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.

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.

Deepak Chopra is an Indian-American author and alternative medicine advocate. His discussions of quantum healing have been characterized as technobabble – "incoherent babbling strewn with scientific terms" which drives those who actually understand physics "crazy" and as "redefining Wrong".

How long is Nonviolent Communication?

  • Print length: 220 pages
  • Audiobook: 5 hrs and 9 mins

What genre is Nonviolent Communication?

Nonfiction, Self Help, Psychology

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.

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 good quotes from Nonviolent Communication?

“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.”

“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.”

“Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”

“You can't make your kids do anything. All you can do is make them wish they had. And then, they will make you wish you hadn't made them wish they had.”

“At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled.”

“We only feel dehumanized when we get trapped in the derogatory images of other people or thoughts of wrongness about ourselves. As author and mythologist Joseph Campbell suggested, "'What will they think of me?' must be put aside for bliss." We begin to feel this bliss when messages previously experienced as critical or blaming begin to be seen for the gifts they are: opportunities to give to people who are in pain.”

“We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.”

“Peace requires something far more difficult than revenge or merely turning the other cheek; it requires empathizing with the fears and unmet needs that provide the impetus for people to attack each other. Being aware of these feelings and needs, people lose their desire to attack back because they can see the human ignorance leading to these attacks; instead, their goal becomes providing the empathic connection and education that will enable them to transcend their violence and engage in cooperative relationships.”

“My theory is that we get depressed because we’re not getting what we want, and we’re not getting what we want because we have never been taught to get what we want. Instead, we’ve been taught to be good little boys and girls and good mothers and fathers. If we’re going to be one of those good things, better get used to being depressed. Depression is the reward we get for being “good.” But, if you want to feel better, I’d like you to clarify what you would like people to do to make life more wonderful for you.”

“Analyses of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values”

“To practice the process of conflict resolution, we must completely abandon the goal of getting people to do what we want.”

“As we’ve seen, all criticism, attack, insults, and judgments vanish when we focus attention on hearing the feelings and needs behind a message. The more we practice in this way, the more we realize a simple truth: behind all those messages we’ve allowed ourselves to be intimidated by are just individuals with unmet needs appealing to us to contribute to their well-being. When we receive messages with this awareness, we never feel dehumanized by what others have to say to us. We only feel dehumanized when we get trapped in derogatory images of other people or thoughts of wrongness about ourselves. ”

― Marshall Rosenberg Ph.D. - Nonviolent Communication: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values

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 sourced and summarized from the book, Amazon, and other online publishers. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain the accuracy and completeness of any information, including the quotes, chapters, insights, lessons, and key takeaways.

Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an impact-driven entrepreneur, author, and investor. 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 - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has led him to found Elevate Society and other impact-driven ventures.

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