Nonviolent Communication Summary
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Nonviolent Communication Summary and Review | Marshall B. Rosenberg

A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships

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Life gets busy. Has Nonviolent Communication been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now.

We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the book, order the book or get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy details.


Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication book is one of the recent most influential books on communication. It outlines a new communication method used in personal or professional situations.

The concepts outlined in this book can potentially change your life for the better. Once you’ve read it, you’ll never look at communication the same way again.

Marshall Rosenberg’s Background

Marshall Rosenberg was an American psychologist who developed Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a method of communication that focuses on understanding the needs of others and resolving conflict.

It is based on the belief that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and that we can connect with others through honest, empathetic communication.

Rosenberg spent his career working with individuals, families, and organizations to help them improve their communication skills.

He also taught NVC to police officers, mediators, counselors, and others who work with people in difficult situations.

Rosenberg’s work has been influential in conflict resolution, education, and business.

Introduction

Nonviolent communication is based on the premise that all human beings have the capacity for empathy and that we all share a common desire to be happy and fulfilled.

When we interact with others using nonviolent communication, we focus on expressing our observations, feelings, needs, and requests in clear, concise, and respectful ways. We also listen deeply to others when they express themselves in this way.

Nonviolent communication aims to improve our ability to connect with others and create relationships characterized by mutual understanding and respect. 

Remember that the Nonviolent Communication process is not a way to get what you want from others. Instead, it is a way to improve our ability to connect with others and create relationships characterized by mutual understanding and respect.

Why Nonviolent Communication Works

Nonviolent communication is based on our shared humanity and the common need for connection. When we use this process, we can see others not as adversaries but as fellow human beings with their own needs and feelings.

Nonviolent communication also works because it is a process, not a set of rules. You can use it in any situation, whether you’re communicating with a friend, family member, co-worker, or stranger.

You can use this process not only to communicate your own feelings but also to listen to others with compassion, validation, and empathy.

Nonviolent communication can help you to:

  • Understand yourself and others better
  • Express yourself more clearly
  • Handle conflict in a constructive way
  • Build stronger, more fulfilling relationships
  • Connect with others more deeply
  • Resolve differences and create mutual understanding
  • Gain a better understanding of your own needs and feelings
  • Communicate your needs and feelings more effectively
  • Handle difficult emotions in a healthy way

StoryShot #1: The Nonviolent Communication Process is Based on Observation, Feelings, Needs, and Requests.

The Nonviolent Communication process is a way of interacting with others that involves four essential components: observing, feeling, needs, and requests. It combines learning how to express yourself honestly and listening to others honestly.

Observing

In this step, you observe what is happening without attaching any judgment or evaluation. This can be difficult, but remember that we are all trying to meet our needs somehow, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first glance.

Feelings

In this step, you express your feelings about what is happening. It is essential to be as specific as possible when doing this. For example, rather than saying, “I feel angry,” you might say, “I feel frustrated because I’m not being heard.”

Needs

One of nonviolent communication’s main goals is to understand others’ needs. This does not mean manipulating them to get what you want but instead listening with the intention of empathy.

To do this, you need to be aware of your feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others. In this step, you identify the needs that are causing your feelings.

Once again, it is essential to be as specific as possible. For example, rather than saying “I need attention,” you might say, “I need to feel heard and valued.”

Making Requests

After you have observed the situation and identified your own feelings and needs, you can make requests of others that are based on these needs. It is important to remember that requests should be made in a way that is respectful and clear.

In this step, you make a specific request of the other person that will help meet your needs. For example, you might say, “I’d like to have a conversation with you about this issue.”

StoryShot #2: Understand the Difference Between “I Feel” Vs. “I Think”

What is the difference between what we feel and what we think? Do we have control over either of them? How do we tell the difference?

When using the Nonviolent Communication process, we must distinguish between our feelings and thoughts.

Our thoughts are based on our beliefs and judgments about the world. They are often influenced by our past experiences and can be biased. Thoughts can also change based on new information.

On the other hand, our feelings are based on our current experiences and are not influenced by our past experiences or judgments.

It is essential to distinguish between our thoughts and feelings because our thoughts can sometimes get in the way of our ability to empathize with others.

For example, if we are thinking, “This person is being ridiculous,” we are not likely to be able to empathize with them. However, if we can identify our feeling as “frustration,” we may be able to empathize with the other person and understand their needs.

When we can distinguish between our thoughts and feelings, we can communicate more effectively and connect with others more easily.

StoryShot #3: Notice Judgmental Thinking and Choiceless Language

Once you consciously focus your awareness on judgmental thinking, you may notice that you do it more often than you’d like. Here are some examples of thoughts to look out for.

Notice How You Label People

Labeling others or making assumptions opens the door to critical and judgmental thinking. We make a statement about our beliefs, values, or unmet needs when we label others.

Become Aware of Choiceless Language

When we use the words “should” or “must,” we limit ourselves and may even stir up a sense of shame or perfectionism. Try replacing that language with “I want to.”

We create a sense of helplessness in the language we use. For example, “I can’t do this” is different than “I’m choosing not to do this.” The former implies that we are powerless, while the latter means we have a choice.

Think About Your Intentions

When you’re stuck in judgmental thinking, it can be helpful to ask yourself what your intention is. Are you trying to protect yourself? Are you trying to control the situation? Are you trying to feel better about yourself?

Your intention is not to judge others but to understand their feelings and needs.

StoryShot #4: Separate Observations From Judgments

It can be helpful to practice making observations without attaching any judgment to them. This skill can be challenging to master, but it is integral to nonviolent communication.

Here is an example of how you might Separate Observations From Judgments:

I noticed that you raised your voice when you were talking to me.

I noticed that you seem to be angry about this situation.

In the first observation, there is no judgment attached. The second observation includes a judgment about the person’s anger.

Try to make observations without attaching any judgment to them. This skill can be challenging to master, but it is integral to nonviolent communication.

Judgments block compassion for ourselves and others. The first step to unlearning it is recognizing it in your everyday thoughts and conversations.

Communications that Block Compassion

  1. Moralistic judgments: right/wrong, good/bad
  2. Comparisons: better than, worse than
  3. Denial of responsibility: shouldn’t, must, can’t
  4. Absolutist language: always, never

You can become aware of these communications by listening for the following words and phrases: should, must, have to, need to, right, wrong, good, bad, better than, or worse than.

When you use these words, try to replace them with more neutral language. For example, instead of saying “you’re wrong,” you might say, “I disagree.”

StoryShot #5: Take Responsibility for Your Feelings

You need to take responsibility for your feelings before you can genuinely be compassionate with yourself and others. This means that you cannot blame others for how you feel. You are the only one who can control how you feel.

For example, you might feel angry if someone cuts you off in traffic. It would be easy to blame the other driver for your anger, but that would be giving them power over your emotions. Instead, you can focus on how you want to feel and take steps to get there.

You might not be able to control what happens to you, but you can always control how you respond.

Common Ways We Don’t Take Responsibility

We must be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with others. The first step is recognizing when we are not taking responsibility for our feelings. Here are some common ways we do this:

Blaming Others or Ourselves

It’s your fault I’m angry.

I shouldn’t be feeling this way.

Justifying

They had it coming.

This is the way I was raised.

Excuses

I can’t help it.

It’s not my fault.

Playing the Victim

I can’t do anything right.

This always happens to me.

Punishing

I’ll never talk to you again.

I’m going to make you feel as bad as I do.

Minimizing

It’s not that big of a deal.

I’m sure it wasn’t personal.

When we don’t take responsibility for our feelings, we give away our power to change them. Instead of reacting to our emotions, we can choose how we want to feel and take steps to get there.

Common Ways We Can Take Responsibility

We can use the four-step nonviolent communication to take responsibility for our feelings. Here are some examples.

Sense Our Needs and Feelings:

I’m feeling angry right now.

I need some time to calm down.

Express Our Needs and Feelings Non-judgmentally:

I felt angry when you raised your voice.

I need some time to calm down before we continue this discussion.

Make a Request:

Can we please discuss this when I’m feeling calmer?

Would you be willing to talk about this later?

Some helpful phrases to use when taking responsibility for your feelings:

“I feel ____________ because ___________.”

“I’m choosing to ___________ because ___________.”

“I want ___________ because ___________.”

By taking responsibility for your feelings, you are taking control of your life and happiness.

StoryShot #6: State Your Needs & Desires in Positive Terms

What’s the difference between a request and a demand? Notice how you speak to yourself and others. Do you find that you make a lot of demands?

Requests

A request is a statement of what you would like to have to happen, without any implied threat about what will happen if your request isn’t met.

For example, “Can you please turn off the TV?” is a request.

Demands

A demand is a statement of what you want with an implied threat about what will happen if your demand isn’t met.

For example, “Turn off the TV now, or I’ll turn it off for you!” is a demand.

The problem with demands is that they often lead to conflict because they are based on the assumption that the other person will do what you want them to do. This can lead to a power struggle and leave both parties feeling resentful.

On the other hand, requests are based on the assumption that the other person has a choice in what they do. This allows both parties to feel respected and more likely to cooperate.

Some helpful phrases to use when making requests:

“Would you be willing to ___________?”

“I would appreciate it if you ___________.”

“I need ___________. Would you be willing to ___________?”

Remember, the goal is not to get the other person to do what you want but to express your needs and desires in a way that is respectful and non-threatening.

StoryShot #7: Needs Are Universal, but the Ways to Meet Them Are Not

There’s a reason behind everyone’s reactions. When our needs are not met, we react in ways that may seem negative but are just an attempt to meet our needs.

For example, if you are feeling sad, it may be because you need love and connection. If you are angry, it may be because you need respect or another unmet need.

Some everyday needs that we all have:

  • Love and connection
  • Respect
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Safety and security
  • Fun and play
  • Meaning and purpose

The critical thing to remember is that everyone is trying to meet their needs, even if they are going about it in a way that isn’t helpful.

When we see that everyone is just trying to meet their needs, it becomes easier to understand their reactions and respond in a helpful, not harmful, way.

StoryShot #8: Listen Empathically by Validating and Asking Questions

Active listening is a skill that can be learned and practiced. It involves being fully present with the other person without interrupting, judging, or giving advice.

Instead, you focus on trying to understand the other person’s perspective. This can be done by reflecting on what you heard, asking questions, and restating the main points.

For example, “It sounds like you’re angry about what happened. Is that right?”

“Can you tell me more about how you’re feeling?”

“It sounds like you’re feeling alone right now.”

Practicing active listening can help to improve communication and create deeper connections.

Reflect Their Feelings and Needs Back by Paraphrasing

Validation goes a long way. When people feel heard, they are more likely to be open to hearing what you have to say. One way to show that you are listening is to paraphrase what the other person has said. This indicates that you understand what they are saying and helps build trust.

For example, “That sounds difficult. I can see how that would be really confusing.”

The goal is not to agree with the other person but to let them know that you understand how they are feeling.

How to Ask Questions to Identify the Speaker’s Needs

Ask questions using the four-step process as a guide.

I notice that you ________.

Do you feel ________ because you need/value ________?

Would you like to ________?

It’s a powerful way to show that you genuinely listen and want to understand the other person’s perspective.

Respond With Compassion

Compassion is not the same as agreement. You do not have to agree with the other person’s actions or words, but you can still see their needs and respond helpfully.

For example, “I can see that you’re really angry, and you need to be heard. I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you earlier. Can you tell me more about what happened?”

StoryShot #9: Regard Yourself and Your Needs With Empathy

Empathy begins with yourself. How do you talk to yourself? Would you speak to a friend the way you speak to yourself?

If not, why not?

You deserve the same empathy that you would give to others. Remember, everyone is just trying to meet their needs. When you see your reactions as an attempt to meet your needs, it becomes easier to respond in a way that is helpful instead of harmful.

Practice self-compassion by speaking to yourself with kindness and understanding.

“I feel furious right now. I need to calm down so that I can think more clearly.”

“I can see that I’m feeling alone right now. I need to reach out to my friends and family.”

“I can see that I’m really upset about what happened. I need to take some time to process my feelings.”

Actions That Prevent Empathy

Compassion for others begins in yourself. Here are some ways we get in the way of empathy for others and ourselves.

  • Judging yourself harshly
  • Focusing on what you “should” do instead of what you want to do
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Putting yourself down
  • Focusing on your flaws

Treat Yourself With Compassion: 4 Steps

Empathy starts with self-compassion. If you want to learn how to be more compassionate with others, start by practicing on yourself.

Here are four steps to get started:

  1. Observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment
  2. Accept your thoughts and emotions without judgment
  3. Respond to your thoughts and emotions with understanding and compassion
  4. Allow your thoughts and emotions to be as they are without judgment.

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Remember, everyone is just trying to meet their needs. When you see your reactions as an attempt to meet your needs, it becomes easier to respond in a way that is helpful instead of harmful.

StoryShot #10: Stop Punishing Yourself and Others

Fear of punishment hinders goodwill and self-esteem. It breeds defensiveness, resentment, and blame. When we punish ourselves, we cause needless suffering. We become our own jailers, living in a constant state of fear and self-doubt.

If you find yourself punishing yourself or others, try to see the situation from a needs-based perspective. What need is not being met that is causing this punishment?

Once you identify the need, you can begin to find other ways to meet it in a positive way.

Punishing yourself or others only causes suffering. Remembering that everyone is just trying to meet their needs is important. If you can identify the need that is not being met, you can begin to find other ways to meet it that are more beneficial.

Final Summary and Review of Nonviolent Communication

Empathy is not about fixing or changing the other person. It’s about understanding and accepting them as they are. When you can do that, connecting with them is much easier.

StoryShot #1: The Nonviolent Communication Process is Based on Observation, Feelings, Needs, and Requests.

The Nonviolent Communication process is based on four fundamental concepts: observation, feelings, needs, and requests. When you can understand and accept these four concepts, it becomes much easier to communicate effectively.

StoryShot #2: Understand the Difference Between “I Feel” Vs. “I Think”

There is a big difference between “I feel” and “I think.” “I feel” statements are based on observations, while, “I think” statements are based on evaluations and interpretations. “I feel” statements are much more helpful in communication because they are based on facts.

StoryShot #3: Notice Judgmental Thinking and Choiceless Language

One of the most significant barriers to effective communication is judgmental thinking. When you are caught up in judgment, you cannot see the other person’s perspective. You are also more likely to use choiceless language, which is harmful and unhelpful.

StoryShot #4: Separate Observations From Judgments

It’s essential to be able to separate observations from judgments. Observations are based on facts, while judgments are based on opinions. When you can make this distinction, it becomes much easier to communicate with compassion and empathy.

StoryShot #5: Take Responsibility for Your Feelings

Your feelings are your responsibility. You cannot control how someone else feels, but you can control how you respond to your own feelings. Taking responsibility for your feelings makes you more likely to respond without making excuses for yourself.

StoryShot #6: State Your Needs & Desires in Positive Terms

Needs and desires are best stated in positive terms. For example, instead of saying, “I need you to stop yelling at me, “try” I need you to speak to me in a calm voice.” When you state your needs and desires in positive terms, it is much easier for the other person to understand and respond helpfully.

StoryShot #7: Needs Are Universal, but the Ways to Meet Them Are Not

We all have the same basic needs, but the ways to meet those needs are not always the same. It’s essential to be creative and flexible in finding ways to meet your needs. When you can do that, it is much easier to find practical solutions.

StoryShot #8: Listen Empathically by Validating and Asking Questions

When you listen empathically, you validate the other person’s feelings and needs. You also ask questions to clarify your understanding. This helps the other person feel heard and understood, which is essential in communication.

StoryShot #9: Regard Yourself and Your Needs With Empathy

It’s essential to regard yourself with empathy. This means understanding and accepting your own needs. It is much easier to respond to your needs when you can do that.

StoryShot #10: Stop Punishing Yourself and Others

Punishing yourself and others only creates more conflict and hurt.

It’s essential to find more realistic ways to meet your needs. When you can do that, it is much easier to resolve conflicts. When you stop punishing yourself and others, you are more likely to find beneficial solutions.

Final Thoughts on Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg is a book that has helped many people to improve their communication skills.

Nonviolent Communication helps you improve your communication by teaching you to:

  • Listen empathically
  • Separate observations from judgments
  • Take responsibility for your feelings
  • State your needs and desires in positive terms
  • Needs are universal, but the ways to meet them are not
  • Stop punishing yourself and others

By following the above tips, you can start communicating compassionately. Our Nonviolent Communication book summary is an excellent resource for learning more about improving your communication skills. This book is a great resource if you want to improve your ability to communicate with friends and loved ones.


What is your favorite takeaway? Did we miss anything important? Let us know by commenting below.

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