Book Review: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

There are a lot of books on communication out there.  This is not surprising given the role communication plays in our lives.  Think about it:  whether it’s verbal or nonverbal, what could we possibly accomplish without effective communication? Our species owes our ability to organize, to learn, even to survive on our ability to convey our thoughts, ideas and facts.  Our ability to communicate with each other is why we are at the top of the food chain.

Nonviolent Communications: Language of Life is one of the best books on communication I have read.  For many readers it may seem to start out in the clouds, with all of the talk about feelings, compassion and empathy, but stick with it and the reasons for this emphasis become clear in a dynamic method of communication that works.

One of the premises of nonviolent communication (NVC) is that our daily communications are typically characterized by demands, judgments, and diagnoses.  Such communication separates us from recognizing our needs, and blocks our ability to empathize with and understand the needs of others.  The result is we tend to communicate in terms of what is “right” and what is “wrong.”  This form of communication usually leads to frustration, misunderstandings, anger, depression and even violence.

NVC seeks to remove judgments from our communications, and enhance empathy and understanding of our needs and of the needs of those we communicate with.  Dr. Rosenberg outlines a four part NVC process that focuses on our observations, feelings, needs and requests.  This process is facilitated by expressing ourselves honestly through the four part process, and receiving messages from our counterparts empathically through the process. 

After discussing the NVC process and its components in detail, and how using the process can enhance our communications with others, Dr. Rosenberg then turns to discussing how we can apply the same processes to our own internal talk, or thinking processes, to make significant personal changes. 

I must admit, even as a mental health professional in training, it took me a few pages to really see the practicality of the NVC process.  I could immediately see the applications of NVC in the therapy room, but some of the concepts seemed a bit “unreal” to me at first.  But as I continued to read I began to understand  how powerful NVC could be in our daily lives.  In a lot of ways, the NVC process follows the simple pattern introduced by Covey many years ago – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  The difference is, Dr. Rosenberg expands on this premise to provide an actual process and means of doing so. 

I highly recommend Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

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