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“Violent” versus “Nonviolent” Communication



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“Violent” vs “Nonviolent” Communication

If “violent” means acting in ways that result in harm, then much of how we communicate — with moralistic judgments, evaluations, criticisms, demands, coercion, or labels of “right” versus “wrong” — could indeed be called violent.

Unaware of the impact, we judge, label, criticize, command, demand, threaten, blame, accuse and ridicule. Speaking and thinking in these ways often leads to inner wounds, which in turn often evolve into depression, anger or physical violence.

Sadly, many of the world’s cultures teach these “violent” methods of communication as normal and useful, so many of us find our communication efforts painful and distressed, but we don’t know why.

What is “Nonviolent Communication”?

The concepts and tools of Nonviolent Communication are designed to help us think, listen and speak in ways that awaken compassion and generosity within ourselves and between each other. Nonviolent Communication helps us interact in ways that leave each of us feeling more whole and connected.

It ensures that our motivations for helping ourselves, and each other, are not from fear, obligation or guilt, but because helping becomes the most fulfilling activity we can imagine.

With its focus on interpersonal communication skills, a casual observer might suppose that the NVC process is only applicable to relationships or conflict resolution.

Yet people who practice the Nonviolent Communication process quickly discover its transformational impact in every area of the human experience — including transforming our classrooms and organizations, improving productivity in the workplace, transforming anger and emotional pain, enhancing our spiritual development, and creating efficient, empowering organizational structures.


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Deep Green Transphobia | Earth First! Newswire

I have spent a lot of time lately contemplating this issue, and I wanted to share some thoughts about it. I am posting a link and intro to this article because I have been unable to use the reblog feature to share it here.

I have been deeply touched and changed by Derrick Jensen’s work, by my experience of Earth First! over the last 3 decades, and by my friendships and interactions with trans people. When I first read of DGR I was very excited about the possibilities, having long been a proponent of deep ecology. So when I first saw this issue last week I was very disturbed and confused. Further reading and contemplation have cleared some of my confusion and I hope that my understanding may perhaps help others to resolve this for themselves, and maybe even help move it toward resolution for the larger better world creating community.

I first felt confused because it seems that I agree with everyone involved. I have a lot in common with radical feminists, and can easily see their points, but at the same time, I had no disagreement with the Earth First! and tranny people whose comments and articles I also read.

How can this be? A huge disagreement and I agree with everyone? Am I lacking a mind of my own?

Where do I fit politically? Well, my deepest and strongest held political beliefs don’t seem to fit in any political camp and I finally understood why a little while ago. My core beliefs are not political, they are spiritual.

The root of my political activism, and indeed my whole life is Respect for ALL Living Beings. When I discovered NVC (Non-Violent Communication) I felt like it would solve all the seeming disagreements in politics, and I still do. The catch is, people have to learn about it and USE it;-)

It looks to me so often like these political infights are about ego, and proving one’s camp “right” and holding everyone to one standard. I always thought this was silly-from reading about how Lenin, Marx, Trotsky etc sort of demolished the utopian possibilities of Communism by dogmatic infighting over, well, dogma;-) to the disintigration of my local Occupy group over some members absolute denial of the Safer Spaces folks right to exist as part of Occupy.

Why can’t we leave theory in the text books and LIVE based on respect and love?

Sure we need to use our theories to improve things, but we aren’t improving things for the theory are we? We are improving them for the LIVING BEINGS all around us-from nearly extinct frogs and butterflies to the sadly suffering human beings we are brothers and sisters in arms with in the struggles to remake our world.

Whether they are suffering PTSD from rape and molestation (thus acting from a root place of fear when rejecting a woman who used to be male for instance) or suffering from the imposition of culture-whether patriarchal, or feminist, industrial or anti-civ onto their personal experience and understanding, they are *doing the best they can in the moment* to work to better our world for all living beings.

To me, there is NO blanket theory, no one size fits all prescription for an activist group or cell, whether DGR, Occupy or any other. The only way we are going to change this world is by changing ourselves and then our groups. Horizontalism, NVC, The Madrid document on group dynamics-these are to me the holy grail of how to move forward.

We are not fighting an industrialist’s war for resources using tanks and DU munitions. We are fighting a living organism’s war for LIFE using our bodies, our minds, our emotions and our spirits as well as our actions, prayers and creativity-and all the tools we make with it.

In order to change the world we have to clear out things like hierarchy and “only one can be right” from our own internal programming, and from our group interactions. We NEED to learn to RESPECT everyone, to accept that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, everyone has value.

We cannot afford to lose anyone, reject anyone, belittle, humiliate, attack or alienate anyone who is trying to help in this massive project to remake a whole planet full of screwed up culture, poison and violence against the ticking time bomb of the stupid that is about to obliterate us all.

So what is my idea that is different that the current DGR stance, or their critics? My idea is that by leaving blanket statements, attacks, and rejection off the table and bringing things like NVC, horizontalism and Respect back in, we can choose to co-create a movement together instead of allowing this COINTELPRO style splintering effect to go on forever until the Earth looks like Mars.

Each group, whether DGR or not, is made of individuals. As individuals those people can choose to work together respectfully to find individual solutions that work for their specific situations-by listening to one another using techniques like NVC, or just plain old patience, common sense and kindness.

Certainly gender IS a construct, and it IS one that has been forcibly imposed upon us all in its current forms by colonization and patriarchy. But right now we are neither fish nor fowl-we are no longer living as colonized robots, but nor are we fully realized free beings of the beautiful new world we are working to co-create.

We are in what is known as the liminal period. Liminal periods are very powerful and dangerous-they can result in amazing magic like a butterfly emerging from its liminal period in the coccoon when it went in as a caterpillar. But they can also result in breakdowns, destruction and derailing. Adolescence is the prime example of a liminal period and a short contemplation of it should easily illustrate what I am talking about.

We don’t have to choose trans people over feminists or vice versa-we can choose to realize that both are beings in this liminal state working hard to shed their old programming and emerge as fully realized beings.

They aren’t there yet.

So even tho gender is a construct-some biologically born women still feel a need for separate spaces from people born male-from what I have read due to fears of rape and domination of various sorts by those trained to that-(whether or not this is a fact of the trans-women they may be rejecting in any given instant).

The trans women are also liminal beings, acting from their lived experience of being who they ARE not who they MIGHT be if the contructs of gender had never been imposed on the society in which they were born. How can we deny their lived experience no matter how they came to it? How can anyone deny anyone else’s experience of their own internal world?

As a person who publishes a lot on cultural co-optation I understand the idea that a male to female trans person may appear to be the same as a Euro American who *feels* Ndn, but there is a crucial and fundamental difference.

The Euro American HAS ancestors of her or his own to whom they REALLY ARE connected, who did live in some way to which they feel drawn but do not understand, hence latching on to a generic product (promoted by plastic shamans who make money on it) claiming to be “Native American Spirituality”. They can with just a bit of effort, find their way back to their own deep and REAL connection to the land, their ancestors and non-colonized, non-patriarchal ways of life.

Some of them may even “become ndn”** the same way ANYONE “becomes” another CULTURE by joining that culture, learning its ways, WORKING as part of the community and being a functioning, helpful, useful, contributing part of their new country-just like immigrants to America do by learning English and eating at McDonald’s;-) <–(JOKE<–for those new to Aspie writing;-)

**(This is also a controversial thing, but it is a fact that many tribes and nations did and do allow “immigration” within their own rules for such-as in a German man who marries a Cherokee woman and lives on the rez with her, or a Blackfoot woman who marries a Mohawk man-human beings do not live in the little boxes we use to categorize them they live in the really real, really messy world;-)

Trans people on the other hand are born into a body that feels wrong to them-whether this is caused by imposed patriarchal stuff, or a medical condition or whatever. Unlike an Irish American who can research his Druid ancestors, or a Germanic/Norse American who can easily find a local group of Asatru to join in finding her own history, culture and ancestral customs, a trans boy or girl has no such alternative.

I don’t think we can create a better world by denying people their felt and lived experience. I don’t deny that many people of European ancestry have a natural and very strong draw toward what they perceive as Native American “Religion”. What I try to do is to help those who have been tricked by the plastic shamans see that what has been stolen from them thru colonization is possible to retrieve in some measure without stealing from others. (and that what the plastic shamans are selling is not what they say it is)

All culture that is alive is constantly being recreated; growing, evolving, becoming-but it has a core of integral values and understandings that do not change much over time.

It is striking to me that some (but not all-as R.A.W. would say “sombunall”) of those core things are very similar across most of what I consider ancient cultures, or root cultures: those that lived basically as functional parts of their ecosystem, in balance with one another and nature for the greater part of the 2 million years humanity existed prior to colonization and patriarchy.

Hence, a person who never knew her ancestors culture is naturally drawn to one that has such similarities, because IMHO those root values, those integral things are, as my amazingly perceptive Nish friend used to tell me, “in our bones”.

Science has shown that some tomboy girls, born to tomboy Mothers are in fact biologically different from “normal” biologically female children. These children are exposed to a higher level of androgens in the Mother’s body, which affects their biology for life. They are naturally resistant to the imposed patriarchal model of “femininity” and do not “take” to it. They have discovered chemically and biologically why this is and how it works.

Is it really such a stretch to think something similar will eventually be discovered for trans people, as it has been for some who are ordinary homosexual beings?

And even if it is not, my basic premise is that in order to create a better future we have to accept WHAT IS. How can you change anything if you don’t accept what it IS NOW?

Neither the rad-feminists nor the trans folks are starting from a blank slate-ALL of us are in various stages of decolonization/deconstruction of the reality we learned while growing up in this world as it IS.

Expecting someone to NOT be who they ARE is counterproductive. And I mean that whether the person is trans, radfem, or mainstream Republican. We have to start where we ARE and go from there.

We will get a lot further, a lot faster if we can learn to start accepting one another just as we ARE. Learn to LOVE one another even tho we have huge differences and disagreements. When we act from that Love and Acceptance we can create miracles, we can create change faster than we ever dreamed possible.




On several occasions the Earth First! Journal editorial collective has run pieces both online and in print either written by or about the Deep Green Resistance Movement. As a collective, weve considered DGR to have some value to Earth First! discussions around feminism, organizing principles, ecological analysis and critiques of civilization. In 2010 we published a piece by Lierre Kieth and Derrick Jensen, and in 2012 we inserted a section from the book Deep Green Resistance on militant approaches to the ecological crisis, which was written by Aric McBay.

The Earth First! Journal collective is dedicated to providing our readers with views from diverse groups, from Earth First!ers on the frontlines to conservative farmers struggling against the Keystone XL Pipeline or fracking; from the Move 9 and all political prisoners to Zapatistas, liberal climate change media stars, pacifist Quakers against mountaintop removal and bomb throwing anarchists in Mexico and Greece. It is our goal to print stories and analysis that spark relevant discussion, new alliances, necessary schisms and resistance.

However, in light of DGRs continued assault on trans people, with language and analysis that denies the struggles of trans-people and even goes so far as to deny the value, worth and power of their existence in radical movements, labeling trans people as somehow not real, or as Post-Modern manifestations of individualism, the Earth First! Journal collective will no longer print or in any way promote DGR material. While we dont need to agree with an individual or organization to find their words or actions relevant for discussion we will not continue to include those whose core expression of values continues to promote exclusion and oppression.

(I have been unable to get WordPress to load the “reblog” button for this article for about 3 days, so I am posting the above as an intro and you can read the full article and comments at the link below

https://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/deep-green-transphobia/ )

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Living Compassion Weekly Tips Series – Week 42

“When people think we have single-mindedness of purpose, it makes change difficult.”

– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication:
A Language of Life

Living Compassion Tip — Week 42

Strings Attached

If you look up the word “demand” you will read various definitions, such as:

  • “Forceful request”
  • “An insistent request”
  • “To claim as a right”

If a demand is a type of request according to various dictionaries, why is it important in NVC to make a distinction between the words “request” and “demand”?

One goal of NVC is to provide a platform for the free flow of feelings and needs with the intent of allowing for a more compassionate way for everyone to be heard and taken care of.

“Demand” in NVC is a request with strings attached. We all have either made such a request or have had one made of us. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg states, “Requests are received as demands when others believe they will be blamed or punished if they do not comply. People see only two options: submission or rebellion.”

“Demand” has a more specific definition: a demand is a forceful request in which the speaker criticizes, judges or lays guilt upon the listener.

“Request” in NVC is a clear desire for a need to be met, often followed by showing empathy toward the listener’s needs.


Mindful Practice for the Week

This week, practice cutting the “strings” attached to your requests. See if you can place more trust in the free flow of feelings and needs to reach a mutual outcome, rather than using guilt or promises of reward. Enjoy your week!


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Living Compassion Weekly Tips Series – Week 41


“Don’t fill the air with a lot of words. Rather, create a flow where the other person can tell you what they need to know.”

– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication:
A Language of Life

Living Compassion Tip — Week 41

Heart in Your Hands

Imagine this moment: You’ve been practicing your making a request with a loved one. You observed a situation that just happened, figured out how you felt, attached a need and made a clear request. Now you stand with your heart in your hands waiting for a response.

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg writes, “After we’ve openly expressed ourselves and received the understanding we want, we’re often eager to know the other person’s reaction to what we’ve said.”

We are curious about three things:

1. What the listener is feeling
2. What the listener is thinking
3. Whether the listener is willing to take a particular action

Sharing can leave you feeling vulnerable. In fact, the saying, “holding your heart in your hands” infers anxiousness. That anxiousness can keep us from being open to hearing what the other person has to say, no matter what it is.

With this definition, we can recognize that the listener’s reaction is only a small piece of the whole experience. Your willingness to be vulnerable, to share with an open heart, is also a huge piece that can be satisfying in and of itself, regardless of the response you receive.

But “hold your heart in your hands” can have another meaning: No matter what response we get, we have offered our words from our heart. Our heart has literally flowed through our words.

Mindful Practice for the Week

This week, focus on sharing from your heart. Put your anxiousness about the response you might receive aside, and focus on the satisfaction and joy you can experience by sharing freely from the heart. Enjoy your week!

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Living Compassion Tip — Week 39

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

– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication:
A Language of Lifestock-vector-cartoon-brain-and-heart-arguing-and-saying-swear-symbols-at-each-other-109364663.jpg

Living Compassion Tip — Week 39

Are You Talking to Me?

“Requests,” says Marshall Rosenberg, “unaccompanied by the speaker’s feelings and needs may sound like a demand.”

What if you said, “Why don’t you have a glass of water instead of that soda?” Although you may intend this as a request, putting it in the form of a question without attaching feelings or needs oftentimes leaves the listener confused or irritated. The little voice inside the listener’s head is probably saying something like, “Are you talking to ME?”

Attaching feelings and needs to a request lessens confusion and resistance on the part of the listener. They realize you’re talking with them about something that is of interest to both of you.

“I’m concerned for your health and the amount of soda you drink because of the high sugar content. How about having water right now instead?”

In this version, the listener can understand what the request is based on. The little voice in his or her head might now be saying something like, “Hmm, maybe water is a good idea.”


Mindful Practice for the Week

Give others the opportunity to understand your requests. Attach feelings and needs and see how tension-free your conversations can be. Enjoy your week!

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Living Compassion Weekly Tips Series – Week 33

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

– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication:
A Language of Life

Living Compassion Tip — Week 33

Ask Instead of Plead

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg states, “In a world where we’re often judged harshly for identifying and revealing our needs, doing so can be very frightening.” Oftentimes, many of us, especially women, internalize the belief that taking care of others is more important than taking care of ourselves.

When we finally realize that both are important, our first attempts at asking for what we need comes out more like pleading.

Example: A stay-at-home mom has had a stressful day. She says to her family, “I haven’t had a moment to myself all day. I took the kids to school, ran errands, did the laundry, chose paint for the living room”… and with each justification her tone becomes more whiny and pleading.

By the time she gets to her actual request, “I would like some time this evening to myself, ” the listener has probably put up a wall of resistance and is most likely formulating why his or her own day was stressful too!

She says to her family, “I’ve had a busy day. I’m tired and would like a few minutes to myself right now. I’d also enjoy making dinner together so I could feel more connected to all of you.”

With a simple statement of her need, the speaker shows that she values her own needs. She does not need to argue why she “should have” or “deserves” time to herself.

Mindful Practice for the Week

This week, pay attention to how you ask to have your needs met. Do you hold a belief that your needs are not as valuable as another’s? Do you think you must justify why you deserve to have your need met? Enjoy your week!

Get this tip from a friend? Sign up for your Living Compassion NVC Tip Series here

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Living Compassion Weekly Tips Series – Week 32

I don’t believe I have ever posted an ad for anything before, but this one is part of the Living Compassion tip series this time and I very much want to share NVC with as many as possible. I do not yet own any of these books, but for those like myself who cannot get to in person NVC trainings they may be the very best way to get more in depth understanding of the processes used.

“I want to take my time: to come from an energy I choose rather than one I’ve been programmed to come from.”

– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication:
A Language of Life

Living Compassion Tip — Week 32

“If You Woke Up Breathing, Congratulations!
You Have Another Chance.”

This quote from Andrea Boydston points to one more basic human need, physical nurturance. This category encompasses the corporal requirements for the human body such as: air, food, movement, protection from life-threatening forms of life (viruses, etc.), rest, sexual expression, shelter, touch and water.

We ask a lot of our bodies. At times we limit some of these basic needs because of circumstances, beliefs or unconscious actions. But as the quote states, “If you woke up breathing – you have another chance.”

Along the course of life there will be reasons why all of these physical needs might not be nurtured. Yet at each turn in the road, you can ask yourself, “Under my present circumstances, am I considering the needs of my body? Am I giving my body what it needs at this time?”

Physical nurturance is the foundation upon which you can build a strong YOU to explore and enrich the other NVC basic human needs. A strong YOU opens up the possibility of more compassionate and life-giving relationships.


Mindful Practice for the Week

This week, every day you wake up breathing, look at it as a chance to understand the needs of your body. Take some time to review the aspects listed above and see if there are changes you can start making to be a stronger YOU! Enjoy your week!


Yes, Improved Communication CAN
Help You Live Your Best Life …

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Living Compassion Weekly Tips Series – Week 29

“Which game do you want to play? ‘Who’s right,’ or ‘Let’s make life more wonderful’?”

– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication:
A Language of Life

Living Compassion Tip — Week 29

The Web of Life

“We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”
– Chief Seattle

Interdependence is a basic human needs. Our web of life is woven with acceptance, closeness, community, contribution, empathy, love, respect, support and trust.

We all know how crucial these various aspects of interdependence are. To understand ourselves, we must first ask:

How important to me is:


Once we have an idea of our own level of need in the area of interdependence we can understand our part as a “strand” in the web of life.


Mindful Practice for the Week

Spend some time this week defining the various aspects of Interdependence for yourself. Explore how these needs play themselves out in your daily interactions. Enjoy your week!

Get this tip from a friend? Sign up for your Living Compassion NVC Tip Series here.
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Intro to NVC

I’m not sure if this is going to work, so if the links in this article don’t work, please go to the original on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_Communication to access all the resources, references and links in the article.

I wanted to share NVC with you because I think it is an important and helpful tool in the process of co creating the new world. Instead of conflict and resistance we now have a tool to find the middle path, the win win solution, the heart centered growth in relationship, in community and love instead of conflict leading to hate or violence.

I will be sharing more articles and links to NVC trainers and videos as soon as I can, but this article has a ton of resources you can get to from links within it, so you don’t have to wait for me;-)

Nonviolent Communication
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Marshall Rosenberg lecturing in Nonviolent Communication workshop, Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam, Israel (1990)
Nonviolent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication[1][2]) is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s.[3] NVC often functions as a conflict resolution process. It focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one’s own inner experience), empathy (defined as listening to another with deep compassion), and honest self-expression (defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others).

NVC is based on the idea that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and only resort to violence or behavior that harms others when they don’t recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs.[4] Habits of thinking and speaking that lead to the use of violence (psychological and physical) are learned through culture. NVC theory supposes all human behavior stems from attempts to meet universal human needs and that these needs are never in conflict. Rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. NVC proposes that if people can identify their needs, the needs of others, and the feelings that surround these needs, harmony can be achieved.[5]

While NVC is ostensibly taught as a process of communication designed to improve compassionate connection to others, it has also been interpreted as a spiritual practice, a set of values, a parenting technique, an educational method and a worldview.

1 Applications
2 History and development
3 NVC Theory
3.1 Overview
3.2 Assumptions
3.3 Intentions
3.4 Communication that blocks compassion
3.5 Four components
3.6 Modes
4 Research
5 Relationship to spirituality
6 Relationship to other models
7 Responses
8 Organizations
9 See also
10 References
11 Further reading
12 External links

NVC has been applied in organizational and business settings, [6] [7] in parenting, [8] [9] [10] in education, [11] [12] [13] [14] in mediation, [15] in psychotherapy, [16] in healthcare, [17] in addressing eating issues, [18] in prisons, [19] [20] [21] and as a basis for a children’s book ,[22] among other contexts.

Rosenberg has used Nonviolent Communication in peace programs in conflict zones including Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Serbia, Croatia, Ireland, and the Middle East including the Occupied Palestinian Territories. ([23] p. 212)

NVC has been combined with HeartMath[24] meditation to form a practice called BePeace which serves as a peace building and social and emotional skill building curriculum being taught in public schools throughout Costa Rica,[25] in the U.S. and in other countries.[26]

History and development
Nonviolent Communication training evolved from Rosenberg’s search for a way to rapidly disseminate peacemaking skills. NVC emerged out of work he was doing with civil rights activists in the early 1960s. During this period he also mediated between rioting students and college administrators and worked to peacefully desegregate public schools in long-segregated regions.[27]

According to Marion Little (2008), the roots of the NVC model developed in the late 1960s, when Rosenberg was working on racial integration in schools and organizations in the Southern United States. The earliest version of the model (observations, feelings, and action-oriented wants) was part of a training manual Rosenberg prepared in 1972. The model had evolved to its present form (observations, feelings, needs and requests) by 1999. The dialog between Rosenberg and NVC colleagues and trainers continues to influence the model, which by the late 2000s, placed more importance on self-empathy as a key to the model’s effectiveness. Another shift in emphasis, since 2000, has been the reference to the model as a process. The focus is thus less on the “steps” themselves and more on the practitioner’s intentions in speaking (“is the intent to get others to do what one wants, or to foster more meaningful relationships and mutual satisfaction?”) in listening (“is the intent to prepare for what one has to say, or to extend heartfelt, respectful attentiveness to another?”) and the quality of connection experienced with others.[28]

Rosenberg’s work with Carl Rogers on research to investigate the components of a helping relationship was, according to Little, central to the development of NVC. Rogers emphasized: 1) experiential learning, 2) “frankness about one’s emotional state,” 3) the satisfaction of hearing others “in a way that resonates for them,” 4) the enriching and encouraging experience of “creative, active, sensitive, accurate, empathic listening,” 5) the “deep value of congruence between one’s own inner experience, one’s conscious awareness, and one’s communication,” and, subsequently, 6) the enlivening experience of unconditionally receiving love or appreciation and extending the same.[28]

Influenced by Erich Fromm, George Albee, and George Miller, Rosenberg adopted a community focus in his work, moving away from clinical psychological practice. The central ideas influencing this shift by Rosenberg were that: (1) individual mental health depends on the social structure of a community (Fromm), (2) therapists alone are unable to meet the psychological needs of a community (Albee), and (3) knowledge about human behavior will increase if psychology is freely given to the community (Miller).[28]

Rosenberg’s early work with children with learning disabilities is noted as showing evidence of his interest in psycholinguistics and the power of language, as well as his emphasis on collaboration. In its initial development, the NVC model re-structured the pupil-teacher relationship to give students greater responsibility for, and decision-making related to, their own learning. The model has evolved over the years to incorporate institutional power relationships (i.e., police-citizen, boss-employee) and informal ones (i.e. man-woman, rich-poor, adult-youth, parent-child). The ultimate aim is to develop societal relationships based on a restorative, “partnership” paradigm and mutual respect, rather than a retributive, fear-based, “domination” paradigm.[28]

Rosenberg has identified Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration for the NVC model. Rosenberg’s goal has been to develop a practical process for interaction rooted in Gandhi’s philosophy of “ahimsa” which translates as “the overflowing love that arises when all ill-will, anger, and hate have subsided from the heart.”[28]

NVC Theory
Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, shame, etc. These “violent” modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.

NVC trainers Inbal and Miki Kashtan characterize the assumptions underlying NVC as:[4]

All human beings share the same needs
Our world offers sufficient resources for meeting everyone’s basic needs
All actions are attempts to meet needs
Feelings point to needs being met or unmet
All human beings have the capacity for compassion
Human beings enjoy giving
Human beings meet needs through interdependent relationships
Human beings change
Choice is internal
The most direct path to peace is through self-connection
The Kashtans further offer that practicing NVC involves holding these intentions:[4]

Open-Hearted Living
Expressing from the heart
Receiving with compassion
Prioritizing connection
Moving beyond “right” and “wrong” to using needs-based assessments
Choice, Responsibility, Peace
Taking responsibility for our feelings
Taking responsibility for our actions
Living in peace with unmet needs
Increasing capacity for meeting needs
Increasing capacity for meeting the present moment
Sharing Power (Partnership)
Caring equally for everyone’s needs
Using force minimally and to protect rather than to educate, punish, or get what we want without agreement
Communication that blocks compassion
NVC suggests that certain ways of communicating tend to alienate people from the experience of compassion: ([29] ch.2)

Moralistic judgments implying wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticisms, comparisons, and diagnoses are all said to be forms of judgment. (Moralistic judgments are not to be confused with value judgments as to the qualities we value.) The use of moralistic judgments is characterized as an impersonal way of expressing oneself that does not require one to reveal what is going on inside of oneself. This way of speaking is said to have the result that “Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting.”
Demands that implicitly or explicitly threaten listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply.
Denial of responsibility via language that obscures awareness of personal responsibility. It is said that we deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to: vague impersonal forces (“I had to”); our condition, diagnosis, personal or psychological history; the actions of others; the dictates of authority; group pressure; institutional policy, rules, and regulations; gender roles, social roles, or age roles; or uncontrollable impulses.
Making comparisons between people.
A premise of deserving, that certain actions merit reward while others merit punishment.
Four components
NVC invites practitioners to focus attention on four components:

Observation: the facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as distinct from our evaluation of meaning and significance. NVC discourages static generalizations. It is said that “When we combine observation with evaluation others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying.” Instead, a focus on observations specific to time and context is recommended. ([29] ch.3)
Feelings: emotions or sensations, free of thought and story. These are to be distinguished from thoughts (e.g., “I feel I didn’t get a fair deal”) and from words colloquially used as feelings but which convey what we think we are (e.g., “inadequate”), how we think others are evaluating us (e.g., “unimportant”), or what we think others are doing to us (e.g., “misunderstood”, “ignored”). Feelings are said to reflect whether we are experiencing our needs as met or unmet. Identifying feelings is said to allow us to more easily connect with one another, and “Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts.” ([29] ch.4)
Needs: universal human needs, as distinct from particular strategies for meeting needs. It is posited that “Everything we do is in service of our needs.”[30]
Request: request for a specific action, free of demand. Requests are distinguished from demands in that one is open to hearing a response of “no” without this triggering an attempt to force the matter. If one makes a request and receives a “no” it is recommended not that one give up, but that one empathize with what is preventing the other person from saying “yes,” before deciding how to continue the conversation. It is recommended that requests use clear, positive, concrete action language. ([29] ch.6)
There are three primary modes of application of NVC:

Self-empathy involves compassionately connecting with what is going on inside us. This may involve, without blame, noticing the thoughts and judgments we are having, noticing our feelings, and most critically, connecting to the needs that are affecting us. ([30] ch.4)
Receiving empathically, in NVC, involves “connection with what’s alive in the other person and what would make life wonderful for them… It’s not an understanding of the head where we just mentally understand what another person says… Empathic connection is an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person, the divine energy in the other person, the life that’s alive in them.. It doesn’t mean we have to feel the same feelings as the other person. That’s sympathy, when we feel sad that another person is upset. It doesn’t mean we have the same feelings; it means we are with the other person… If you’re mentally trying to understand the other person, you’re not present with them.” ([30] ch.5) Empathy involves “emptying the mind and listening with our whole being.” NVC suggests that however the other person expresses themselves, we focus on listening for the underlying observations, feelings, needs, and requests. It is suggested that it can be useful to reflect a paraphrase of what another person has said, highlighting the NVC components implicit in their message, such as the feelings and needs you guess they may be expressing. ([29] ch.7)
Expressing honestly, in NVC, is likely to involve expressing an observation, feeling, need, and request. An observation may be omitted if the context of the conversation is clear. A feeling might be omitted if there is sufficient connection already, or the context is one where naming a feeling isn’t likely to contribute to connection. It is said that naming a need in addition to a feeling makes it less likely that people will think you are making them responsible for your feeling. Similarly, it is said that making a request in addition to naming a need makes it less likely that people will infer a vague demand that they address your need. The components are thought to work together synergistically. According to NVC trainer Bob Wentworth, “an observation sets the context, feelings support connection and getting out of our heads, needs support connection and identify what is important, and a request clarifies what sort of response you might enjoy. Using these components together minimizes the chances of people getting lost in potentially disconnecting speculation about what you want from them and why.”[31]
NVC lacks significant “longitudinal analytical research” [5] and few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of NVC training programs.[28] To date, there has been little discussion of NVC in academic contexts. Most evidence for effectiveness of NVC has been anecdotal or based on theoretical support.

As of 2011, six Master’s theses and Doctoral dissertations are known to have tested the model on sample sizes of 108 or smaller and generally have found the model to be effective.[2][28][32][33]

Allan Rohlfs, who first met Rosenberg in 1972 and was a founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, explains a paucity of academic literature as follows:

Virtually all conflict resolution programs have an academic setting as their foundation and therefore have empirical studies by graduate students assessing their efficacy. NVC is remarkable for its roots. Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. (clinical psychology, U of Wisconsin) comes from a full time private practice in clinical psychology and consultation, never an academic post. NVC, his creation, is entirely a grassroots organization and never had until recently any foundation nor grant monies, on the contrary funded 100% from trainings which were offered in public workshops around the world. … Empirical data is now coming slowly as independent researchers find their own funding to conduct and publish empirical studies with peer review.[34]

NVC has reportedly been involved in producing dramatic changes in forensic psychiatric nursing settings in which a high level of violence is the norm. NVC was adopted, in combination with other interventions, in an effort to reduce violence. The interventions were said to reduce key violence indicators by 90 percent over a three year period in a medium security unit,[35] and by around 50 percent in a single year in a maximum security unit.[36]

Recent research appears to validate the existence of universal human needs. [37] [38]

Relationship to spirituality
As Theresa Latini notes, “Rosenberg understands NVC to be a fundamentally spiritual practice.”[39] Marshall Rosenberg has, in fact, described the influence of his spiritual life on the development and practice of NVC:

“I think it is important that people see that spirituality is at the base of Nonviolent Communication, and that they learn the mechanics of the process with that in mind. It’s really a spiritual practice that I am trying to show as a way of life. Even though we don’t mention this, people get seduced by the practice. Even if they practice this as a mechanical technique, they start to experience things between themselves and other people they weren’t able to experience before. So eventually they come to the spirituality of the process. They begin to see that it’s more than a communication process and realize it’s really an attempt to manifest a certain spirituality.”[40]

Rosenberg further states that he developed NVC as a way to “get conscious of” what he calls the “Beloved Divine Energy”.[40]

Some Christians have found NVC to be complementary to their Christian faith.[39][41][42][43] Many people have found Nonviolent Communication to be very complementary to Buddhism, both in theory and in manifesting Buddhist ideals in practice.[44][45][46]

Relationship to other models
Marion Little examines theoretical frameworks related to NVC. The influential interest-based model for conflict resolution, negotiation, and mediation developed by Fisher, Ury, and Patton at the Harvard Negotiation Project in the 1980s appears to have some conceptual overlap with NVC, although neither model references the other. Little suggests The Gordon Model for Effective Relationships (1970) as a likely precursor to both NVC and interest-based negotiation, based on conceptual similarities, if not any direct evidence of a connection. Like Rosenberg, Gordon had worked with Carl Rogers, so the models’ similarities may reflect common influences.[28]

Suzanne Jones sees a substantive difference between active listening as originated by Gordon and empathic listening as recommended by Rosenberg, insofar as active listening involves a specific step of reflecting what a speaker said to let them know you are listening, whereas empathic listening involves an ongoing process of listening with both heart and mind and being fully present to the other’s experience, with an aim of comprehending and empathizing with the needs of the other, the meaning of the experience for that person.[47]

Havva Kök notes an overlap between the premises of NVC and those of Human Needs Theory (HNT), an academic model for understanding the sources of conflict and designing conflict resolution processes, with the idea that “Violence occurs when certain individuals or groups do not see any other way to meet their need, or when they need understanding, respect and consideration for their needs.”[48][49]

Chapman Flack sees an overlap between what Rosenberg advocates and critical thinking, especially Bertrand Russell’s formulation uniting kindness and clear thinking.[50]

Martha Lasley sees similarities with the Focused Conversation Method developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), with NVC’s observations, feelings, needs, and requests components relating to FCM’s objective, reflective, interpretive, and decisional stages.[51][52]

There is little published critique of NVC. However, researchers have noted that NVC lacks an evidence base beyond the copious anecdotal claims of effectiveness and similarly lacks discussion in the literature of the theoretical basis of the model.[3][5][28]

Chapman Flack, in reviewing a training video by Rosenberg, finds the presentation of key ideas “spell-binding” and the anecdotes “humbling and inspiring,” notes the “beauty of his work,” and his “adroitly doing fine attentive thinking” when interacting with his audience. Yet Flack wonders what to make of aspects of Rosenberg’s presentation, such as his apparent “dim view of the place for thinking” and his building on Walter Wink’s account of the origins of our way of thinking. To Flack, some elements of what Rosenberg says seem like pat answers at odds with the challenging and complex picture of human nature history, literature and art offer. [50]

Flack notes a distinction between the “strong sense” of nonviolent communication as a virtue that is possible with care and attention, and the “weak sense,” a mimicry of this born of ego and haste. The strong sense offers a language to examine one’s thinking and actions, support understanding, bring one’s best to the community, and honor one’s emotions. In the weak sense, one may take the language as rules and use these to score debating points, label others for political gain, or insist that others express themselves in this way. Though concerned that some of what Rosenberg says could lead to the weak sense, Flack sees evidence confirming that Rosenberg understands the strong sense in practice. Rosenberg’s work with workshop attendees demonstrates “the real thing.” Yet Flack warns that “the temptation of the weak sense will not be absent.” As an antidote, Flack advises, “Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others,” and guard against the “metamorphosis of nonviolent communication into subtle violence done in its name.”[50]

Bowling Green State University Professor Ellen Gorsevski, in assessing Rosenberg’s book, “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion” (1999), in the context of geopolitical rhetoric states that “the relative strength of the individual is vastly overestimated while the key issue of structural violence is almost completely ignored.”[53]

PuddleDancer Press reports that NVC has been endorsed by a variety of public figures.[54]

The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC), founded by Marshall Rosenberg, has trademarked the terms NVC, Nonviolent Communication and Compassionate Communication, among other terms, for clarity and branding purposes.[55] CNVC certifies trainers who wish to teach NVC in a manner aligned with CNVC’s understanding of the NVC process.[56]

While CNVC offers some trainings,[57] most Nonviolent Communication trainings are offered by trainers either acting independently or sponsored by NVC organizations which are allied with but with no formal relationship to CNVC.[58] Some of these trainings are announced through CNVC.[59] There are numerous NVC organizations around the world, many with regional focuses.[60][61]

See also
Alternatives to Violence Project
Marshall Rosenberg
People skills
Restorative justice
Teaching for social justice
Active listening
Four-sides model