I recently read most of Marshall B. Rosenberg’s “Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life“.
Fantastic! This one is probably going on my list of books I would recommend any reader.
I didn’t read the whole thing just yet. But I’ve learned enough (the first seven chapters) that it’s already made a difference in my quality of life, and I wanted to rave about it already. It’s possible of course, like with any other book, that there is something effed up about this book that I haven’t noticed because I haven’t read the whole thing. I will edit this post if that ends up happening.
- It lays out a different way to communicate, called Nonviolent Communication, or NVC for short. Rosenberg breaks down the components of NVC:
- Observation – Non-judgementally talking about an event that might have just happened (ex: I notice you didn’t meet me for dinner this evening like we had planned).
- Feeling – What you are feeling, which is not caused by the event (this is important), but the event was the stimulus to the feeling (ex: I feel sad.)
- Need – What your basic need(s) are that are not being fulfilled, in the context of this event you’re talking about, and tying it back to your Feeling(s) (ex: I feel sad because I was hoping for companionship tonight.)
- Request – Your specific request in the context of this event, making this a request and not a demand is very very important (ex: Are you willing to meet me for dinner tonight? Or, next time we have plans to meet for dinner, are you willing to let me know by mid-afternoon if your plans have changed and you can’t make it?)
(Seems like a great alternative to: “What the hell, you stood me up! Why didn’t you say you couldn’t make it to dinner, I was waiting all night!”)
- Then, he shows you how to do all those things, in subsequent chapters! There are helpful quizzes, with detailed answer/explanations explaining how he would interpret particular conversations as demonstrating, or not demonstrating a component of NVC.
- The book focuses on happily accepting something someone gives you freely, because they want to give, because they want to enrich your life. As opposed to being coerced to give you something, because they feel afraid, guilty, depressed, or ashamed. I love this point so so so much. In addition to the lesson that no one is accountable for your intentions/actions but yourself — however, you are not responsible for someone else’s feelings — although you have the power to listen to them/decode how their words are expressing their feelings and the ways their needs are not being met and decide for yourself whether you want to be part of enriching their life by helping them fulfill their needs. Giving someone something should be voluntary and joyful, and a result of your desire to help them fulfill their need.
- I don’t have too much in this category. There was one comment that felt like coded language, possibly racist — “I’ve always learned always to say “sir” to people with biceps like his, especially when one of them sports a tattoo”, in Chapter Six.
I am really glad I found this book. The lessons I have learned have helped me to change how I approach conversations. Instead of assuming other people are accountable for things they don’t want to be, which is a worldview I really don’t want to have, NVC helps me to envision a world where people can make themselves understood and make requests but allow others to freely choose the ways in which they want or don’t want to contribute to someone’s enrichment, or alleviate their pain.
Here is someone else’s summary of this book, which has some of the specific tactics Rosenberg outlines to help people do NVC.