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Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life Paperback – September 1, 2003
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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." ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg from Nonviolent Communication
Based on Gandhi's ideal of nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication (or NVC for short) is also known as "Compassionate Communication." I think it could also be appropriately described simply as "Effective Communication." As the cover of the book declares: "More than 1,000,000 copies sold for one simple reason: it works!"
I've been planning to read this book for quite some time and, after seeing both Brené Brown and Kristin Neff rave about it, I decided now was the time. I was blown away by the goodness.
I'm inspired by not only the theory and practices laid out in the book but by Marshall B. Rosenberg's lifetime commitment to mastering communication and helping us, as he would say, create a compassionate flow btwn ourselves and others based on mutual giving from the heart.
Here are some Big Ideas from this book:
1. NVC - What is it?
2. The Four Components - Observations + Feelings + Needs + Requests.
3. What Gets in the Way? - Life-alienating stuff.
4. Taking Responsibility - Is key.
5. What Do You Want? - Always a powerful question
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Marshall Rosenberg 3rd ed ©2015 (1st ed ©1999)
a short BOOK REPORT by Ron Housley
I guess this whole NVC thing came to a head for me during the #TakeTheKnee phenomenon, when tempers were high, when emotionalism ruled the day, and when the entire country was being trashed because people thought kneeling was an appropriate way to protest how long it was taking America to climb out of its historical racism.
“You’re bad!” “No, YOU’RE bad! And on it went
Entire moral denunciations were leveled, without so much as a pretense at uncovering the “other” side’s basic position; I was even indirectly denounced. If ever there was an opportunity for NVC (Non-Violent Communication) to come to the rescue, this was it. But don’t hold your breath — because NVC is no more on people’s radar than is the moral superiority of capitalism.
Sometimes, as we course through our lives, just one or two ideas take center stage for us. For me, the center stage idea was a view of life extoling reason, fairness, individualism and ultimately capitalism. But in a veritable sea of Violent Communication, I have succeeded in angering or disappointing more people than I have in winning them over to my own camp.
And I am certain that my failure is not due to any shortcomings of the camp itself; but, rather, it is due to the Violent Communicating that characterizes the culture I have immersed myself in all these years.
And now comes the antidote: Non-Violent Communication.
I am tempted to summarize Rosenberg’s model for you here; but better that you investigate it individually, if you find its promises of interest. It saddens me to realize that so many areas of my own life could have been vastly more fulfilling had I stumbled upon Rosenberg’s model sooner; but better late than never.
And if you don’t want to take the time to dig into what, on the surface, sounds like just one more “self-help” book, there is an abundance of YouTube workshops to give you a look under the hood.
When I did my own look under the hood, I found one problem: Rosenberg had put a hodge-podge of “human needs” at the core of his approach, the formulation of which I found troubling. But then I discovered (THANK YOU Jean Moroney) a way to re-frame Rosenberg’s “needs” into “universal human values,” which did resonate with my overview of how we are all motivated.
At the base of Rosenberg’s message, for me, is that in our dealings with others we tend to respond “too aggressively” or “too defensively;” and by so doing, we diminish our capacity for connection and for having a meaningful conversation. Hence — all the many conversations that go nowhere; all the conversations that result in feelings of disgust and/or personal hurt; all the conversations which might have actually solved a problem but which in reality made things worse.
It was inevitable that, in time, I would recognize my own destructive habit of reflexively (not thinking it through) interpreting and criticizing people’s statements, infusing my input with implied wrongness — entirely missing Rosenberg’s contention that doing so is “a tragic expression of an unmet need (of my own).”
The trick (one of the tricks) for me is to recognize “need” (or “value”) in statements that don’t overtly express any need. It’s not easy and it takes relentless focusing, but in the end I’m sensing that Rosenberg’s way seems to bring about better outcomes.
So I’ll just say this: I was a big skeptic when I first learned about Marshall Rosenberg. Now I have seen enough examples of his approach in action to believe in its value and in its potential relevance to my own life. But, I’m not yet sure how much study and practice will be required to make “the Rosenberg way” into a regular feature of my own life. It definitely appears to be worth some effort.