Book: Nonviolent Communication

“Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” By Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

  • “I have since identified a specific approach to communicating—both speaking and listening—that leads us to give from the heart, connecting us with ourselves and with each other in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish. I call this approach Nonviolent Communication”
  • “In some communities, the process I am describing is known as Compassionate Communication; the abbreviation NVC is used throughout this book to refer to Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication.”
  • “When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver. The receiver enjoys the gift without worrying about the consequences that accompany gifts given out of fear, guilt, shame, or desire for gain. The giver benefits from the enhanced self-esteem that results when we see our efforts contributing to someone’s well-being.”
  • “First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life? The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without introducing any judgment or evaluation—to simply say what people are doing that we either like or don’t like.”
  • ” Next, we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated?”
  • “And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified. “
  • “As we keep our attention focused on the areas mentioned, and help others do likewise, we establish a flow of communication, back and forth, until compassion manifests naturally: what I am observing, feeling, and needing; what I am requesting to enrich my life; what you are observing, feeling, and needing; what you are requesting to enrich your life …”
  • “One kind of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values.”
  • “When we speak this language, we think and communicate in terms of what’s wrong with others for behaving in certain ways or, occasionally, what’s wrong with ourselves for not understanding or responding as we would like. Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting.”
  • “It is my belief that all such analyses of other human beings are tragic expressions of our own values and needs. They are tragic because when we express our values and needs in this form, we increase defensiveness and resistance among the very people whose behaviors are of concern to us.”
  • “We all pay dearly when people respond to our values and needs not out of a desire to give from the heart, but out of fear, guilt, or shame. Sooner or later, we will experience the consequences of diminished goodwill on the part of those who comply with our values out of a sense of either external or internal coercion. They, too, pay emotionally, for they are likely to feel resentment and decreased self-esteem when they respond to us out of fear, guilt, or shame. Furthermore, each time others associate us in their minds with any of those feelings, the likelihood of their responding compassionately to our needs and values in the future decreases.”
  • “It is important here not to confuse value judgments and moralistic judgments. All of us make value judgments as to the qualities we value in life; for example, we might value honesty, freedom, or peace. Value judgments reflect our beliefs of how life can best be served. We make moralistic judgments of people and behaviors that fail to support our value judgments; for example, ‘Violence is bad. People who kill others are evil.’ Had we been raised speaking a language that facilitated the expression of compassion, we would have learned to articulate our needs and values directly, rather than to insinuate wrongness when they have not been met. For example, instead of ‘Violence is bad,’ we might say instead, ‘I am fearful of the use of violence to resolve conflicts; I value the resolution of human conflicts through other means.'”
  • “He suggests that if readers have a sincere desire to make life miserable for themselves, they might learn to compare themselves to other people.”
  • “Communication is life-alienating when it clouds our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. The use of the common expression have to, as in ‘There are some things you have to do, whether you like it or not,’ illustrates how personal responsibility for our actions can be obscured in speech. The phrase makes one feel, as in ‘You make me feel guilty,’ is another example of how language facilitates denial of personal responsibility for our own feelings and thoughts.”
  • “We deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to factors outside ourselves:
    Vague, impersonal forces—’I cleaned my room because I had to.’
    Our condition, diagnosis, or personal or psychological history—’I drink because I am an alcoholic.’
    The actions of others—’I hit my child because he ran into the street.’
    The dictates of authority—’I lied to the client because the boss told me to.’
    Group pressure—’I started smoking because all my friends did.’
    Institutional policies, rules, and regulations—’I have to suspend you for this infraction because it’s the school policy.’
    Gender roles, social roles, or age roles—’I hate going to work, but I do it because I am a husband and a father.’
    Uncontrollable impulses—’I was overcome by my urge to eat the candy bar.'”
  • “We can replace language that implies lack of choice with language that acknowledges choice.”
  • “Communicating our desires as demands is yet another form of language that blocks compassion. A demand explicitly or implicitly threatens listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply. It is a common form of communication in our culture, especially among those who hold positions of authority.”
  • “We can never make people do anything.”
  • “The concept that certain actions merit reward while others merit punishment is also associated with life-alienating communication. This thinking is expressed by the word deserve as in ‘He deserves to be punished for what he did.’ It assumes ‘badness’ on the part of people who behave in certain ways, and it calls for punishment to make them repent and change their behavior. I believe it is in everyone’s interest that people change, not in order to avoid punishment, but because they see the change as benefiting themselves.”
  • “When we combine observation with evaluation, we decrease the likelihood that others will hear our intended message. Instead, they are apt to hear criticism and thus resist whatever we are saying.”
  • “The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once remarked that observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.”
  • “Example of observation with evaluation mixed in”:
  • “You are too generous.”
  • “Doug procrastinates.”
  • “She won’t get her work in.”
  • “If you don’t eat balanced meals, your health will be impaired.”
  • “Immigrants don’t take care of their property.”
  • “Hank Smith is a poor soccer player.”
  • “Jim is ugly.”
  • “You seldom do what I want.”
  • “He frequently comes over.”
    “Example of observation separate from evaluation”:
  • “When I see you give all your lunch money to others, I think you are being too generous.”
  • “Doug only studies for exams the night before.”
  • “I don’t think she’ll get her work in. or She said, ‘I won’t get my work in.'”
  • “If you don’t eat balanced meals, I fear your health may be impaired.”
  • “I have not seen the immigrant family living at 1679 Ross shovel the snow on their sidewalk.”
  • “Hank Smith has not scored a goal in twenty games.”
  • “Jim’s looks don’t appeal to me.”
  • “The last three times I initiated an activity, you said you didn’t want to do it.”
  • “He comes over at least three times a week.”
    “In general, feelings are not being clearly expressed when the word feel is followed by:
    Words such as that, like, as if:
    ‘I feel that you should know better.’
    ‘I feel like a failure.’
    ‘I feel as if I’m living with a wall.’
    The pronouns I, you, he, she, they, it:
    ‘I feel I am constantly on call.’
    ‘I feel it is useless.’
    Names or nouns referring to people:
    ‘I feel Amy has been pretty responsible.’
    ‘I feel my boss is being manipulative.'”
  • “Conversely, in the English language, it is not necessary to use the word feel at all when we are actually expressing a feeling: we can say, ‘I’m feeling irritated,’ or simply, ‘I’m irritated.'”
  • “In NVC, we distinguish between words that express actual feelings and those that describe what we think we are.
    Description of what we think we are:
    ‘I feel inadequate as a guitar player.’
    In this statement, I am assessing my ability as a guitar player, rather than clearly expressing my feelings.
    Expressions of actual feelings:
    ‘I feel disappointed in myself as a guitar player.’
    ‘I feel impatient with myself as a guitar player.’
    ‘I feel frustrated with myself as a guitar player.’
    The actual feeling behind my assessment of myself as ‘inadequate’ could therefore be disappointment, impatience, frustration, or some other emotion.”
  • “The following are examples of statements that are easily mistaken as expressions of feelings: in fact they reveal more how we think others are behaving than what we are actually feeling ourselves.
  • ‘I feel unimportant to the people with whom I work.’
    The word unimportant describes how I think others are evaluating me, rather than an actual feeling, which in this situation might be ‘I feel sad’ or ‘I feel discouraged.’
  • ‘I feel misunderstood.’
    Here the word misunderstood indicates my assessment of the other person’s level of understanding rather than an actual feeling. In this situation, I may be feeling anxious or annoyed or some other emotion.
  • ‘I feel ignored.’
    Again, this is more of an interpretation of the actions of others than a clear statement of how we are feeling. No doubt there have been times we thought we were being ignored and our feeling was relief, because we wanted to be left to ourselves. No doubt there were other times, however, when we felt hurt when we thought we were being ignored, because we had wanted to be involved.”
  • “How we are likely to feel when our needs are being met
    joyous, joyful
  • “How we are likely to feel when our needs are not being met
    blue bored
  • “NVC heightens our awareness that what others say and do may be the stimulus, but never the cause, of our feelings. We see that our feelings result from how we choose to receive what others say and do, as well as from our particular needs and expectations in that moment. “
  • “When someone gives us a negative message, whether verbally or nonverbally, we have four options as to how to receive it. One option is to take it personally by hearing blame and criticism. For example, someone is angry and says, ‘You’re the most self-centered person I’ve ever met!’ If choosing to take it personally, we might react: ‘Oh, I should’ve been more sensitive!’ We accept the other person’s judgment and blame ourselves.”
  • “A second option is to fault the speaker. For example, in response to ‘You’re the most self-centered person I’ve ever met,’ we might protest: ‘You have no right to say that! I am always considering your needs. You’re the one who is really self-centered.’ When we receive messages this way, and blame the speaker, we are likely to feel anger.”
  • “When receiving negative messages, our third option would be to shine the light of consciousness on our own feelings and needs. Thus, we might reply, ‘When I hear you say that I am the most self-centered person you’ve ever met, I feel hurt, because I need some recognition of my efforts to be considerate of your preferences.’ By focusing attention on our own feelings and needs, we become conscious that our current feeling of hurt derives from a need for our efforts to be recognized.”
  • “Finally, a fourth option on receiving a negative message is to shine the light of consciousness on the other person’s feelings and needs as they are currently expressed. We might for example ask, ‘Are you feeling hurt because you need more consideration for your preferences?'”
  • “The basic mechanism of motivating by guilt is to attribute the responsibility for one’s own feelings to others. When parents say, ‘It hurts Mommy and Daddy when you get poor grades at school,’ they are implying that the child’s actions are the cause of the parents’ happiness or unhappiness. On the surface, taking responsibility for the feelings of others can easily be mistaken for positive caring. It may appear that the child cares for the parent and feels bad because the parent is suffering. However, if children who assume this kind of responsibility change their behavior in accordance with parental wishes, they are not acting from the heart, but acting to avoid guilt.”
  • “When we express our needs indirectly through the use of evaluations, interpretations, and images, others are likely to hear criticism. And when people hear anything that sounds like criticism, they tend to invest their energy in self-defense or counterattack. If we wish for a compassionate response from others, it is self-defeating to express our needs by interpreting or diagnosing their behavior. Instead, the more directly we can connect our feelings to our own needs, the easier it is for others to respond to us compassionately.”
  • “What is it you are needing and what would you like to request from one another in relation to those needs?”
  • “The following are some of the basic human needs we all share:
    to choose one’s dreams, goals, values
    to choose one’s plan for fulfilling one’s dreams, goals, values
    to celebrate the creation of life and dreams fulfilled
    to celebrate losses: loved ones, dreams, etc. (mourning)
    contribution to the enrichment of life (to exercise one’s power by giving that which contributes to life)
    emotional safety
    honesty (the empowering honesty that enables us to learn from our limitations)
    Spiritual Communion
    Physical Nurturance
    movement, exercise
    protection from life-threatening forms of life: viruses, bacteria, insects, predatory animals
    sexual expression
  • “If we don’t value our needs, others may not either.”
  • “First stage: Emotional slavery. We see ourselves responsible for others’ feelings.”
  • “Second stage: The obnoxious stage. We feel angry; we no longer want to be responsible for others’ feelings.”
  • “Third stage: Emotional liberation. We take responsibility for our intentions and actions.”
  • “Stage 3: At the third stage, emotional liberation, we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear, guilt, or shame. Our actions are therefore fulfilling to us, as well as to those who receive our efforts. We accept full responsibility for our own intentions and actions, but not for the feelings of others. At this stage, we are aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others. Emotional liberation involves stating clearly what we need in a way that communicates we are equally concerned that the needs of others be fulfilled.”
  • “Use positive language when making requests.”
  • “Making requests in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want.”
  • “When we simply express our feelings, it may not be clear to the listener what we want them to do.”
  • “Requests may sound like demands when unaccompanied by the speaker’s feelings and needs.”
  • “The clearer we are about what we want, the more likely it is that we’ll get it.”
  • “To make sure the message we sent is the message that’s received, ask the listener to reflect it back.”
  • “Express appreciation when your listener tries to meet your request for a reflection.”
  • “We make clear that we’re not testing their listening skills, but checking out whether we’ve expressed ourselves clearly. “
  • “Empathize with the listener who doesn’t want to reflect back.”
  • “In a group, much time is wasted when speakers aren’t certain what response they’re wanting.”
  • “When the other person hears a demand from us, they see two options: to submit or to rebel.”
  • “To tell if it’s a demand or a request, observe what the speaker does if the request is not complied with.”
  • “It’s a demand if the speaker then criticizes or judges.”
  • “It’s a demand if the speaker then lays a guilt trip.”
    “It’s a request if the speaker then shows empathy toward the other person’s needs.”
  • ” Choosing to request rather than demand does not mean we give up when someone says no to our request. It does mean that we don’t engage in persuasion until we have empathized with what’s preventing the other person from saying yes.”
  • “Our objective is a relationship based on honesty and empathy.”
  • “Instead of offering empathy, we tend instead to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, on the other hand, requires us to focus full attention on the other person’s message. We give to others the time and space they need to express themselves fully and to feel understood.”
  • “Ask before offering advice or reassurance.”
  • “My friend Holley Humphrey identified some common behaviors that prevent us from being sufficiently present to connect empathically with others. The following are examples:
    Advising: ‘I think you should … ‘ ‘How come you didn’t … ?’
    One-upping: ‘That’s nothing; wait’ll you hear what happened to me.’
    Educating: ‘This could turn into a very positive experience for you if you just … ‘
    Consoling: ‘It wasn’t your fault; you did the best you could.’
    Story-telling: ‘That reminds me of the time … ‘
    Shutting down: ‘Cheer up. Don’t feel so bad.’
    Sympathizing: ‘Oh, you poor thing … ‘
    Interrogating: ‘When did this begin?’
    Explaining: ‘I would have called but … ‘
    Correcting: ‘That’s not how it happened.'”
  • “When we are thinking about people’s words and listening to how they connect to our theories, we are looking at people—we are not with them. The key ingredient of empathy is presence: we are wholly present with the other party and what they are experiencing. This quality of presence distinguishes empathy from either mental understanding or sympathy. While we may choose at times to sympathize with others by feeling their feelings, it’s helpful to be aware that during the moment we are offering sympathy, we are not empathizing.”
  • “Listen to what people are needing rather than what they are thinking.”
  • “If we do decide to ask for information in this way, however, I’ve found that people feel safer if we first reveal the feelings and needs within ourselves that are generating the question. Thus, instead of asking someone, ‘What did I do?’ we might say, ‘I’m frustrated because I’d like to be clearer about what you are referring to. Would you be willing to tell me what I’ve done that leads you to see me in this way?'”
  • “There are no infallible guidelines regarding when to paraphrase, but as a rule of thumb, it is safe to assume that speakers expressing intensely emotional messages would appreciate our reflecting these back to them.”
  • “Paraphrase only when it contributes to greater compassion and understanding.”
  • “When we paraphrase, the tone of voice we use is highly important. When hearing themselves reflected back, people are likely to be sensitive to the slightest hint of criticism or sarcasm.”
  • “We also need to be prepared for the possibility that the intention behind our paraphrasing will be misinterpreted.”
  • “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.”
  • “If it happens regularly that people distrust our motives and sincerity when we paraphrase their words, we may need to examine our own intentions more closely. Perhaps we are paraphrasing and engaging the components of NVC in a mechanistic way without maintaining clear consciousness of purpose. We might ask ourselves, for example, whether we are more intent on applying the process ‘correctly’ than on connecting with the human being in front of us. Or perhaps, even though we are using the form of NVC, our only interest is in changing the other person’s behavior.”
  • “Sometimes, if we openly acknowledge that our own distress is preventing us from responding empathically, the other person may come through with the empathy we need.”
  • “Former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold once said, ‘The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is happening outside.’ If we become skilled at giving ourselves empathy, we often experience in just a few seconds a natural release of energy that then enables us to be present with the other person.”
  • “In NVC, no matter what words others may use to express themselves, we simply listen for their observations, feelings, needs, and requests. Then we may wish to reflect back, paraphrasing what we have understood. We stay with empathy and allow others the opportunity to fully express themselves before we turn our attention to solutions or requests for relief.”
  • “When we work in a hierarchically structured institution, there is a tendency to hear commands and judgments from those higher up in the hierarchy. While we may easily empathize with our peers and with those in less powerful positions, we may find ourselves being defensive or apologetic, instead of empathic, in the presence of those we identify as our ‘superiors.'”
  • “The more we empathize with the other party, the safer we feel.”
  • “Rather than put your ‘but’ in the face of an angry person, empathize.”
  • “When we listen for feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters.”
  • “Empathizing with someone’s ‘no’ protects us from taking it personally.”
  • “To bring a conversation back to life: interrupt with empathy.”
  • “I’m feeling impatient because I’d like to be more connected with you, but our conversation isn’t creating the kind of connection I’m wanting. I’d like to know if the conversation we’ve been having is meeting your needs, and if so, what needs of yours are being met through it.”
  • “Empathy lies in our ability to be present.”
  • “In our language there is a word with enormous power to create shame and guilt. This violent word, which we commonly use to evaluate ourselves, is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that many of us would have trouble imagining how to live without it. It is the word should, as in ‘I should have known better’ or ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ Most of the time when we use this word with ourselves, we resist learning, because should implies that there is no choice.”
  • “Self-judgments, like all judgments, are tragic expressions of unmet needs.”
  • “Turning our attention to the part of the self which chose to act in the way that led to the present situation, we ask ourselves, ‘When I behaved in the way which I now regret, what need of mine was I trying to meet?'”
  • “When we listen empathically to ourselves, we will be able to hear the underlying need. Self-forgiveness occurs the moment this empathic connection is made. Then we are able to recognize how our choice was an attempt to serve life, even as the mourning process teaches us how it fell short of fulfilling our needs.”
    “We are compassionate with ourselves when we are able to embrace all parts of ourselves and recognize the needs and values expressed by each part.”
  • ” I earnestly believe, however, that an important form of self-compassion is to make choices motivated purely by our desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame, duty, or obligation.”
  • “After having acknowledged that you choose to do a particular activity, get in touch with the intention behind your choice by completing the statement, I choose to … because I want ….”
  • “Finally I realized that I was choosing to write the reports solely because I wanted the income they provided. As soon as I recognized this, I never wrote another clinical report. I can’t tell you how joyful I feel just thinking of how many clinical reports I haven’t written since that moment thirty-five years ago! When I realized that money was my primary motivation, I immediately saw that I could find other ways to take care of myself financially, and that in fact, I’d rather scavenge in garbage cans for food than write another clinical report.”
  • “With every choice you make, be conscious of what need it serves.”
  • “Be conscious of actions motivated by the desire for money or approval, and by fear, shame, or guilt. Know the price you pay for them.”
  • “The most dangerous of all behaviors may consist of doing things ‘because we’re supposed to.'”
  • “We rid ourselves of thoughts such as, ‘He (or she or they) made me angry when they did that.’ Such thinking leads us to express our anger superficially by blaming or punishing the other person. Earlier we saw that the behavior of others may be a stimulus for our feelings, but not the cause. We are never angry because of what someone else did. We can identify the other person’s behavior as the stimulus, but it is important to establish a clear separation between stimulus and cause.”
  • “As mentioned earlier, children who hear, ‘It hurts Mommy and Daddy when you get poor grades,’ are led to believe that their behavior is the cause of their parents’ pain. The same dynamic is observed among intimate partners: ‘It really disappoints me when you’re not here for my birthday.'”
  • “The cause of anger lies in our thinking—in thoughts of blame and judgment.”
  • “Anger is generated when we choose the second option: whenever we are angry, we are finding fault—we are choosing to play God by judging or blaming the other person for being wrong or deserving punishment.”
  • “Thus, it is not the behavior of the other person but our own need that causes our feeling. When we are connected to our need, whether it is for reassurance, purposefulness, or solitude, we are in touch with our life energy. We may have strong feelings, but we are never angry. Anger is a result of life-alienating thinking that is disconnected from needs. It indicates that we have moved up to our head to analyze and judge somebody rather than focus on which of our needs are not getting met.”
  • “When we judge others, we contribute to violence.”
  • “When we become aware of our needs, anger gives way to life-serving feelings.”
  • “Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment.”
  • “Why would people want to tell the truth, knowing they will be judged and punished for doing so?”
  • “Judgments of others contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies.”
  • “The more people hear blame and judgment, the more defensive and aggressive they become and the less they will care about our needs in the future.”
  • “Steps to expressing anger:
    • Stop. Breathe.
    • Identify our judgmental thoughts.
    • Connect with our needs.
    • Express our feelings and unmet needs.”
  • “Because it will often be difficult for others to receive our feelings and needs in such situations, if we want them to hear us we would need first to empathize with them. The more we empathize with what leads them to behave in the ways that are not meeting our needs, the more likely it is that they will be able to reciprocate afterwards.”
  • “When my consciousness is focused on another human being’s feelings and needs, I see the universality of our experience. I had a major conflict with what went on in his head, but I’ve learned that I enjoy human beings more if I don’t hear what they think. Especially with folks who have his kind of thoughts. I’ve learned to savor life much more by only hearing what’s going on in their hearts and not getting caught up with the stuff in their heads.”
  • “Our need is for the other person to truly hear our pain.”
  • “People do not hear our pain when they believe they are at fault.”
  • “Practice translating each judgment into an unmet need.”
  • “When you make the connection, the problem usually solves itself.”
  • “First, we express our own needs.
    Second, we search for the real needs of the other person, no matter how they are expressing themselves. If they are not expressing a need, but instead an opinion, judgment, or analysis, we recognize that, and continue to seek the need behind their words, the need underneath what they are saying.
    Third, we verify that we both accurately recognize the other person’s needs, and if not, continue to seek the need behind their words.
    Fourth, we provide as much empathy as is required for us to mutually hear each other’s needs accurately.
    And fifth, having clarified both parties’ needs in the situation, we propose strategies for resolving the conflict, framing them in positive action language.”
  • “Avoid the use of language that implies wrongness.”
  • “Many of us have great difficulty expressing our needs: we have been taught by society to criticize, insult, and otherwise (mis)communicate in ways that keep us apart. In a conflict, both parties usually spend too much time intent on proving themselves right, and the other party wrong, rather than paying attention to their own and the other’s needs. And such verbal conflicts can far too easily escalate into violence—and even war.”
  • “In order not to confuse needs and strategies, it is important to recall that needs contain no reference to anybody taking any particular action. On the other hand, strategies, which may appear in the form of requests, desires, wants, and ‘solutions,’ refer to specific actions that specific people may take.”
  • “As mentioned earlier in this book, analyses that imply wrongness are essentially tragic expressions of unmet needs. In the case of this couple, the husband had a need for support and understanding but expressed it in terms of the wife’s ‘insensitivity.’ The wife also had a need for being accurately understood, but she expressed it in terms of the husband’s ‘unfairness.'”
  • “Intellectual analysis is often received as criticism.”
  • “If we really want to be of assistance to others, the first thing to learn is to translate any message into an expression of a need. The message might take the form of silence, denial, a judgmental remark, a gesture—or, hopefully, a request. We hone our skills to hear the need within every message, even if at first we have to rely on guesses.”
  • “Once we sense what the other person needs, we can check in with them, and then help them put their need into words. If we are able to truly hear their need, a new level of connection is forged—a critical piece that moves the conflict toward successful resolution.”
  • “‘Are you feeling scared because you have a need to protect your family economically?’ He agreed that this was indeed the case.”
  • “When people are upset, they often need empathy before they can hear what is being said to them.”
  • “A present language statement refers to what is wanted at this moment. For example, one party might say, ‘I’d like you to tell me if you would be willing to—’ and describe the action they’d like the other party to take. The use of a present language request that begins with ‘Would you be willing to …’ helps foster a respectful discussion. If the other side answers that they are not willing, it invites the next step of understanding what prevents their willingness.”
  • “Maintaining respect is a key element in successful conflict resolution.”
  • “When they say ‘no,’ they’re saying they have a need that keeps them from saying ‘yes’ to what we are asking. If we can hear the need behind a ‘no,’ we can continue the conflict resolution process—maintaining our focus on finding a way to meet everybody’s needs—even if the other party says ‘no’ to the particular strategy we presented them.”
  • “Taking the time to note those needs in a way that is visible to everyone present can help the listener feel comfortable that their own needs will also be addressed. In this way, everyone can more easily offer their full attention to what is being expressed in the current moment.”
  • “Use role-play to speed up the mediation process.”
  • “Role-play is simply putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes.”
  • “It’s important to remember that the purpose of interrupting and grabbing people’s attention back in this way is to restore the process of making observations, identifying and expressing feelings, connecting feelings with needs, and making doable requests using clear, concrete, positive action language.”
  • “When People Say “No” to Meeting Face to Face”…
  • “One method that shows promising results relies on the use of an audio recorder. I work with each party separately while playing the role of the other side.”
  • “Because I had, in this case, been accurate in guessing the husband’s needs, he experienced huge relief when listening to the recording. With the increased trust that came from hearing himself understood, he later agreed to come in so we could work together until the two of them found ways of meeting their needs in mutually respectful ways.”
  • “In order to be truly helpful to people in whose business we are sticking our nose we need to have developed an extensive literacy regarding needs, and be well practiced at hearing the need in any message, including the need underneath the act of slapping another person. And we need to be practiced in verbal empathy such that the people sense that we are connected with their need.”
  • “The intention behind the protective use of force is to prevent injury or injustice. The intention behind the punitive use of force is to cause individuals to suffer for their perceived misdeeds.”
  • “The assumption behind the protective use of force is that people behave in ways injurious to themselves and others due to some form of ignorance. The corrective process is therefore one of education, not punishment. Ignorance includes (1) a lack of awareness of the consequences of our actions, (2) an inability to see how our needs may be met without injury to others, (3) the belief that we have the right to punish or hurt others because they ‘deserve’ it, and (4) delusional thinking that involves, for example, hearing a voice that instructs us to kill someone.”
  • “Punitive action, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that people commit offenses because they are bad or evil, and to correct the situation, they need to be made to repent. Their ‘correction’ is undertaken through punitive action designed to make them (1) suffer enough to see the error of their ways, (2) repent, and (3) change. In practice, however, punitive action, rather than evoking repentance and learning, is just as likely to generate resentment and hostility and to reinforce resistance to the very behavior we are seeking.”
  • “Physical punishment, such as spanking, is one punitive use of force.”
  • “First, I wonder whether people who proclaim the successes of such punishment are aware of the countless instances of children who turn against what might be good for them simply because they choose to fight, rather than succumb, to coercion. Second, the apparent success of corporal punishment in influencing a child doesn’t mean that other methods of influence wouldn’t have worked equally well. Finally, I share the concerns of many parents about the social consequences of using physical punishment. When parents opt to use force, we may win the battle of getting children to do what we want, but, in the process, are we not perpetuating a social norm that justifies violence as a means of resolving differences?”
  • “In addition to the physical, other uses of force also qualify as punishment. One is the use of blame to discredit another person; for example, a parent may label a child as ‘wrong,’ ‘selfish,’ or ‘immature’ when a child doesn’t behave in a certain way.”
  • “Another form of punitive force is the withholding of some means of gratification, such as parents’ curtailing allowances or driving privileges. In this vein, the withdrawal of caring or respect is one of the most powerful threats of all.”
  • “However, with the second question, it becomes evident that punishment isn’t likely to work: What do I want this person’s reasons to be for doing what I’m asking?”
  • “For example, blaming or punishing would obviously not be effective strategies if we want children to clean their rooms out of either a desire for order or a desire to contribute to their parents’ enjoyment of order. Often children clean their rooms motivated by obedience to authority (“Because my Mom said so”), avoidance of punishment, or fear of upsetting or being rejected by parents. NVC, however, fosters a level of moral development based on autonomy and interdependence, whereby we acknowledge responsibility for our own actions and are aware that our own well-being and that of others are one and the same.”
  • “The ability to hear our own feelings and needs and empathize with them can free us from depression.”
  • “Focus on what we want to do rather than what went wrong.”
  • “Compliments are often judgments—however positive-of others.”
  • “Once they sense the manipulation behind the appreciation, their productivity drops. What is most disturbing for me, however, is that the beauty of appreciation is spoiled when people begin to notice the lurking intent to get something out of them.”
  • “When we use NVC to express appreciation, it is purely to celebrate, not to get something in return. Our sole intention is to celebrate the way our lives have been enriched by others.”
  • “NVC clearly distinguishes three components in the expression of appreciation:
    the actions that have contributed to our well-being
    the particular needs of ours that have been fulfilled
    the pleasureful feelings engendered by the fulfillment of those needs”
  • “Receive appreciation without feelings of superiority or false humility.”


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