Speaking a Language of Life with Marshall Rosenberg

Believing that it is our nature to enjoy giving and receiving in a compassionate manner, I have been preoccupied most of my life with two questions: What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively? And conversely, what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?

While studying the factors that affect our ability to stay compassionate, I was struck by the crucial role of language and our use of words. I have since identified a specific approach to communicating—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 (or NVC). It is a method founded on language and communication skills that strengthen our ability to remain human, even under trying conditions. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

Here are ten suggestions you can use to start exploring Nonviolent Communication right now.

  1. Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how you would like to relate to yourself and others.
  2. Remember that all human beings have the same needs.
  3. Check your intention to see if you are as interested in others getting their needs met as your own.
  4. When asking someone to do something, check first to see if you are making a request or a demand.
  5. Instead of saying what you DON’T want someone to do, say what you DO want the person to do.
  6. Instead of saying what you want someone to BE, say what action you’d like the person to take that you hope will help the person be that way.
  7. Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone’s opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.
  8. Instead of saying “No,” say what need of yours prevents you from saying “Yes”.
  9. If you are feeling upset, think about what need of yours is not being met, and what you could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what’s wrong with others or yourself.
  10. Instead of praising someone who did something you like, express your gratitude by telling the person what need of yours that action met.

Excerpt appears courtesy of the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall Rosenberg Return to top of page

Marshall Rosenberg has initiated peace programs in war torn areas including Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, Serbia, Croatia, and Ireland. A clinical psycholo...

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