On Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
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“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished…Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”
-Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
I can’t quite remember when the concept of nonviolent communication (NVC) entered into my life. I do recall I was looking for better words, more authentic ways of connecting with people, and trying to find language that was not activating to myself or to others when tough conversations, or difficult subject matter, was coming up. I was also looking for more integrated, evolved, and skilful ways of speaking my truth, without diminishing the truth of the other person, and I was also looking for ways to receive information and feedback honestly and openly, without being overprotective or shutting down.
My real, pure truth was not the projection of a wound trapped in my body, or the past trying to speak into my present, or hurtful words said to assert control, trying to protect untended, unexamined, and/or unconscious parts* of myself. The real truth to me, was ownership of my own experience and the opportunity to take full responsibility for my own healing through my words and my feelings, and to convey them in a way that was responsible, respectful, and allowed for spaciousness and safety between us.
Essentially, I wanted to connect compassionately with myself, and with others, at all times.
Somewhere in this yearning, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s work came into my life. I purchased his book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” and was met with what I was looking for. He presents a four step process of: observations, feelings, needs, and requests and promotes the use of empathy and compassion to help us see both within and beyond ourselves, giving us incredible tools to diffuse confusion, anger, and other powerful emotions. To me, it is a process of deep inquiry and empowerment that helps us to be infinitely present and to meet people exactly where they are, not where we want them to be. It is also a process of self-awareness that helps us to identify and name our unmet needs, making more room for self-care and self-love, ultimately helping us to be healthier in every relationship we have. This work has really helped me to be a better partner, co-worker, daughter, friend, and healer, and has helped me to realize an inner freedom I barely knew was possible.
As a healer, I feel this language has expanded my ability to understand and serve my clients, friends, and family seeking support.
It continues to open up even more lines of healing inquiry and curiosity, which I am deeply grateful for.
During his life, Dr. Rosenberg was able to peacefully resolve conflicts in many situations among many groups of people including families, businesses, and governments using his NVC method. His writing is clear and easy to follow, and he provides a wide variety of examples to show his work in action. NVC also supports releasing damaging words from our vocabulary, such as the use of the words ‘should’ or ‘have to’ which I will also blog about very soon. A close friend of mine introduced this to me separately from NVC many years ago, and I cannot tell you enough how much better my life has been since I stopped saying should!
In service of deepening the use of NVC in my life, I invite you to join me in participating in a new online workshop developed by my friends at Sounds True. Nonviolent Communication with Dr. Marshall Rosenberg is a 9-part course that will teach you how to treat people with empathy, beginning with yourself, and use NVC to build the path towards healing. This course is a wonderful investment in developing your self understanding and language skills around honest and caring communication, helping you to gather even more compassion, empathy, and ultimately peace in your life. You can access the course and a couple of free offerings on NVC here.
May we move forward together towards peace through compassion, kindness, responsibility, and respect. May our words no longer be weapons for our wounds, but the salve that provides their healing.
With deepest love and gratitude,
* I speak the language of parts, that is, I believe we are composed of many different parts and voices, so for example, if I am feeling sad, perse, it is in fact only a part of me that feels sad, and other parts of me may feel calm and settled. The parts language gives me the ability to reflect on the ‘part’ of me that is sad, and to dialogue with it, allowing its voice to be heard, and providing me with an opportunity for healing and resolution of that part. I will blog about ‘parts’ in another post soon. The exploration of parts continues to be life-changing for me!