Nonviolent Communication (NVC): sharing my own notes and view of the book
Hi there! Is it your first reading one of my posts? When you have the time, I invite you to read this post, where I try to explain more about my motivations.
If I was given just one option of a book to recommend, I strongly believe I would recommend “Nonviolent Communication: a language of life”, authored by Marshal B. Rosenberg.
There is already some good content about NVC on Medium. My goal with this post is to try and express how impactful it was to my personal life.
I tend to regard the (positive) impact of this book due to the unprecedented period of the global COVID-19 pandemic. I dare to say that reading it was like a slap on my face, because I was completely blind to the effects of the pandemics, which forced almost all countries to be in a lockdown, away from social life. For sure I felt psychologically affected (I believe that many others as well), and couldn’t notice I was being rude in the way I started to communicate and, moreover, stressed out by anything.
Talking about the book now, I’m not an expert in this topic, however it is perceptible that there are a lot of factors involved in communication. Cultural aspects and what one person is getting through in life in a specific moment are, for sure, some examples of circumstances that may have a direct effect on the way we communicate. Regardless of the mean, could be in a chat face to face or text messages. The latter I think is even more difficult to communicate in the sense that it is difficult to get the other person’s feeling through the message (but this is another topic that I will put aside for this post).
Marshal teaches with the nonviolent communication process an interesting and well-founded process to communicate better and respectfully to solve conflicts.
Personally, it was a watershed for me reading his book and, at first, the process generated some sort of “discomfort”. The reason for that is because Marshal suggests that in the process of communicating nonviolently, which I summarise better further below, we express our feelings and make explicit our needs. Personally speaking, it has always been very difficult for me to express my feelings, not to say the difficulty about talking about our needs. It does not seem to me that society is prepared and educated for that. Again, that’s my point of view based on my own experiences in life, they of course may differ from someone else’s experience
Although I recommend reading the book, I would like to write some of my takeaways. I will try really hard not to do any kind of “spoiler”, so who is reading this post just leaves with my personal takeaways and takes them as a motivation to read it. Ah, I’ll not also list all the chapters, because I want to focus on those that had somehow an impact on me:
Chapter 1: Giving from the Heart
In this chapter we are introduced to the NVC basis: “Give from the Heart”.
According to Marshal, it is the basis for the communication and how humans should relate. Choosing the words and sentences carefully and consciously are fundamentally important. Words are impactful whether not chosen correctly.
Chapter 2: Communication that blocks compassion
This is a short chapter and here we are invited to reflect on what Marshal calls “life-alienating communication”. He basically refers to moralistic judgments (when we judge an observation in another person that goes in a different direction than the one we would take); making comparisons and denying responsibility. My takeaway is mostly related to the denying of responsibility, because it is something we don’t always realize we do in our way of thinking and our way of speaking. I believe and now see that we should choose to use a language that acknowledges a choice.
Chapter 3: Observing without Evaluating, Chapter 4: Identifying and Expressing Feelings, Chapter 5: Taking a responsibility for our feelings AND Chapter 6: Requesting that which would enrich life
I chose to join these 4 chapters in one because they represent the core of the NVC.
Marshal proposes one process to structure our communication in a way that we present one observation, but without judgement.
Based on this observation, we express how we feel about it, acknowledging that we are responsible for that feeling because we have a personal need to be fulfilled. Then, finally, make a request that would help the other person understand how he/she could help to fulfil that need.
This is a very brief summary, and my main takeaway of all these chapters is about all the examples Marshal provides in the book. I was astonished while reading the examples, seeing how this process can be used in real situations and how not only can it turn conflicts into resolutions, but also generate empathy between two (or more) people.
Personally speaking, I’d like to use the technique as good as it was presented in the real examples in the book
Chapter 7: Receiving Empathically AND Chapter 8: The Power of Empathy
So, here again I chose to join these two chapters, since both talk about behaving empathically.
Even though all the NVC process is about empathy, it is here where Marshal dive into this matter. In previous chapters the NVC process was in the direction “myself” towards another person, now it is the other way around, I mean, “myself” receiving and comprehending the other person’s needs. Empathically.
Well, Marshal introduces some great (and somehow difficult) techniques, which for sure demands experience and practice. I strongly believe that listening to someone else’s message (which sometimes is loaded with emotions) is by far more difficult than actually speaking about your own needs. Two things actually, listening and communicating in a way that is empathic in order to help.
What intrigued me in this process is that for many times it is not necessarily required to offer advice, on the contrary, by simply making correct questions and diving deep into the other people’s message there is a high likelihood to connect emotionally.
Taking this into account, one remarkable technique was the “paraphrasing”, because by simply reflecting back what the other people is saying (with the intention to acknowledge whether we receive accurately the message) we force the speaker to look back at their own feelings and maybe realize that “hum, it is not exactly it that I was referring to.”
Not to leave it so vague, I took one trivial example from the book. It is about one elderly woman that frequently said that wanted to die. One day, one volunteer, who had attended one NVC workshop, approached the elderly woman and she said she wanted to die, he paraphrased “So you would like to die.” That was enough to seize the elderly woman’s attention, and for the man to start connecting empathically with the woman until he reached the cause of her suffering.
I don’t know why exactly, but this part of the book was remarkable to me.
Chapter 9: Connecting compassionately with ourselves
Self-compassion, that’s a hard topic. I have two special takeaways of this chapter:
- One is that its content made me remember the book “Mindset: the new psychology of success” by Carol Dweck, related to the fixed and growth mindset, since we tend to judge ourselves for some mistakes, but we always forget that we never stop learning;
- And two is about translating “have to” to “choose to”. Here, Marshal proposes a step by step process to do our day to day things in a more positive way. When we translate an obligation (have to) to the reason we are doing that (with the “choose to”), we connect to the why and turn that thing more positive. Of course, it is not a straightforward process, but I honestly tried to do it with some of my day to day tasks and it seems working so far.
Chapter 14: Expressing appreciation in nonviolent communication
This chapter is the last one of the book, and one of the shortest, but certainly the one of the most meaningful to me. What’s more, I think this one provides the lessons that allowed me to instantly start applying. I was quite astonished when reading it, because I also appreciate it, but I would never figure out that there is a whole process behind appreciation that could turn it into a more “appreciative” way. It’s hard to explain. Basically NVC proposes a process for appreciation where the speaker firstly says why (the action) that contributed for his/her well-being, secondly the personal needs that were fulfilled and, lastly, the feeling that the fulfilment of the needs generated.
I don’t know if it is the most correct way for appreciating, but based on what I learned I will try: Knowing that you take your time to read this post until this point, I feel deeply thankful because I’ve trying to find ways to fulfil my particular needs of summarising the books I read in order to revisit them later in time and sharing with other people things that are remarkable to me and that may be remarkable for others.
Thank you for my mom and dad for giving me this book.