Introduction\Discussion - Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (perhaps discussing integration with standards processes)

From IIW

Introduction to Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication

Thursday 21H

Convener: Infominer & Shannon Casey


Tags for the session - technology discussed/ideas considered:

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

Shannon Casey

NVC is a first step toward understanding the importance of relationality that is key to creating anything. When we step into awareness of communication and where we are not relational, we are not creating effective solutions or products that reach all the potential of the public. The dialogue held during the session was a practice of relationality and opportunity to widen the scope of the lens of attendees who are newer to this work. Shannons suggestions for learning NVC- Find a practice group or create a practice group of your peers, the neurobiology of this relational approach cannot be found in our own isolated thinking. We cannot unthink our way out of our learned inter-relating. My mentors are Roxy Manning, Mika Maniwa, Sarah Peyton, Miki Kashtan and Kristin Masters. All offer online access to their work and Sarahs book Empathy Brain is one of primary sources for the neurobiology of NVC.

Kimberle Crenshaw's & Patricia Hill Collins Intersectionality is a cornerstone of my navigating walking with awareness. Here is Kimberle Crenshaws TedTalk and please include both names when you say Intersectional Feminism.

Article Shannon mentioned at the end of the session for white folks regarding unpacking impact of whiteness

Notes 4 Nonviolent Communication @ IIWXXX

transferred from infominer's notes \ google doc

I’m really excited about all the incredible solutions being created in this community, and the work that’s gone towards sovereign identity, over the years. At the same time I recognize that many of the challenges we face are not technical, but interpersonal.

Nonviolent communication (NVC) consists of a value system that challenges ways of thinking that create violence on this planet. NVC provides a language, practice, and philosophy that support compassionate connection where the needs of all participants are met.

Nonviolent communication supposes that all humans share the same universal needs, and conflicts arise when we are attached to particular strategies for meeting those needs.

Originally applied to the clinical practice of psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, nonviolent communication has spread across the globe finding use in social change efforts, education, the workplace, negotiation, relationships, development of empathy, and restorative justice - connecting people with their feelings and needs.

My personal calling, in this world of fast moving interconnected info-systems, is to curate and make valuable information more easily navigable and accessible. When I found nonviolent communication, I knew I must spend some time gaining familiarity with this content, and support others in the same.

I found this teaching while working through difficult life challenges and struggling with my emotions. While I’m quite new to nonviolent communication, and it wouldn’t even be fair to call myself a practitioner, the teachings of Dr Rosenberg have already proven personally invaluable. I see it as having an enormous potential for contributing to peace on this planet.

I just want to share a bit about what is NVC, what are some of the philosophical underpinnings, give an overview of the process, and maybe have some exercises so we can get hands on with some of the concepts.

Part of my inspiration for calling this session was the RWoT Topic Proposal: NVC for Standards Working Groups.

We propose to facilitate the collaborative drafting of a paper that discusses the possible use of non-violent communications (NVC) and cognitive behavioral (CBT) methodologies, to create a collaboration toolkit for Internet standards working groups. We believe that a carefully designed combination of NVC and CBT would empower working groups and their facilitators to be more effective, by learning how to perceive the emotional reactions and tacit needs of participants in a working group, and to learn the art of making more effective requests. If the facilitator can teach these techniques, it can create a shared basis for connection, cooperation, and effectiveness in the discussion.

I heartily agree with the above sentiment. In my opinion, NVC and CBT are among the most powerful tools for personal well-being and healthy relations. I’ve been drilling down on both topics, over the past 6 months. I believe that of all the tech I’ve learned about, these relational tools have the greatest potential for impact.

This document presents a brief overview of nonviolent communication, including it’s background, premise, principles, and process. At the end you will find a resources section, where you can find research, online practice \ training, books\audio\video of Marshall’s presentation of NVC, and additional related information.


Marshall Rosenberg developed the process of Nonviolent communication, as a result of growing up around extreme violence and hatred, on one hand, and then also experiencing a profound example of compassionate giving, on the other.

Growing up through the race riots in 1940's detroit, experiencing anti-semitism in the schools, he wondered what made people want to hurt each-other based on skin color or ethnic background. At the same time, he was given the example of a caring uncle who would come to care for his aging grandmother, with patience and joy.

Nonviolent Communication Part 3 Marshall Rosenberg - youtube

From there went on to study psychology, receiving a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His aim was to determine what contributes to violence, and what contributes to people connecting with their compassionate nature.

At first, Marshall assumed that violence was the result of a psychological illness, but found that psychological diagnoses didn't have any scientific basis, and furthermore that the tools he had been given in his psychological training were largely ineffective.

As a result, he then began to consider how we are meant to live, and found that spiritual teachings around the world agree that we should practice compassion, and contribute to each other's wellbeing.

Rosenberg saw that the skills that seemed necessary to live compassionately are quite different from the skills that we're taught. He also found, after studying religions that advocated compassionate living, that they weren't too clear on how exactly to achieve that end.

He then studied people who he respected the most as compassionate, and enjoyed giving to others, to discover the difference between them and those who enjoy criticism and blame.

That's how he began to develop this process of nonviolent communication, the core intention of which is to contribute to our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others compassionately.

So that whatever we do is done willingly, and not out of guilt, shame, fear of punishment, or trying to buy love, submitting to what we think others expect us to do.

Also when making requests from others, to be sure their cooperation is willing, and not out of shame, guilt, or fear of punishment.

Marshall Rosenberg found this practice much more effective at helping the patients in his clinical practice, with their problems at school, with depression, in relationships, than how he was taught to do psychotherapy at the university.

From that point he began training various communities in nonviolent communication, which began to spread by word of mouth, across the globe.


That we give solely out of the joy that comes naturally from contributing to life. Our own life and the lives of others.

The process of nonviolent communication provides us with the language, thinking, and practices that support us in connecting with ourselves and others in a way that promotes compassionate giving.

  • All human beings share the same needs
  • All actions are attempts to meet needs
  • Feelings point to needs being met or unmet
  • The most direct path to peace is through self-connection
  • Choice is internal
  • All human beings have the capacity for compassion
  • Human beings enjoy giving
  • Human beings meet needs through interdependent relationships
  • Our world offers abundant resources for meeting needs
  • Human beings change

Key Assumptions and Intentions of NVC - BayNVC - Inbal Kashtan and Miki Kashtan

One of the core principles of nonviolent communication is the idea that all people have the same needs. Marshall suggests that we develop a literacy of needs.

Max-Neef Model of Human-Scale Development

Max-Neef classifies the fundamental human needs as: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, recreation (in the sense of leisure, time to reflect, or idleness), creation, identity and freedom.

Fundamental Human Needs Being (qualities) Having (things) Doing (actions) Interacting (settings)
Subsistence physical and mental health food, shelter work feed, clothe, rest, work living environment, social setting
Protection care, adaptability, autonomy social security, health systems, work co-operate, plan, take care of, help social environment, dwelling
Affection respect, sense of humour, generosity, sensuality friendships, family, relationships with nature share, take care of, make love, express emotions privacy, intimate spaces of togetherness
Understanding critical capacity, curiosity, intuition literature, teachers, policies educational analyse, study, meditate, investigate
Participation receptiveness, dedication, sense of humour responsibilities, duties, work, rights cooperate, dissent, express opinions associations, parties, churches, neighbourhoods
Leisure imagination, tranquillity, spontaneity games, parties, peace of mind day-dream, remember, relax, have fun landscapes, intimate spaces, places to be alone
Creation imagination, boldness, inventiveness, curiosity abilities, skills, work, techniques invent, build, design, work, compose, interpret spaces for expression, workshops, audiences
Identity sense of belonging, self-esteem, consistency language, religions, work, customs, values, norms get to know oneself, grow, commit oneself places one
Freedom autonomy, passion, self-esteem, open-mindedness equal rights dissent, choose, run risks, develop awareness anywhere

Responsibility for our Emotions

In nonviolent communication, it is stressed to be aware that we are responsible for our own feelings. Other people can't make us feel anything. Our feelings are a result of how we take things. We cannot make other people feel as they do. They are responsible for how they take it.

Restorative vs Retributive Justice

Another principle close to the heart of nonviolent communication is the idea that people have been living under domination structures, for thousands of years, where some claim superiority giving them the right to control others.

That we have been educated in a language that disconnects us from our own power, and guides us to look to external authorities for how we are meant to live.

This type of language is static, describing what people are, whether good bad right wrong normal or abnormal.

At the core of this language is the idea of retributive justice, that if you are judged as bad by authorities, you deserve to be punished, and if you are judged as good by authorities then you deserve reward.

It's my belief that this combination of teaching people to think in a static way, in terms of good, bad, right, wrong, normal, abnormal, appropriate, inappropriate, mentally normal mentally ill. That way of thinking combined with retributive justice based on punishment and reward, I believe is at the heart of violence on our planet.

Rosenberg drives this point home, reflecting on what Adolf Eichmann said at his trial for war crimes:

It was easy. Our language made it easy. [...] We came up with a name for describing the language that we were taught in schools and especially to us in our position as officers in the military. We called this language amtssprache up between us. In German, amt means office and sprache means language. So what they were referring to then was a language of bureaucracy.

Eichmann was asked for some examples of Amtssprache, and Eichmann said it's a language in which you deny responsibility for your actions. If you don't feel responsible for your actions, you don't feel so bad when you do things like send people to their death. It was asked for some examples of this. Eichmann said, Well, if somebody asked you why you do it, you say I had to, I had no choice. if people question that and say, Well, what do you mean you had no choice then you say, superiors orders, company policy. It's the law.

For this reason, it’s stressed throughout Rosenberg’s training that we develop a consciousness, that no matter the structure, that we remember that we always have a choice, to not give away our values and succumb to what structures tell us to do.

Anger - Depression - Guilt - Shame

Whenever we're feeling those feelings, we are thinking in a way that we have been taught to think for about 10,000 years. A way of thinking designed to make us obedient to authority, but a way of thinking that is not conducive to safety and peace on our planet. We can use those feelings as a wake up signal. Wake up, we're thinking in a way that's not conducive to peace on the planet. Let's transform the thinking into one that promotes peace on our planet.

Related is the research of OJ Harvey at the University of Colorado who measured use of the verb "to be" was used in judging people's actions good, bad, right, wrong, finding a correlation in the use of this language and violence. The more cultures think in terms of what people are and their actions, the more violence in those cultures.

Rosenberg discusses how the language we’ve been taught to use plays a central role in creating violence on the planet. It took some time to sink in, but I’m convinced of it’s profound truth. That there is this almost unspoken understanding that if you are judged as right by authority you deserve to be rewarded and if you are judged as wrong you deserve to be punished. This results in our wishing punishment on ourselves and others.

I don’t know if that concept will resonate with anyone, but now I’ve seen it, I see it everywhere. I’m especially looking at how this concept of retributive justice can intrude and disrupt otherwise caring relationships. This type of language and thinking supports dominant power structures by a trickle-down effect, keeping us at odds with each other, rather than relating co-operatively.

An Alternative to Punishment or Reward

When we get people to do what we want out of fear of punishment, shame or guilt, then we are experienced as a source of violence who is prepared to make them suffer. To whatever degree we're seen as violent rather than compassionate, it's that much more difficult for others to enjoy compassionately relating with us.


Avoid Criticism and Demands

In nonviolent communication our aim is to avoid:

  • any language that sounds like criticism, blame, or insults.
  • presenting requests in a way where others hear demands.

anytime people hear criticism or demands, that makes it very difficult for people to enjoy contributing to one another's well being.

4 Components

From NVC for Standards Working Groups by Claire Rumore & Moses Ma, FutureLab Consulting

  • Observations are what we see or hear that we identify as the stimulus to our reactions. Our aim is to describe what we are reacting to concretely, specifically and neutrally, much as a video camera might capture the moment. This helps create a shared reality with the other person.
  • Feelings represent our emotional experience and physical sensations associated with our needs that have been met or that remain unmet (see below). Our aim is to identify, name and connect with those feelings. The key to identifying and expressing feelings is to focus on words that describe our inner experience rather than words that describe our interpretations of people’s actions.
  • Needs are an expression of our shared humanity. All human beings share key needs for survival. We also share many other needs, though we may experience them to varying degrees and may experience them more or less intensely at various times. In the context of NVC, needs refer to what is most alive in us: our core values and human desires.
  • Requests are a technique that can be used to help get cooperation for particular strategies to enable more cohesive collaboration. Learning to make clear requests and shifting our consciousness to making requests in place of demands are very challenging skills for most people, but could be the key to transforming negative situations encountered in standards development work.

Universal-human-needs mediateyourlife-com.jpg


Chapter 1 - NVC: Language of Life

NVC guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. NVC trains us to observe carefully, and to be able to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in any given situation. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

Audio \ Video

FULL nonviolent-Communication-Workshop: Marshall Rosenberg (Subtitles) (youtube)

Online Practice and Virtual Training


Research \ Literature