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Nonviolent Communication

A Language of Life

By Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

These blinks introduce the principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as a compassionate way of being with ourselves and others. Through simple techniques, you can learn how to consciously change your language and thinking to forge better quality relationships with others.

Key idea 1 of 11

Engaging in alienating communication prevents compassion.

In any society, communication is a fundamental building block of everyday life; if we want to function well in society, we need to learn how to communicate with others effectively.

Unfortunately, we tend to use language that cuts the flow of communication and, even worse, harms us and the person we are speaking with.

This life-alienating communication happens when our words put up walls instead of creating bridges. For example, calling a friend selfish for taking the last piece of cake on a dish is a judgmental statement that creates defensiveness. Alternatively, simple inquiry into their motivation could help find a solution.

Furthermore, this kind of language alienates us from our compassionate selves, which makes us more violent as individuals and societies. The connection between language and violence has been investigated by O.J. Harvey, a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado. He studied random fragments of world literature from different countries and looked for words that judged people, like “good” and “bad.”

The study found that the countries with more judgemental words in their literature also had a higher number of violent incidents. Harvey concluded that cultures who label people as “good” or “bad” reinforce the idea that “bad” individuals deserve punishment, which contributes to violent incidents.

But life-alienating communication extends far beyond just “good” or “bad.” In fact, this form of communication features a range of linguistic devices that help create gaps between people. One such device is moralistic judgment.

Moralistic judgments – typically insults, criticism and labels – imply that a person who acts differently to your value system is behaving “wrongly.”

Imagine a daughter who wants to move out of her parents’ house; they think that she isn’t ready and will put herself in danger. But instead of expressing themselves compassionately and trying to understand her point of view, they label her as “selfish.”

Instead of calling her “selfish,” they could take time to identify their needs, as well as those of their daughter, and have a compassionate discussion about it. It might turn out that what the parents are really worried about is how much they’ll miss their daughter. By using compassionate language, they can bridge their differences instead of alienating each other.

This is just the beginning though – the next blinks will show you exactly how to start communicating with compassion.

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