Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Nonviolent Communication provides a framework for communicating with people. A lot of the pointers provided may seem obvious if you think about them, but I think it’s still important to label and read these guidelines explicitly.

The framework that Marshall outlines is roughly to first observe the problem without any judgements, then state how this impacts a personal need, and from there make a request for a change. Having a more structured way to approach disagreements is something that I really appreciated. Of course there’s no such thing as a rigid checklist that will resolve any issues, but at least I can refer to something as I try to navigate argument minefields.

Immediately after reading the book, I tried to put what I learned into practice. What I found most difficult was actually the first step! Making plain observations sounds deceivingly easy. Oftentimes when we point out anything that displeases us, we will attach a free gift of judgement along with it. For example, if I see a wet towel thrown on the bed instead of hung up, it’s so cathartically easy to cry out, “Why are you so messy?!? You never clean up after yourself”. This is judging the other person as “messy” and using a hyperbole that they never clean after themselves. A better observation would be to say, “The past two days, you have left a wet towel on the bed”.

I am still working on communicating less violently and being more intentional with the words that I use in disagreements. I think that reading Nonviolent Communication helped me to realize why some of my communication patterns, even if well-intentioned, can cause a conversation to deteriorate in resentment and frustration. I would recommend pretty much anyone to read this. This world can always do with a little more compassion.