Nonviolent Communication - Marshall Rosenberg


September 14th, 2020

29 mins 38 secs

Season 3

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Nonviolent Communication is based on the assumption that all human beings have capacity for compassion and empathy and that people only resort to violence or behavior harmful to others when they do not recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs.

The purpose of Nonviolent Communication is to help us connect to ourselves and others in a way that makes being compassionate natural. It is not about making people do what we want, but by creating connections with others so that everyone’s needs are met.

Nonviolent Communication theory supposes that all human behavior stems from attempts to meet universal human needs, Connection, Physical Well-Being, Honesty, Play, Peace, Autonomy, Meaning

and that these needs are never in conflict; rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. Nonviolent Communication proposes that people should identify shared needs, which are revealed by the thoughts and feelings surrounding these needs, and then they should collaborate to develop strategies and make requests of each other to meet each other's needs. The goal is interpersonal harmony and learning for future cooperation.

Nonviolent Communication centers round 2 questions:

  • What is alive in you
  • What would make your life more wonderful

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

Certain ways of communicating tend to alienate people from the experience of compassion

  • Moralistic judgements implying wrongness or badness on the part of people who don't act in harmony with our values
  • 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. ‘I had to’ because of others, my condition, group pressure, …
  • Making comparisons
  • A sense of ‘deserving’

How to practice Nonviolent Communication?


The facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as distinct from our evaluation of meaning and significance. It is said that "When we combine observation with evaluation others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying."


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."


Universal human needs, as distinct from particular strategies for meeting needs. It is posited that "Everything we do is in service of our needs. Connection, Physical Well-Being, Honesty, Play, Peace, Autonomy, Meaning


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

There are three primary modes of application of Nonviolent Communication


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.

Receiving empathically

In Nonviolent Communication involves "connection with what's alive in the other person and what would make life wonderful for them...Nonviolent Communication 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 Nonviolent Communication components implicit in their message, such as the feelings and needs you guess they may be expressing

Expressing honestly

In Nonviolent Communication, is likely to involve expressing an observation, feeling, need, and request.