Nonviolent Communication: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of Nonviolent Communication containing key details about the book.

What is Nonviolent Communication About?

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is an approach to communication, based on principles of nonviolence. It is not a technique to end disagreements, but rather a method designed to increase empathy and improve the quality of life of those who utilize the method and the people around them.

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NVC is a communication tool with the goal of firstly creating empathy in the conversation. The idea is that once there is empathy between the parties in the conversation, it will be much easier to talk about a solution that satisfies all parties' fundamental needs.

The goal is interpersonal harmony and obtaining knowledge for future cooperation. Notable concepts include rejecting coercive forms of discourse, gathering facts through observing without evaluating, genuinely and concretely expressing feelings and needs, and formulating effective and empathetic requests.

Who is the author of Nonviolent Communication?

Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. is a bestselling author and the founder and director of educational services for the Centre for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC), an international nonprofit organization that offers workshops and training in 30 countries.

What are key takeaways from Nonviolent Communication?

Takeaway #1 Communicating Compassionately & Clearly

When you see that someone has done something that they know you dislike, whether it's your husband leaving dirty socks around the house or your kids not putting their toys away, rather than losing your temper and yelling at them, stop and observe the situation. Are you mad because you have to repeat yourself and don't feel heard or another reason? When the red mist has cleared, tell the person clearly and compassionately what you would like them to do and why; identify your needs without resorting to the blame game. You could say “When I see your dirty socks laying around I feel frustrated, I need to live in a clean and orderly home. Would you be willing to put your socks in the laundry basket without me needing to remind you?”

You can continue to communicate effectively by clearly articulating your feelings and being clear with your words. Don't be vague – Saying “I feel a bit down” or “Everyone is ignoring me” fails to convey your exact emotional state or the exact situation at hand.

Takeaway #2 Keep Your Observations Away From Your Evaluations

It's difficult to separate the two but you should avoid using the words “you never” or “you always” and instead refer to a particular moment. For example, “John is always late to work” is an evaluation where as “John does not arrive before 8.30am” is more exact. By being specific you reduce the likelihood of a misunderstanding and lessen criticism which makes the recipient defensive.

You should also avoid labeling people as this makes you think that you already know what the person is thinking. For example, if you label someone as a liberal, when you're having a discussion with them you will presume you already know their answer.

Takeaway #3 Learning To Listen

Listen emphatically, try to feel what the other person is feeling by asking questions instead of offering advice or reassurance and remember that what people say they need is not always the same as what they truly need.

When someone comes up to you with a criticism, repeat it back to them which allows them to agree and expand I.e “You're so lazy” - “I'm lazy?” - “Yes, you're so lazy, you didn't put the garbage out or walk the dog”. In this way you get to the bottom of the problem, can explain your reason for not doing it – or apologize – and there's no misunderstanding, providing you've kept your temper. Most often the problem won't actually be with you but will be because the other person didn't do or remember something so you can communicate calmly to put actions into place so it doesn't happen again or so that you agree on a turn-taking system.

Book details

  • Print length: 220 Pages
  • Audiobook: 5 hrs and 9 mins
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Self Help, Psychology

What are the chapters in Nonviolent Communication?

Chapter One - Giving from the Heart
Chapter Two - Communication that Blocks Compassion
Chapter Three - Observing without Evaluating
Chapter Four - Identifying and Expressing Feelings
Chapter Five - Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings
Chapter Six - Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life
Chapter Seven - Receiving Empathically
Chapter Eight - The Power of Empathy
Chapter Nine - Connecting Compassionately with Ourselves
Chapter Ten - Expressing Anger Fully
Chapter Eleven - Conflict Resolution and Meditation
Chapter Twelve - The Protective Use of Force
Chapter Thirteen - Liberating Ourselves and Counseling Others
Chapter Fourteen - Expressing Appreciation in Nonviolent Communication

What are some of the main summary points from the book?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • Empathy: Empathy is at the core of nonviolent communication. It involves understanding and connecting with the feelings and needs of others. By practicing empathy, we create an environment of trust and understanding, which can help resolve conflicts and build stronger relationships.
  • Observations vs. Evaluations: Distinguishing between observations and evaluations is crucial. Observations are factual descriptions of what we see or hear, while evaluations involve judgment and interpretation. By focusing on observations rather than evaluations, we can communicate more clearly and reduce conflicts.
  • Feelings: Nonviolent communication emphasizes the importance of identifying and expressing our feelings. By understanding and expressing our emotions, we can create a more empathetic connection with others and foster healthier relationships.
  • Needs: Identifying and communicating our needs is essential for effective communication. Recognizing our own needs and understanding the needs of others allows for more constructive dialogue and conflict resolution.
  • Requests vs. Demands: Nonviolent communication encourages making requests rather than demands. A request respects the autonomy and choice of others, while a demand can create resistance and conflict. By making clear and specific requests, we increase the likelihood of getting our needs met and finding mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Self-empathy: Developing self-empathy is a crucial aspect of nonviolent communication. By recognizing and understanding our own feelings and needs, we can better manage our emotions, communicate more authentically, and make choices aligned with our values.
  • Transforming criticism and blame: Nonviolent communication provides tools for transforming criticism and blame into constructive dialogue. By focusing on the underlying feelings and needs behind the criticism, we can create space for understanding, empathy, and resolution.
  • Conflict resolution: Nonviolent communication offers a framework for resolving conflicts peacefully and finding win-win solutions. By practicing empathy, expressing feelings and needs, and making clear requests, we can create an atmosphere of collaboration and understanding.
  • Language that fosters connection: The book emphasizes the use of language that fosters connection rather than perpetuating conflict. By speaking honestly and compassionately, using "I" statements, and avoiding judgment and criticism, we can create a more harmonious and empathetic communication style.
  • Practice and integration: Nonviolent communication requires practice and integration into our daily lives. By consistently applying the principles and techniques outlined in the book, we can develop more compassionate and effective communication skills.

What is a good quote from Nonviolent Communication?

[Favorite Quote]: “All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.” (Meaning)

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― Marshall Rosenberg Ph.D, Nonviolent Communication Quotes

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: “Marshall Rosenberg’sdynamic communication techniques transform potential conflicts into peaceful dialogues and create compassionate connections. I highly recommend this book.” — John Gray, Ph.D., author of Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus

What are the main components of Nonviolent Communication?

There are four components to practicing nonviolent communication:

1. Observation: These are facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as distinct from our evaluation of meaning and significance. NVC discourages generalizations. It is said that "When we combine observation with evaluation, others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying." Instead, a focus on observations specific to time and context is recommended.

2. Feelings: These are emotions or sensations, free of thought and story. Feelings are said to reflect whether we are experiencing our needs as met or unmet. Identifying feelings is said to allow us to more easily connect with one another and can help resolve conflicts.

3. Needs: It is posited that "Everything we do is in service of our needs." Marshall Rosenberg refers to Max-Neef's model where needs may be categorized into 9 classes: sustenance, safety, love, understanding/empathy, creativity, recreation, sense of belonging, autonomy, and meaning.

4. Requests: Requests are distinguished from demands in that one is open to hearing a response of "no" without triggering an attempt to force the matter. If one makes a request and receives a "no" it is not recommended that one gives up, but that one empathizes with what is preventing the other person from saying "yes," before deciding how to continue the conversation. It is recommended that requests use clear, positive, concrete action language.

According to NVC, the components are thought to work together synergistically. An observation sets the context, feelings support connection and getting out of our heads, needs support connection and identify what is important, and a request clarifies what sort of response you might enjoy. Using these components together minimizes the chances of people getting lost in potentially disconnecting speculation about what you want from them and why.

What are the three primary modes of application of NVC?

1. Self-empathy involves compassionately connecting with what is going on inside us. This may involve, without blame, noticing the thoughts and judgments we are having, noticing our feelings, and most critically, connecting to the needs that are affecting us.

2. Receiving emphatically is an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person, the divine energy in the other person, and the life that's alive in them. It doesn't mean we have to feel the same feelings as the other person. That's sympathy when we feel sad that another person is upset. It doesn't mean we have the same feelings; it means we are with the other person. If you're mentally trying to understand the other person, you're not present with them. Empathy involves "emptying the mind and listening with our whole being." NVC suggests that however, the other person expresses themselves, we focus on listening for the underlying observations, feelings, needs, and requests. It is suggested that it can be useful to reflect a paraphrase of what another person has said.

3. Expressing honestly, in NVC, is likely to involve expressing an observation, feeling, need, and request. An observation may be omitted if the context of the conversation is clear. A feeling might be omitted if there is sufficient connection already, or the context is one where naming a feeling isn't likely to contribute to connection. It is said that naming a need in addition to a feeling makes it less likely that people will think you are making them responsible for your feeling. Similarly, it is said that making a request in addition to naming a need makes it less likely that people will infer a vague demand that they address your need. As mentioned above, the components are thought to work together synergistically.

* The summary points above have been concluded from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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