Embrace Possibility Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

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Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life - Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall Rosenberg

  • Published: September 1, 2015 (3rd Edition)
  • ISBN-10: 189200528X
  • EP Rating: 5 out of 5 (highly recommended)

EP Main Takeaway: Express your needs honestly and receive your requests empathically. Take responsibility for your feelings. it is not the behavior of the other person but our own need that causes what we feel. Stimulus is not the cause.

Our notes:

Nonviolent communication is about learning how to tell others:

  • what they are doing to enrich or hurt your life
  • what your needs are
  • what feelings are tied to your needs

Nonviolent communication judges whether behavior serves life but does not judge to reward or punish; It does not evaluate on rightness and wrongness

Nonviolent Communication Process

  1. Concrete actions we observe that affect our well being
    • Don't mix observation with evaluation: state facts not your interpretation
  2. How we feel in relation to what we observe
    • Don't use "that, like, as if" or pronouns and proper nouns after "I feel" because you are not expressing feelings anymore, you're expressing thoughts
    • Express vulnerability to help resolve conflicts
    • Distinguish between what you feel and how you think others react or behave towards you
    • Develop a vocabulary for feelings
  3. The needs, values, desires, etc. that create our feelings
    • What others do or say may be the STIMULUS of our feelings, but NOT the CAUSE;
      • Take responsibility for what you feel
      • Don't make others feel guilty by forcing them to take responsibility for your hurt feeling
    • Acknowledge your own needs, desires, and expectations when you hear something
      • Analysis of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values **
    • Expressions that mask accountability: using impersonal pronouns like it or that;
      • "I feel (emotion) because (personal pronoun) ... "
      • Use instead, "I feel because I ..." ***
    • Judgments, criticism, diagnoses, and interpretations of others are all expressions of our own needs but since they are indirect, you don't get heard***
      • The more directly you express your feelings, the more compassionate people will be
    • Ask yourself what is it you're needing, and what would you like to request from one the other person
      • Basic human needs:
        • Autonomy, celebration, integrity, interdependence, spiritual communion, physical nurturance, play
      • If we don't value our needs, others may not either;
    • Don't take responsibility for other people's feelings; take responsibility for your intentions and actions
  4. The concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives
    • Use clear, concrete, positive language when stating request: people can't do a "don't"
      • If you only express your feelings, people may not be clear about what you want them to do
      • Ask the other person to reflect back what you said
      • You waste people's time if you're not clear about the response you want
      • Ask people to change behavior because it will benefit them
    • Request honesty: what is the listener feeling, thinking or willing to do
    • If we interpret non-compliance as rejection, we are most likely making demands as opposed to requests ***;
      • Empathize when people don't agree! Don't begin to persuade without empathizing
        • Empathizing with someone's "no" protects us from taking it personally
      • When making requests, ask yourself the reasons you want the other person to comply
        • If it's to avoid punishment you've missed the mark;
        • Indicate you only want the other person to comply if they are willing
    • Everyone is unique, don't label people

Comparisons are a form of judgment and lead quickly to feeling miserable ***

Take responsibility - instead of "I have to do X because Y" use "I choose to do X because Z"

How to receive empathically using nonviolent communication

  • Remain present without judgment and focus fully on the other person's message;
    • "Don't just do something, stand there"
    • Ask before offering advice or reassurance***
    • To have empathy, be wholly present with other party and what they are experiencing
  • Actions that prevent empathy:
    • Advising, one-upping, educating, consoling, storytelling, shutting down, sympathizing, interrogating, explaining, correcting ***;
    • intellectual understanding blocks empathy;
  • No matter what others say, we only hear what they are observing, feeling, needing, requesting;
    • "Are you feeling unhappy because you are needing ..."
    • Allow others to fully explore their feelings before trying to solve their problem, wait for sense of release of tension or flow of words to stop
  • Paraphrase using questions and in the context of observations, feelings, needs, and requests;
    • Reflect back emotionally charged messages when it contributes to greater compassion and understanding
    • Behind intimidating messages are merely people appealing to us to meet their needs
    • A difficult message becomes an opportunity to enrich someone's life

It's more difficult to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status or resources

Speakers prefer that listeners interrupt rather than pretend to listen

Don't do things out of shame and guilt; remove "should" or "have to" from your language

  • Watch for your feelings and needs in your own self-talk
  • List "have to" or "supposed to" tasks and change them to "I choose to ... Because I want ... "***;
    • With every choice you make, be conscious of the need it serves;
    • Be wary when you do things for money, approval, to escape punishment, to avoid shame, guilt or to satisfy a sense of duty; do things to enrich lives
  • We are never angry because of what others say or do - separate stimulus from cause;
    • See anger as a wake-up call - "I am angry because I am needing ..."
    • When angry, stop and breathe, identify your judgmental thought, connect with your needs and express your feelings and unmet needs
    • Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment
  • Guilt occurs when you mix stimulus and cause; it is not the behavior of the other person but our own need that causes what we feel.

You can't win or persuade by telling people what's wrong with them

Use protective force not punitive force (punish, blame, condemn)

  • What do you want this person to do?
  • What do I want this person's reasons to be for doing it?

Focus on what you truly want as opposed to what is wrong with others or ourselves.

Compliments are often judgments.

Express appreciation by stating:

  • Actions that have contributed to your well being
  • Your particular needs that have been fulfilled
  • The positive feelings engendered by the fulfillment of those needs

"This is what you did; this is what I feel, this is the need of mine that was met."

Nonviolent Communication Listening Skills

What you hear depends on what you're listening for 

Blocks to listening

  • mind reading
  • rehearsing
  • filtering
  • judging
  • daydreaming
  • advising and problem solving
  • need to be right
  • placating

Effective listening skills - paraphrase, clarify, give feedback

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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