Readers' Review 9: Non-Violent Communication by Marshal Rosenberg
Non-violent communication by Marshal Rosenberg, published in 2003, is quite pertinent in today’s polarised world. I see increasing instances of hate speech and crime being reported in India and around the world. This book, which talks about communicating compassionately, can open one’s mind to and restore one to one’s natural state of compassion.
The author terms non-violent communication (NVC) as a “specific approach to communicating – both speaking and listening – that leads us to give from the heart,” and introduces us to the process of NVC as a means “to shine the light of consciousness on places where we can find what we are seeking.” Furthermore, the book focuses on how, as an individual, one can adopt NVC without any expectation of the same from the other person. This selfless approach can often, as he points out through various real-life examples, lead others to voluntarily join us in the process.
The NVC process, as laid out and described in the book consists of four steps – observing a situation we find ourselves in with another person/s without any judgment, acknowledging how we feel in this situation because of something said or done by another person, identifying the underlying need linked to our feelings, and making a request of the other person on what we seek from them in that situation. He also highlights that we can use this four-part process to either express ourselves in a situation or receive these four parts, with empathy, from another person. This forms the central idea of the book. He goes into each of these components in detail.
Just like we peel layers of an onion to get to its core, this book gently helps one uncover and go past some barriers that prevent our true core from shining through. It addresses deep ideas and brings out insights in a simple manner that makes appreciating them easier; for it can get difficult to acknowledge some of the non-violent ways of communicating one may be indulging in without even being aware of it. Hence, I believe, it is important to digest the book and warn against rushing through it. This one needs to be devoured with patience and every nuance savoured.
Another idea worth talking about here is how the author talks about using NVC for developing self-compassion. Only when one can show true compassion, not self-pity, through complete acceptance, that one can extend it to others. This idea holds value when we happen to live in an age where projecting the perfect image is far more important than being authentic. In this part of the book, one explores how one perpetuates certain beliefs through one’s language. It can help one break from acts that are motivated only by fear or guilt or being unforgivingly self-critical and in turn understand our underlying needs.
This book warrants a re-visit every few years to refresh the powerful ideas it expresses. These ideas have a wide range of applications – from one’s personal life with friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers to specific professions such as psychologists, communication and cross-cultural experts, negotiators, arbitrators, etc. The book specifically discusses cases of using NVC in high-stakes negotiations, therapy sessions, and conflict resolutions amongst other workplace scenarios.
To me, the beauty of NVC lies in its universality and potential to develop a common language based on compassion and love. This book helped me in overcoming certain mental blocks about expressing myself freely and I believe anyone reading it will find something valuable in it for themselves.
Vyoma is a professional in the Human Resources field with 10 years of work experience in both consulting and industry roles. She has been freelancing since 2020 and works on projects on leadership development, potential assessments and development centres, facilitation, and content creation. Apart from engaging with her professional commitments, she learns Hindustani Classical Music (Sitar) and enjoys trekking in the high Himalayas.