Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion
by Marshall B. Rosenberg
Puddledancer Press, 1999
Reviewed by Stephanie Mattei
New Jersey USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 3, May-June 2003, p. 109
An international peace activist, Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, has spent a lifetime developing, practicing, and teaching communication skills in some of the most war-torn places on earth. This astonishing and eye-opening book describes how his method of "nonviolent communication" works.
The basic idea is to connect with one another in ways that foster compassion as a motivation to constructive dialogue. The opposite of nonviolent communication is dialogue that seeks to awaken fear, guilt, blame, or shame in the child.
Nonviolent communication is based on two fundamentals:
1) We can coach ourselves to be aware of and honestly express our own feelings, needs, and requests without blame, criticism, or condemnation. We can only do this after we make a specific, clear, and factual observation not mingled with personal judgments or opinions.
2) We can respond with empathy to other people, even if it means disregarding blame or criticism and looking past the words and behavior of the other person in order to identify his or her unmet needs.
Marshall Rosenberg bases his model on the premises that all human beings are simply trying to get their needs met, and that violence in any form is a tragic expression of unmet needs. This is a marked departure from some judgmental attitudes that tend to label children or adults as whining, uncooperative, or aggressive. This author urges a more compassionate approach.
Empathy empowers people to find common ground without compromising their own needs. When people (including children) act rude, angry, or offensive, they are really voicing their unmet needs at that particular moment. The loving and compassionate response even to obnoxious words and behavior is to look beyond the rudeness to find the unmet needs. Nonviolent communication helps us see the humanity in the person whose behavior we would have otherwise interpreted as aggressive and harmful, and to hear the cry for help in the child who is misbehaving.
This compassionate response is justified and supported by his revolutionary approach that says people naturally enjoy contributing to the well being of others when compassion-rather than fear, guilt, blame, or shame-is the motivation. For parents, this has widespread implications for the way to motivate children to good behavior. Rather than focusing on the misbehavior, parents are encouraged to respond to the unmet need that is really being communicated by the child's behavior. Faced with an angry or rude child, a parent would respond with love and empathy, and not project anger back on the child.
Because of the connection it fosters between people, nonviolent communication offers a bridge between attachment parenting and parenting the older child. Rosenberg's book helps parents learn the principle and techniques of nonviolent commmunication, which just might help parents keep a strong connection with their children as they grow.