Joel Hawksley
joel@hawksley.org

Notes on Nonviolent Communication

By Marshall B. Rosenberg, 2003. ISBN 1892005034

Every act of communication, whether written, verbal, or non-verbal, is an expression of an unmet need. By clearly sharing our needs and listening for the needs of others, we can help each other fulfill them.

Judgement

The author believes that our judgement of others is itself an expression of an unmet needing. He argues that this attention is misplaced: “Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting.”

For example: Replace ‘I am angry because they…’ with ‘I am angry because I am needing…’.

Being direct

When making a request of someone, make it in the positive: ask for them to do something as specifically as possible, describing the action you wish to be taken. Avoid asking for someone to not do something, as that doesn’t give them any guidance on what they should do instead.

This is especially true in a group setting. Groups waste much time when they aren’t sure what the desired response is to a meeting.

Punishment

The author makes the case that punishment is rarely the right tool to accomplish our goals. Especially in the long term. He explains:

“We are unlikely to get what we want when using punishment to change people’s behaviors. We can realize this by asking two questions: What do I want this person to do? What do I want this person’s reason to be for doing it?”

While punishment often gets us the answer we want to the first question, especially in the short term, it almost never gets us the answer we want to the second question.

How to say thank you

Our gratitude is often expressed in too general of a fashion. Saying “thanks for cooking dinner” doesn’t help the recipient understand their impact on you. Instead, say:

1) This is what you did. 2) This is how I feel. 3) This is the need of mine that was met.

For example:

“I was so hungry after a long day at work. The dinner you made was so thoughtfully prepared. I feel satisfied and appreciative of the care you put into it.”