Summary of The Art of Nonviolent Communication
by Micah Salaberrios. Note that a different person Marshall Rosenberg developed the concept of nonviolent communication in his book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, which is different from the book this summary is for.
Nonviolent communication is about using facts, feelings, needs and requests. Leave out judgments, evaluations, criticisms, advice, accusations and opinions.
The four steps to nonviolent communication are:
Step 1: Share observations (“You were late to the last three meetings”). These should be facts. Leave out any added evaluation like “You’re careless”.
Step 2: Share feelings (“I felt ignored”). Leave out any criticism like “You disrespected me”. Feelings are about you, not what the other person did. Other people are not responsible for your feelings. They’re responsible for actions, but if you feel a certain way as a result, that’s a different thing. Decouple actions and feelings.
Feelings should be free of thought and story. For example, “I didn’t get a fair deal” is an analysis, not a feeling, despite being couched as “I feel…”
Step 3: Identify universal needs: sustenance, safety, love, understanding/empathy, creativity, recreation, sense of belonging, autonomy and meaning. Every conflict boils down to one of these. For example, if a subordinate rebels against a manager, it could be for lack of autonomy, even if phrased differently. We need to get past the surface to identify the underlying needs that are unmet and think about how to meet them.
Step 4: Make requests. Without a clear request, the other side doesn’t know what to do after they’ve understood the problem. If someone understands that you feel disrespected, what do they do about it? If they interrupting you in front of others makes you feel disrespected, request them not to do it, so that they have something concrete to do. Otherwise, they don’t have a way to evaluate their progress as they work on it: are they being more respectful, less respectful, or the same amount of respectful?
- Requests are things for which you’re okay hearing a “no” response. Otherwise, they’re demands, and demands are not productive.
- Requests should say what the other person should do, not what he should stop doing.
- Vague requests like “please be more careful” don’t help. They’ll agree to it, because it sounds like a good thing, but since no specific action is being requested, nothing will change.
- Requests shouldn’t be coupled with criticism such as “You’re careless. (criticism) Can you turn up on time? (request)” That will cause the person to fixate on the criticism, ignoring everything else.
Nobody wants to be told they’re doing wrong, since that implies they’re bad people, and nobody wants that.
Acknowledge your emotions. Whenever you feel anything other than joy, that’s a signal you’re getting. People feel that they’re responsible for their emotions, and so feel bad. But they shouldn’t — nobody is in control of their emotions. Treat it as a signal and pay attention to it without attaching any shame to it.
When someone says something that angers you, if you ignore it, over time, one of two things happen: you’ll explode one day, which will cause more damage than if you said it in a constructive way. Or strain will build up in the relationship, resulting in you moving away from each other, barely talking, or not working with each other.