Nonviolent Communication

“Words are windows or they’re walls.

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.”

Jenny Ebermann


The purpose: natural giving

The purpose of nonviolent communication is to help you to do what you already know how to do (because sometimes we forget because we have been educated to forget).

The purpose of this process is to connect in a way that makes natural giving possible.

When you take from me I feel so given to… {song on Natural Giving}

That quality of giving, that connection… is what the song is about.

Games we play: punishment and reward

Instead of playing the game of “making life wonderful”, we play “who’s right?”. It is a game where everybody loses. Still, we play it very often, nearly all the time.

That game involves two things: punishment (if you are wrong, you deserve to suffer) and reward (if you are right, you get reward).

What a diabolical game to educate people!

So, no more punishment, reward, guilt, shame, duty, obligation…

When the other is evil, violence emerges

We got off target thinking that human beings are innately evil. And so the corrective process is penitence: to bring about change when people behave in a way we do not like is to make people hate themselves for what they are doing!

So we started developing a language that cuts us off from life – the Jackal language. And makes it very easy to be violent. Domination cultures make violence enjoyable! The hero always kills somebody of beats them up….

The Jackal language

A language of moralistic judgements – who is right and who is wrong: “say you are sorry! (…) OK, I forgive you”.

A language that denies choice or responsibility for our actions: “I had to do it.”.

Everything we do out of punishment, fear, reward, to make people like us, out of guilt, duty, shame… everybody pays for.

Bringing about change…

To try to change or teach somebody about something just creates more problems.

If we cannot change and win, then are we doomed to give up or lose? There is another option. Not out of coercion. To give willingly!

The goal is not to impose change, but to get the quality of connection where everybody’s needs are met.

Expressing what we would like: observations, not judgements

What does he do that upsets you?

Asking for an observation, a concrete behavior, people often provide evaluations, an analysis that wrongness. Fact is confounded with opinion. Even if the judgement is accurate, it is an evaluation, not a description.

All we see is our enemy image. It obscures reality. We do not see the behavior anymore.

To observe without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.

For example, using the word “too”, which implies there is just a particular amount of something, then too much and too little, and they know exactly what it is…

Other example of judgement words: blame, insult, yell, refuse, …

“Please” and “thank you”

All you can hear is what human beings have always said: “please” and “thank you”

All the rest are tragic suicidal expressions of “please and thank you”

Tragic cause it decreases the likelihood that we get what we want, and it increases violence.

Two kinds of literacy: feelings and needs

We only judge whether it is serving life or not. Needs are the life seeking expression within us.

Exercise: “When you do A, I feel X”.

But X not as descriptions or judgements of other people (i.e. judged, criticized, ignored, betrayed, intimidated, used, manipulated).

Two not-to-do’s about feelings: “because I think” + “you”

After the feelings we do not go to the head (we stay in the heart). So, do not add “… because I think you…” cause then defensive aggressive reaction follows.

Do not attribute responsibility to the other person. Never say “you make me feel”. J culture is about manipulating people with guilt to bring about change in them.

4 typical disconnects: anger, depression, fear and guilt

Feelings stem from needs. But when the connection is lost, the following appear: anger, depression, fear and guilt. The first puts guilt on others, the last three puts it on the others.

Needs are not preferences

Needs do not specify the means to satisfy them.

Two power models: “with” and “over” people

Power with people: because it increases willing giving to us, to life.

Power over people: because to avoid punishment and get reward,

The nature desire to give is lost when we hear with J ears.

Hearing with giraffe ears: not submission, nor rebellion

No matter what structure you are in, you are always free to chose what you will.

Do not respond either with submission nor rebellion!

They speak about right versus wrong; you hear their poor expression of their needs.

Never hear an expectation, cause these are thoughts, not needs.

Expressing our unmet needs

All needs are universal. We are all created out of the same energy.

The strategies we have been educating for meeting the needs is what varies a lot.

Beware demanding needs that only you can meet (i.e. freedom).

I need: respect, acknowledgment, privacy, predictability, friendship, understood, heard, love…

When we put the other in our needs, we shrink the world: a need for love, not a need that you love me, but a strong preference that you love me.

Remember that the goal of this process is to meet needs without coercion.

Do you love me?

Being very clear about needs and requests:

Do you love me? Are you using the word love as a feeling? Yes. So, you mean am I feeling certain warmth, cause we use love as a need, not feeling. Do you love me? When? Now!? No, but try me again in a few moments.

Can you tell me what you mean by loving you? Can you tell me what you want me to do to meet your need for loving? You know! I am not sure I do.. Please can you tell me? It is hard to say in so many words… So imagine how hard it is for me to do it.

Do we want others to guess what we need before we can even articulate it?

Making requests: positive and action-based

Positive: Saying what we don’t want does not make clear what we want. We say what we do want, not what we don’t want. Plus, saying “not this” induces violence more easily, cause getting rid of makes violence seem attractive.

Action-based: very concrete requests, not “to be good, to love me, etc…” but to do this. “Let me… allow me… give me the freedom to be myself…”. And a request that the other can do something about it.

Requests, not demands

Be true. For instance: “do X, but please do as I request only if you can do so with the joy of a little child feeding a dog, but do not do if there is any fear of punishment or out of hope for rewards, nor guilt, shame, duty, obligation.·

Create trust. Otherwise, it will take the joy out of giving. So, if you request and others say they cannot, do not blame! “if you love me, why did you do that…?”. We cannot tell from how nicely is asked, we need to see how they treat us when we do not fulfil they requests.

I make a request, they hear a demand.

Try this out: “Sir, could you tell me how I could let you know what I was requesting so I would not sound as if I was telling you what you had to do?” Or “How can I express request to you without sounding as I am bossing you around?”

If they hear our requests as demands, they have two options: submission or rebellion. And so the connection is lost.

So, reflect, how we treat people when they do not do as we want…?!

If I request that you like what you don’t like, how are we going to understand each other?

And those who say “sure, I will do it”… Sooner or later, after giving in to hearing demands, people explode.

I think, therefore… 

To start with “I think…” is an error. I judge (and then lose the connection)

Never hear what people think, or expressed as thought.  Never hear a criticism.

Giraffes are not nice; don’t mistake nonviolence with being nice.

It is always better to wrongly guess a feeling or needs that to hear what people think.

Beware with “OK” as an answer

“OK” is usually bullshit. Why not saying “I am feeling uneasy with your OK. I wish I could but I don’t understand it. Could you spend a moment to tell me what you mean?”

I can only control what I hear, not how people respond.

Building up empathy through attention to feelings and needs

“Are you feeling X because you need Y?”

Take yourself out of other people’s needs: they can live without you!

If your attention is here (at the heart), you don’t need to do this out loud.

Pain: the solution by not trying to fix anything

Jackals try to fix people’s pain. They cannot stand it. They then cause more pain.

Don’t do anything that isn’t playing.

Self-full-ness, not self-less-ness.

Hold your sadness. She still needs more empathy.

Empathic connection is needed before education.

The solution will find us when the connection is there.

Anger: hear their needs

What they need is most likely not what they say.

Never put your “but” in the face of an angry person.

Enemy image prevent us.

No compromise is needed since everybody’s needs can be met. Giving in implies both parties pay the price.


How to say “no”. Do not say “no time”, “I can’t”, “not possible”.

No is a poor expression of a need.

Express your needs too.

Expressing apologies: sad, not bad!

Sad, not bad!

Sorry does not mean anything. And feeling wrong is useless.

More about helping out: just presence is required

Don’t tell me to have confidence in myself; tell me what to do to experience it!

Never say “that isn’t what I said”, but “thanks for telling me what you hear”.

We did not cause your pain and we don’t try/have to fix it.

Healing energy flows when we do nothing; just empathy is needed.

Empathy requires presence.

Doing nothing presently creates a precious connection.

We can then enjoy that despite/throughout the pain.

Finally: celebration!

Celebration is the fuel to stay giraffe in a jackal world.

Celebration comes from gratitude.

How a jackal expresses gratitude

But beware: Now praise, no complement. Never say thanks as a reward! Otherwise, trust in gratitude is lost.

If you say I am a kind person, you implies there are unkind people and you are the judge.

“You are X” as no information whatsoever.

Not what I am (praise), but what I did (appreciation)

How a jackal deals with gratitude

Gracias -> De nada…

Note that they have to deserve it…

So they are scared to receive gratitude…

How a giraffe expresses gratitude

First, concrete observation. Concretely bring attention to what he has done to make life more wonderful.

Second, concrete feeling. How we feel about the fact that he did that.

Third, concrete need. What need was fulfilled.

Final note

“It is our light, not our darkness, that scares us the most”


SUMMARY OF San Francisco Workshop 2000 BY

Marshal B. Rosenberg