Friday, April 4, 2008

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Do you find yourself speechless because the communication around you is edgy or hostile? Do you often think of things that could have been said afterward? How do you talk to others whose only concern is their own agenda?

Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg is founder and director of educational services for The Center for Nonviolent Communication, an international, non-profit organization, and has been developing his practices for compassionate communication since the 1960s. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) helps connect us with what is alive in ourselves and in others moment-to-moment, with what we or others could do to make life more wonderful, and with an awareness of what gets in the way of natural giving and receiving.

Whenever we become disconnected from our compassionate nature, whenever our hearts are not devoid of hatred in all of its forms, we have a tendency to act in ways that can cause pain for everyone in our lives, including ourselves.

Nonviolence, Dr. Rosenberg tells us, does not refer to the mere absence of physical harm. It is a way of life that takes its lead from a compassionate and connected heart, and can guide us toward a more complete and happy way of being. It is a practice rooted in understanding, in living honestly, and in acting empathically with all beings. It requires nonjudgmental observation, separating feeling from thought, assessing and meeting need, and making clear and concrete requests for action.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being."

What do YOU think?


Lynda Lehmann said...

I think the truths you have expressed are inescapable. But having a loving core means having self-knowledge and the ability to be mindful and self-monitoring, as well as feeling intrinsically connected to the universe.

With all the violence we see in the media becoming the wallpaper of our lives, it's difficult to accomplish. It's live shoveling against the tide. When the people "in charge" use fear to keep the populace in line, and Hollywood and the media are flinging horror in our faces, it's hard to get through the anxiety and modify our perspective(s).

I used to believe in freedom of expression, but now I'm not so sure that we shouldn't hold the media accountable to at least provide better and more accurate context, and institutions and leaders to higher standards of truth.

The problem is in figuring out how to do that!

Sorry for the run-on sentence above... :)


I've been looking for some such stuff as you write. Thanks for stumbling on you by surfing. If you'd care to look at the poems I've posted ('d be very happy to have your comments. I'm someone who struggles to find his feet on this murky earth. Do not mistake that I'm soliciting attention. I liked the way you put yourself in words. So I thought, maybe, you may find it worthwhile to read myself in my poems.
Thank You & Regards'
Rajan, India

earthsines said...

My husband and I have always felt that it all boils down to whether you choose to be a Good Human.

So many do not make that choice. I don't understand the ability to hurt another person. To look into someone's eye's and be able to harm them. The news depresses me. Children. How can someone hurt a child?

Being a compassionate human, seams so natural to me. I can't look at anothers pain without cringing. I think of myself or someone I love experiencing what I see, and it can hurt my heart.

I'll never understand how so many people choose not to be a good human. How did humans come to the conclusion that violence is a means to and end?

I believe Gandhi had it so right. It is in your heart. I wonder what is wrong with so many hearts in the world. It's just not that hard to care about something besides yourself and your own adgenda.

I'm just one more...who's searching for...the world that aught to be.

ornamentalmind said...

Such a state appears to be a thing of grace, no?

Vamadevananda said...

Don't I feel blessed at having someone remind us that love and peace is very nature. We cover them up, when we are ' out of joint.'

Paul Eilers said...

Who you are is at your very core. You can't hide it and you can't cover it up. It is a part of your very being.

Having said that, more and more, I watch less and less television and movies. Often, your mind cannot differentiate between what is real and what is vividly imagined.

And since my wife and I now have a one year-old boy, I am in the process of trying to think of how we can protect him from being exposed to so much violence in this world.

Valtermar said...

I had not heard about Dr. Marshall and his ideas before. So, I thank you for the reference.
I found more about his work and his book at
It called my attention the experience Dr. Mashall had as a kid, about which he explains in the site above:

Citation: "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 it was used by some people in a derogatory way to refer to Jews. After school, the two were waiting for me: they threw me to the ground, 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? " (end of citation)

It appears that this traumatic experience helped him set a goal in his life, looking for ways to transform people's behavior, such as to avoid causing pain such as he suffered.

I believe that one thing important one needs to learn since very early in life is how to identify one's own feelings and how to deal with them. It is something to be referred to later on in the topic "attitudes" about which I just started posting this week. Dr. Marshall's method seems to address this very issue, as is suggested in his text:

Citation: "NVC guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of being habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on an awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting." (end of citation).

It is a funny thing that I had told a joke to someone this afternoon, just to make a point, a joke I had not remembered for some time, and then I found it again at Dr. Marshall's site. The joke is:

Citation: "There is a story of a man under a street lamp searching for something on all fours. 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." (end of citation)

The story was also meant to make a point, being the idea of training attention on places that have the potential to yield what is being sought instead of focusing the attention on places where what is sought can't be found.

I found interesting the method he proposes

"NVC Process

The concrete actions we are observing that are affecting our well-being

How we are feeling in relation to what we are observing

The needs, values, desires, etc. that are creating our feelings

The concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives " (end of citation)

In a way it seems to go in steps through the process of interpretation our minds make.

Of course, the method as explained above makes much more sense when we read the examples given as how it is practiced.

Thank you again for the reference. :-)

Molly Brogan said...

Looking at how we respond when faced with what they are calling here, violent communication, isn't always easy. In the heat of the moment, do we react, or do we formulate a response with an outcome in mind that includes the benefit of everyone involved? When people are yelling and being aggressive around you, it isn't always easy. Our blood starts pumping, our fight or flight responses might kick in... then Rosenberg takes us one step further, from witnessing and changing our responses, to witnessing and changing the perceptions that we bring to the event that may contribute to the conflict. We often don't know we are doing this until we are willing to self observe.

Marshall Rosenberg is a fascinating guy with a history of going into warring areas - including places in the US (I would love to hear his stories about the 1960s here) and teaching his method to diffuse hostilities. What a story!

Thanks for the interest, Valt.

And yes, Orn, if we were able to stay in the heart of compassion always - how graceful our lives would be. For myself, I would aspire to this, but find myself, too often, in states that are less peaceful.

ornamentalmind said...

Even though I am nearing the end of this lifetime, I have not given up residing in the heart of compassion. If anything, I have greatly increased my work towards full acquisition of such an eternal state.

Malkin said...

Surely,it is a huge subject but let me just add a little remark.I noticed that artists and even more often art historians believe that art,especially painting has the power to change something in society,move the communal conscience.I happen to think that the sotto voce of a painting cannot influence society at all. I think that painting communicates with that part of our being that is not social but profoundly private.Therefore it is wise to remember of that situation while painting and make sure that the content will have to speak to viewer's cavernous privacy rather than ability to recognise the commonplace information. Brillo pads and pet-rocks are not art ,they are episodes in the long and astonishing history of praying on human innocence.

Lalit said...

I agree with you.
Lord Mahivira also gave us the slogan of "LIVE AND LET LIVE"
that is non violence

wishing you happy and spiritual life

Trevor said...


Dialogue means trying to understand the other with an open mind. Dialogue is a rare phenomenon and it is beautiful, because both are enriched. In fact, while you talk, either it can be a discussion - a verbal fight, trying to prove that I am right and you are wrong – or a dialogue. Dialogue is taking each other´s hand, moving together towards the truth, helping each other to find the way. It is togetherness, it is a cooperation, it is a harmonious effort to find the truth. It is not in any way a fight, not at all. It is a friendship, moving together to find the truth, helping each other to find the truth. Nobody has the truth already, but when two persons start finding out, inquiring about the truth together, that is dialogue - and both are enriched. And when truth is found, it is neither of me, nor of you. When truth is found, it is greater than both of us who participated in the inquiry, it is higher than both, it surrounds both - and both are enriched.