and compassionate communication. One catch - while the model is simple, it can be challenging to apply, especially when we're upset. That's because most of us have learned to blame others when we're upset and it's hard to unlearn this behavior. However, use of the model deepens our awareness and it becomes very clear how destructive our habitual knee-jerk reactions are to both ourselves and others. The Nonviolent Communication model helps us to become conscious and choose to respond differently - that is in ways that are more likely to lead to positive and satisfying outcomes for everyone. If you'd like to transform your relationships, for example: learn how to really listen to others while not taking anything you hear personally (what a gift!), learn how to give and receive in ways that are deeply gratifying, and much more, this is a must read. Also, this model is applicable in all relationship types - perfect for couples, parents, teachers, managers, executives, counselors and anyone else interested in relationship building.
On a personal note, this book has been life-changing for me. I have witnessed truly amazing results in all my relationships including one relationship which had been a great struggle for me for many years.
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on December 27, 2003
In November, 2000, I read the previous edition of this book...The quality of empathy I now am able to provide has enlivened my therapy practice, and meets my need for hope that I can contribute to the well being of my clients, and also connect deeply with my friends and family. The step-by-step empathy skills in this book are learnable by anyone..
This latest edition of Dr. Rosenberg's book has a completely new chapter called, "Connecting Compassionately with Ourselves." It's about what he calls, "self-compassion." He writes, "When we are internally violent towards ourselves, it is difficult to be genuinely compassionate towards others." I enjoyed this chapter because it helped me translate my self-judgments into statements of my own unmet needs. I now see that when I am angry with myself it is because my actions were not in harmony with my values. Seeing things from this perspective helps me mourn my action and move into self-forgiveness by connecting with the specfic need I was trying to meet when I used a strategy that I now regret. I particularly enjoyed the section on translating "have-to" into "choose-to." The exercise showed me how to locate the choice in what I do, by connecting with the need, want, or value each activity serves. I find I have more energy, more compassion when I experience choice in my life.
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on April 6, 2004
I borrowed this book from the local library after it caught my eye, sitting on the "new books" display. It's a pretty good book, although I do have some reservations about it.
/Nonviolent Communication/ is a rather easy read. This is both good and bad - good, because you're not slogging through lots of academia-speak and technical jargon; but also bad because you might breeze through the book too quickly to truly absorb the rather useful and insightful information it is offering.
The idea behind the NVC process is rather simple - it's mostly about learning to be more precise in expressing your feelings, their cause(s), and what you would like done to resolve them. Rather than saying "you never clean the !@#$ kitchen," the NVC approach would be to say something along the lines of: "When you do not take out the trash in the kitchen, I feel __________." And so on. NVC also encourages you to be receptive to what other people are saying and feeling, even if (or perhaps especially if) they do not word things with as much precision and care.
The approach is very sound, but I have reservations about the way the book presents it. Most of the example conversations are so unbelievably robotic, at times I just wanted to laugh out loud at how absurd they were. My initial thought was that I was being unreasonable - after all, they're just words on a page, and perhaps they would seem less laughable in person with real emotion behind them. And then I realized that was the key that was missing - the conversations were little other than the facts of the situation, and the exact words the people said. There was no emotional context, no insight into the feelings that were being expressed. I found this to be extremely ironic. A book about expressing emotions, with lots of examples that HAD no emotion!
I think if you can get beyond the rather mediocre examples, and put genuine *thought* into the principles the author outlines, you will find much of value in the book. Before reading /Nonviolent Communication/, I didn't think much about how the imprecision in our wording can cause a great deal of conflict. "You are so inconsiderate!" versus "When you leave your dirty dinner plate on the table and go watch football, I feel very angry. Would you please rinse the plate and put it in the dishwasher?" It's a world of difference, and I believe there is much benefit to this approach.
Final thought: there's a lot of good stuff in this book, but the presentation could use some work. Read the book carefully, and do not go as quickly as the breezy writing style allows - the material here needs careful consideration for it to truly benefit you.
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on May 8, 2006
First, the basics. Before I read this book, I had no idea that there were learnable techniques for enhancing your performance of empathy. For that matter, I didn't even know that empathy is something that you do; I thought that it was just something that you feel. Well, it turns out that empathy is really an activity with techniques, and this book teaches them.

Now for some context. In the last year, I've read about twenty books on emotional intelligence (EQ) and related topics. (If you're unfamiliar with the term, just think of EQ as "socio-emotional fitness". It can be roughly divided into self-awareness, self-direction, social perception and relationship management.) Good intellectual frameworks for understanding EQ have been easy for me to find; practical instructions for increasing your EQ seem rather more rare. (By "practical instructions" I mean pragmatic action plans with specific things to DO, not just project proposals with goals to accomplish. It's a shame how often the latter is presented when the former is needed.) In my reading experience, "Nonviolent Communication" is THE premiere how-to guide for improving your performance at doing empathy, which is one of the fundamental competencies of EQ.

Third, a caution in the form of a metaphor. The author is proffering you a diamond while demonstrating an oddly formal way of holding it. Just take the diamond and ignore the formalities. That is to say, other reviewers have pointed out that he uses some rather stilted language at times, and that's true; but, the phrasing is NOT the point. The remarkable insights are what matter.

Fourth, an idiosyncratic recommendation. One of most amazing ways that this book helped me was by teaching me how to empathize with my OWN needs. That made it much easier for me to tackle certain problem behaviors of mine without threatening the universal human psychological needs that those behaviors were (self-defeatingly) satisfying. (The book "Flawless!" by Tartaglia is a good place to start for that, BTW.) I firmly believe that one of the best uses of "Nonviolent Communication" is to lay a strong cognitive foundation for future self-improvement.

Finally, some setting of expectations. As with any competency training techniques -- musical performance, physical fitness, whatever -- how much you benefit will depend on how much you practice. However, if you work at it then you will change your thinking, which will change your behavior, which will change your character and your circumstances, which will change your destiny, which will change the world.

This book is eagerly waiting to improve the human condition through you. Will you activate it?
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on February 9, 2009
I think there are some valuable insights and tools in Nonviolent Communication, and I'm very heartened to see a yearning growing among people, the desire to be able to talk to and listen to each other more fully, freely and openly. At the same time, for someone who wants to learn to talk to others (and themselves, as well!) in a more open and less defensive way, in a way that makes it easier for people to speak openly to each other, I find Sharon Ellison's book, Taking the War Out of Our Words: Powerful Non-Defensive Communication, a much clearer, more complete and more effective paradigm and method for a non-defensive model of communication than Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication. Taking The War Out Of Our Words (2009 Edition)

I have found value in Rosenberg's lists of feelings and, in peripheral ways, in some of his exercises, among other things. However, while one of the stated aims of the process is to eliminate judgement and criticism, I respond to some of his dialogue as if there is judgement hidden within it. I also find his methods rather cumbersome.

Taking the War Out of Our Words gives me a substantially different, much more positive experience. In the presence of Ellison's writing - explanation, description, exercises, examples, and so on - I find myself relaxing, and feeling safe even while I confront and acknowledge the ways in which I myself act defensively. Her book is very rich in detailed examples, and alive with individual voices. (It also has a wonderful index to the examples, so you can follow them from one part of the book to another.) I find encouragement and acceptance, as well as simple, clear steps I can immediately begin to apply to the way I say things. It has been my experience that these small changes often make a rapid difference.

Ellison's process speaks more strongly to me than Rosenberg's, and I find it more gentle as well as clearer. I believe that her framework is simultaneously both more radical and simpler than Marshall Rosenberg's. To me, Rosenberg's system nibbles at the edges of our difficulties in communicating with each other, where Sharon Ellison's sweeps the rubble out of the center and starts rebuilding the structures of our communication, but in a way that makes an intuitive kind of sense.

Ellison examines and identifies the fundamental structures of our languages (not only English, but many other languages as well) which, it seems, almost inevitably cause defensiveness between us, even when we don't mean them to. I find her tools profoundly practical and useful, and I find it easy to begin applying them; and even though the process of becoming significantly less defensive is a long one, and not very easy, the encouraging experience of little successes, here and there, helps keep me going. It also seems to me that achieving the very smallest changes, working with everyday issues, is in the end what creates the deepest shift.

Despite my own preference for Sharon Ellison's paradigm and tools, I would not want to discourage anyone from trying Rosenberg's program. At the same time, I would encourage anyone who experiences any difficulty in applying his system not to give up on the hope of learning a more peaceable and open way of communication, but to have a look at Ellison's book and see if you find it more helpful.
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on April 26, 2004
While I agree with another reviewer who questioned the rather stilted examples in the book, I believe that the premises on which this book is based are absolutely sound - that all humans want to be understood and acknowledged.
I've worked myself, and coached adult students to work through some of the example scenarios. They prompted lively debate, critical thinking and crucial self-reflection about our own styles of communicating with ourselves and others.
We realized that we often put judgement into our language when we think we are simply describing beahaviour. We were struck by the realization that our English language often adds to the confusion when we make statements like: "I feel that this is unfair". Rosenberg spends a whole chapter on us being able to actually express feelings, rather than opinions and thoughts, as the above quote exemplifies.
He helped me realize that I rarely sort out for myself what personal need I have of another, and I was struck by the simplicity and power of being sure that I am able to identify what request I have of the other person that will address my need. Since I am practicing these skills with my teenager - you KNOW that they are truly being put to the test!
This is a book that is much better shared with at least one other person so that you can share the examples and share the hard work of changing unconscious communication patterns. If you breeze through this book as an interesting read, you won't get much out of it. If you treat it as a workbook, with gems of wisdom that need to be assessed, and practiced and made your own - then this is a treasure, and one you'll return to again and again.
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on March 20, 2014
This is a valuable book about how to communicate beneficially with the people in our lives. Perhaps even how to communicate better with ourselves, to the extent that we experience internal monologue. As Rosenberg put it in one of his songs, words create either windows into other people's lives, or walls that block and imprison us socially. If you've ever felt the joy of gazing through the window deeply, or the sorrow of imprisoning yourself with inauspicious talk, you know what the author is referring to.

Whether you want a more loving relationship, or to enjoy success at work, there is a lot of valuable insight here. Some people may find the advice obvious. Unfortunately, a lot of us were not taught to recognize the abusive subtext that others sometimes hear in our words. Even after reading this book, I could scarcely imagine how to communicate "non-violently." It is a learning process.

I confess to some skepticism about this book, before and after I read it. The book's title did not quite resonate with me, even though it communicates the idea. The inclusion of a few songs and poems in the book did not resonate with me at the time. And I have a few lingering intellectual/philosophical concerns. However, after reading this book, and then watching some of Rosenberg's workshop videos, it finally made good, profound sense.

I recommend this book. If the book does not work for you, look into his workshops or videos before giving up on the matter. You may need both. I still do. Depending on your experience in life, you may look askance at Rosenberg and his presentation. If you suspend judgement long enough to give the guy and his ideas a real hearing, you're likely to profit greatly.
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on January 26, 2007
Marshall Rosenberg has initiated peace programs in war ravaged areas around the world including Ireland, Serbia, Croatia, Rwanda and the Middle East. He also gives workshops has worked in the prison systems and has applied his ideas with great success in a variety of settings. His book that goes along with this audio series Nonviolent Communication was a textbook for one of my communication courses which was a requirement for a Masters in Integral Psychology. In short, he is a highly credible author with a gift for simplifying complex topic down to simple models that could be applied easily in daily life.

The basic model he uses allow a person to unravel the trigger for an emotion from the actual cause which is often unconscious thinking or beliefs. For example, if I child didn't clean his room that is not necessarily the cause of the parent's anger. The real cause is some underlying need for example that the parent is concerned about the child developing discipline or an examined assumption such as my child is ignoring what I asked them to do. The point is that we often jump into action or go immediately to a negative emotion without much CONSCIOUS thought. This four step process allows you to deepen your awareness so that when you are in situations that might automatically trigger you, you can chose more healthy options.

Another aspect of the four step process is staying with emotions until one uncovers the underlying need. Sometimes, this involves the emotion shifting to another one. For example, say my partner gets angry because I didn't do the dishes. Rather than just starting an argument, Rosenberg would advise my partner to stay with her emotion. By being willing to fully feel the anger, she might realize in actuality that she feels hurt. By staying with the hurt she may have the realization that her underlying need is actually to feel loved and that me doing the dishes is symbolic for her of loving her and being concerned. With this additional awareness she is in a position to make a more vulnerable and powerful request that is likely to get her what she really wants. For example, using the four part model she might say, "When you forget to do the dishes (observation), I feel hurt (feeling-notice there is no blame or shame) because I notice that I'm not feeling loved because I associate you following through on things like that with being concerned for me (the real need). Now that you understand how I feel, would you be willing to be more vigilant about your agreements over everyday stuff because when you do it makes me feel like you care (request).

Admittedly the model is simple, but it is also very powerful. Most of us act without awareness much of the time. In our time contrained culture, we also tend to dismiss feelings as sources of information about needs that are important to us. This model helps you to get back in touch with the purpose of your emotion and your buried needs. It will help you to increase the intimacy in all of your relationships, not to mention helping you to make requests that are more likely to get you the results you wanted in the first place.

If you are serious about changing unhealthy communication patterns, I would also get the book to accompany this audio set. Patterns of language and the thinking that accompanies them are deeply engrained. In fact, there are often hidden assumptions in our automatic thinking such as OTHER people CAUSE our emotions. We actually have a lot of degree of control over how we feel when someone does a particular behavior. A lot of this depends upon how we "frame" or contextualize the behavior. This book is very useful in helping you uncover these patterns and changing them.

In my practice as personal growth coach I often recommend this book and audio CD to clients. I've seen this information help a lot of people and it has helped me too. If it helps you avoid even one argument with an important person in your life, it is well worth the cost. I guarantee it will raise your awareness around your unconscious processes and help you to have healthier relationships if you apply the ideas faithfully.

The CD on giving and receiving anger compassionately is especially good. This is a problem area for a lot of people and I think this CD alone justifies the cost of the set. Don't be deceived by Rosenberg's simple presentation of ideas. It is often the most simple ideas that are the most powerful when applied in daily life.
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on October 13, 2005
This book was recommended to me by several friends in healing professions, and also by a business litigation accountant. Having a great deal of respect for these people I decided to give it a try.

To me the book is about elements of threat, judgementalism or violence that are unintentionally included in the language that we speak and hear, and think. The book suggests that by clearly separating factual observations, feelings, needs, and the resulting requests, acknowledging vulnerable feelings and needs, and using listening tools, we can defuse confrontations, become more effective communicators, and become more at peace with others and with ourselves.

My speaking and thinking patterns are deeply entrenched over many years, and I expect that it may take at least a few passes through reading and applying the book before I see many benefits, but I am impressed with this book and think that the potential benefits are worth the investment of time.
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on May 5, 2009
What began as a search for a better discipline system for our 6 yr old has turned out to be a philosophical approach and communication tool that is transforming how we relate to each other and ourselves.

We originally set out on this journey because our current discipline method with our 6 yr old (a reward/consequence system) was no longer working and we were getting into escalating cycles of defiance/threats/punishment with him. We began with the small booklet Raising Children Compassionately - and I think it helped to have this brief overview before plunging into the NVC book.

Like other things worth doing, this one has taken consistent work and patience on our part. The first week - in which we were letting go of our old ways and clumsily trying out some of the new ways - felt, at times, like being on a turbulent river in a small boat with just a couple of wooden paddles to steer us around the rapids. Our son was acting out (e.g., refusing to do HW, whining, arguing) and instead of punishing, threatening and coercing him we were trying to problem solve using the methods - and more importantly - the goals - of NVC. I am glad we hung in there during that transition period and patiently and imperfectly kept at it. Although it was taking a lot more time and effort, we could tell - even in the beginning - that the approach was working as well as our old "1-2-3 you lose a privilege" chart - minus the hurt feelings, tantrums, and moping that resulted.

After about 2-3 weeks, we began to notice unexpected side benefits. We still had to work hard to resolve situations every time our needs did not coincide with those of our child - but we were finding that we were not nearly as drained at the end of the day as when we had been exerting our control over him and aiming for obedience. At the same time, as we were applying the system and actively working on the approach, we began to communicate with each other (as a couple) in a more peaceful, respectful, and less blaming manner. Other small benefits followed. A phone call with mom about a difficult subject went surprisingly well. A visit with the in-laws was unusually smooth and light. I was able to re-establish communication with a colleague I had been sort of avoiding at work because of what I had perceived as his caustic ways. Even our 6 yr old began to speak to his 2 yr old sister with more patience and kindness.

Most interestingly of all, I have begun to feel more connected to myself: to what I need, feel, and why.

I want to emphasize that the system has not been a magic wand but more like a road map to a way of being. We have been very imperfect at it, losing our temper and our connections with each other many times since we set out on this journey a month ago. However, unlike other behavioral systems, in which "inconsistency" seems to erode positive outcomes, every successful effort at connection, using NVC, has been like a paving stone that, once put down, has remained in place patiently waiting for the next one. The result has been a slowly emerging road of consciousness and connection with each other that we are able to walk on even as we build it.
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