Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Second Edition

Posted by Anton Katunin on 9 November 2014
Tags: books

book by Marshall B. Rosenberg

This is one the best books I've ever read. I've read few dozens of self improvement and psychology books, but did not have a clue what this book is talking about. I would recommend it to everyone, including teenagers.

I did a small experiment and after reading each chapter I've created a summary list of highlights, first as a lesson for me to revisit each chapter and short list I could come back to in the future.

Chapter 1: Giving from the Heart  

The Heart of Nonviolent Communication

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

—Marshall Rosenberg”


NVC: a way of communicating that leads us to give from the heart.

A Way To Focus Attention  

We perceive relationships in a new light when we use NVC to hear our own deeper needs and those of others.

Let’s shine the light of consciousness on places where we can hope to find what we are seeking.

The NVC Process  

Four components of NVC:

  1. observation
  2. feeling
  3. needs
  4. request”

Two parts of NVC:

  1. expressing honesty through the four components
  2. receiving empathically through the four components”

Applying NVC In Our Lives And World  


Chapter 2: Communication That Blocks Compassion  


Do not judge, and you will not be judged. For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged . . .
— Holy Bible, Matthew 7:

Certain ways of communicating alienate us from our natural state of compassion

Moralistic Judgments  

In the world of judgments, our concern centers on WHO “IS” WHAT.

Analyses of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values.

Classifying and judging people promote violence.

Making Comparisons  

Comparisons are a form of judgment.

Denial Of Responsibility  

Our language obscures awareness of personal responsibility.

We can replace language that implies lack of choice with language that acknowledges choice.

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

Other Forms Of Life-Alienating Communication  

We can never make people do anything.

Thinking based on “who deserves what” blocks compassionate communication.

Life-alienating communication has deep philosophical and political roots.


Chapter 3: Observing Without Evaluating  


“OBSERVE!! There are few things as important, as religious, as that.”
— Frederick Buechner, minister

When we combine observation with evaluation, people are apt to hear criticism.

The Highest Form Of Human Intelligence  

Distinguishing Observations From Evaluations  


“The most arrogant speaker we’ve ever had!”

Chapter 4: Identifying and Expressing Feelings  

The Heavy Cost Of Unexpressed Feelings

Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts.

Feelings Versus Non-Feelings  

Distinguish feelings from thoughts.

Distinguish between WHAT WE FEEL and WHATWE THINK we are.

Distinguish between WHAT WE FEEL and HOW WE THINK others react or behave toward us.

Building A Vocabulary For Feelings  


Chapter 5: Taking Responsibility For Our Feelings

“People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.”

Hearing A Negative Message: Four Options

What others do may be the stimulus of our feelings, but not the cause.

Four options for receiving negative messages:

  1. Blaming ourselves
  2. Blaming others
  3. Sensing our own feelings and needs
  4. Sensing others’ feelings and needs

Distinguish between giving from the heart and being motivated out of guilt.

Connect your feeling with your need: “I feel . . . because I . . .”

The Needs At The Roots Of Feelings  

Judgments of others are alienated expressions of our own unmet needs.

If we express our needs, we have a better chance of getting them met.

  • Autonomy
  • Celebration
  • Integrity
  • Interdependence
  • Spiritual Communion
  • Physical Nurturance
  • Play

The Pain Of Expressing Our Needs Versus The Pain Of Not Expressing Our Needs  

If we don’t value our needs, others may not either.

From Emotional Slavery To Emotional Liberation  

  • First stage: Emotional slavery: we see ourselves responsible for others’ feelings.
  • Second stage: “Obnoxious”: 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


“Bring back the stigma of illegitimacy!”

Chapter 6: Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life  

Using Positive Action Language

“Use positive language when making requests.”

Making requests in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want

Vague language contributes to internal confusion.

Depression is the reward we get for being “good.”

Making Requests Consciously  

It may not be clear to the listener what we want them to do when we simply express our feelings.

We are often not conscious of what we are requesting.

Requests unaccompanied by the speaker’s feelings and needs may sound like a demand.

The clearer we are about what we want back, the more likely it is that we’ll get it.

Asking For A Reflection  

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.

Empathize with the listener who doesn’t want to reflect back.

Requesting Honesty  

After we express ourselves vulnerably, we often want to know

  • (a) what the listener is feeling;
  • (b) what the listener is thinking; or
  • (c) whether the listener would be willing to take a particular action.

Making Requests Of A Group  

In a group, much time is wasted when speakers aren’t certain what response they’re wanting back.

Requests Versus Demands  

When the other person hears a demand from us, they see two options: submit or rebel.

How 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.

Defining Our Objective When Making Requests  

Our objective is a relationship based on honesty and empathy.


Sharing Fears About A Best Friend’s Smoking

Chapter 7: Receiving Empathically  

The two parts of NVC: —expressing honestly —receiving empathically

Presence: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

Empathy: emptying the mind and listening with our whole being

Ask before offering advice or reassurance.

Intellectual understanding blocks empathy.

Listening For Feelings And Needs  

No matter what others say, we only hear what they are (a) observing, (b) feeling, (c) needing, and (d) requesting.

Listen to what people are needing rather than what they are thinking about us.


When asking for information, first express our own feelings and needs.

Reflect back messages that are emotionally charged.

Paraphrase only when it contributes to greater compassion and understanding.

Behind intimidating messages are simply people appealing to us to meet their needs.

A difficult message becomes an opportunity to enrich someone’s life.

Paraphrasing saves time.

Sustaining Empathy  

Staying with empathy, we allow speakers to touch deeper levels of themselves.

We know the speaker has received adequate empathy when a. we sense a release of tension, or b. the flow of words comes to a halt.

When Pain Blocks Our Ability To Empathize  

We need empathy to give empathy.


A Wife Connects With Her Dying Husband

Chapter 8: The Power of Empathy  

Empathy That Heals

Empathy allows us “to reperceive [our] world in a new way and move on.”

“Don’t just do something. . . .”

It’s harder to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status, or resources.

Empathy And The Ability To Be Vulnerable  

The more we empathize with the other party, the safer we feel.

We “say a lot” by listening for other people’s feelings and needs.

Using Empathy To Defuse Danger  

Empathize, rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person.

When we listen for their feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters.

It may be difficult to empathize with those who are closest to us.

Empathy In Hearing Someone's " No! "  

Empathizing with someone’s “no” protects us from taking it personally.

Empathy To Revive A Lifeless Conversation  

To bring a conversation back to life: interrupt with empathy.

What bores the listener bores the speaker too.

Speakers prefer that listeners interrupt rather than pretend to listen.

Empathy For Silence  

Empathize with silence by listening for the feelings and needs behind it.

Empathy lies in our ability to be present.


Chapter 9: Connecting Compassionately With Ourselves


The most important use of NVC may be in developing self-compassion.

We use NVC to evaluate ourselves in ways that engender growth rather than self-hatred.

Evaluating Ourselves When We've Been Less Than Perfect  

Avoid “shoulding” yourself!

Translating Self-Judgments And Inner Demands  

Self-judgments, like all judgments, are tragic expressions of unmet needs.

NVC Mourning  

NVC mourning: connecting with the feelings and unmet needs stimulated by past actions which we now regret.


NVC self-forgiveness : connecting with the need we were trying to meet when we took the action which we now regret.

The Lesson Of The Polka-Dotted Suit  

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.

" Don't do anything that isn't play! "  

We want to take action out of the desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame, or obligation.

Translating " Have to " To " Choose to "  

With every choice you make, be conscious of what need it serves.

Cultivating Awareness Of The Energy Behind Our Actions  

  1. for money
  2. for approval
  3. to escape punishment
  4. to avoid shame

Be conscious of actions motivated by the desire for money or the approval of others, and by fear, shame, or guilt. Know the price you pay for them.

  1. to avoid guilt
  2. out of duty

The most dangerous of all behaviors may consist of doing things “because we’re supposed to.”


Chapter 10: Expressing Anger Fully  


Killing people is too superficial.

Distinguishing Stimulus From Cause  

We are never angry because of what others say or do.

To motivate by guilt, mix up stimulus and cause.

The cause of anger lies in our thinking—in thoughts of blame and judgment.

All Anger Has A Life-Serving Core  

When we judge others, we contribute to violence.

Use anger as a wake-up call.

Anger co-opts our energy by diverting it toward punitive actions.

Stimulus Versus Cause: Practical Implications  

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.

We recall four options when hearing a difficult message: 1. Blaming ourselves 2. Blaming others 3. Sensing our own feelings and needs 4. Sensing others’ feelings and needs Judgments of others contribute to selffulfilling prophecies.

Four Steps To Expressing Anger  

Steps to expressing anger: 1. Stop. Breathe. 2. Identify our judgmental thoughts. 3. Connect with our needs. 4. Express our feelings and unmet needs.

Offering Empathy First  

The more we hear them, the more they’ll hear us.

Stay conscious of the violent thoughts that arise in our minds without judging them.

When we hear the other person’s feelings and needs, we recognize our common humanity.

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

Taking Our Time  

Practice translating each judgment into an unmet need.

Take your time.


Parent And Teen Dialog A Life-Threatening Issue

Chapter 11: The Protective Use Of Force  

The Thinking Behind The Use Of Force  

The intention behind the protective use of force is only to protect, not to punish, blame, or condemn.

Types Of Punitive Force  

Fear of corporal punishment obscures children’s awareness of the compassion underlying parental demands.

Punishment also includes judgmental labeling and the withholding of privileges.

The Costs Of Punishment  

When we fear punishment, we focus on consequences, not on our own values.
Fear of punishment diminishes self-esteem and goodwill.

Two Questions That Reveal The Limitations Of Punishment  

Question 1: What do I want this person to do?
Question 2: What do I want this person’s reasons to be for doing it?

The Protective Use Of Force In Schools  


Chapter 12: Liberating Ourselves and Counseling Others  

Freeing Ourselves From Old Programming

We can liberate ourselves from cultural conditioning.

Resolving Internal Conflicts  

To be able to hear our own feelings and needs and to empathize with them can free us from depression.

Caring For Our Inner Environment  

Focus on what we want to do rather than what went wrong.

Defuse stress by hearing our own feelings and needs.

Defuse stress by empathizing with others.

Replacing Diagnosis With NVC  

I empathized with clients instead of interpreting them; I revealed myself instead of diagnosing them.


Dealing With Resentments And Self-Judgment

Chapter 13: Expressing Appreciation In Nonviolent Communication  

The Intention Behind The Appreciation

Compliments are often judgments—however positive—of others.

Express appreciation as a way to celebrate, not to manipulate.

The Three Components Of Appreciation  

  1. the actions that have contributed to our well-being;
  2. the particular needs of ours that have been fulfilled; and
  3. the pleasureful feelings engendered by the fulfillment of those needs

Receiving Appreciation  

Receive appreciation without feelings of superiority or false humility.

The Hunger For Appreciation  

We tend to notice what’s wrong rather than what’s right.

Overcoming The Reluctance To Express Appreciation