by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
©June 2014, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Communication is a basic human activity. It involves touching a deep place within that we share. It is a process of coming into perfect communion with another, or with a group of others. It is indeed a valuable skill that must be learned in most cases.
Difficulty communicating causes frustration, fear,
relationship problems, childhood difficulties, violence and war, in most
cases. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, a
psychologist, has developed a simple, yet powerful method to help this problem.
He calls it Nonviolent Communication or NVC.
NVC can save marriages, help parents raise their children, and help schools and all other institutions function better. It can even stop rapes and murders by shifting the attacker’s focus away from anger. NVC practice groups now exist in some American cities and around the world.
This article explores Dr. Rosenberg’s “system”. It is certainly valuable. I truly enjoyed his book and learned a lot about things like subtle judgment words like should, ought, must, abused, neglected and more.
While I love his work, it has some problems. One of the most important is that one must remember to actually do it. One must remember the steps and implement them in a crisis, which is sometimes hard to do. Other issues that are difficult about this system of communication are discussed later in this article.
PRINCIPLES OF NON-VIOLENT COMMUNICATION
NVC is based on rather deep and quite spiritual principles:
1. Each is responsible for his own life. This means taking full responsibility for one’s feelings, words and actions, rather than projecting and attributing your feelings to others.
2. Do not take responsibility for the feelings of others. This is another trap that one must avoid. If someone is upset with you, or with anything, it is an attribute of that person, and it is not about you, necessarily.
3. One cannot force others to feel, think or act the way one wishes. Trying to do so through demands, threats and punishment stops communication. Even if the attempt is successful, the results often backfire, so that the person acts from resentment, not from love and honesty.
4. Judging oneself and others often stops honest communication. Judging has a quality of finality about it. Also, judging presumes one knows everything about a person or situation, which is generally not the case. Judgment therefore is usually an enemy of communication, although the qualities of discernment and evaluation, which are different than judgment, are needed always.
5. All people are connected at the level of feelings, basic personality needs, and other levels. Staying in the body, staying in the present time, and empathizing with others brings people together and solves problems for this reason. When, however, one does not remain at these deeper levels of human consciousness and instead people argue or discuss at purely intellectual or emotional levels, communication tends to fall apart.
NVC is a system designed to help one apply these principles in daily life. It consists of four basic steps that one can use when attempting to communicate with others, particularly in a difficult situation.
The basic four-step process is: 1) making a pure observation without judging, 2) identifying a feeling within yourself, 3) finding the human need behind the feeling, and 4) formulating a request (not a demand). I will add a fifth step as well, which is to ask for feedback.
Let us discuss each of these in more detail. I find that if one actually follows these steps, it will drastically improve your communication skill with everyone. You will find you will be far more effective and will not “turn off” people nearly as much.
STEP 1. OBSERVE THE SITUATION WITHOUT EVALUATING OR JUDGING
The process begins by observing what is actually occurring in a situation, but not judging anyone or anything. The trick is to observe without introducing any judgment or evaluation. This is often difficult!
For example, let us say a small child refuses to clean up his room. Rather than react, the first step is to stop for a moment and observe without judging. This is much tougher than one might imagine. To just blurt out, "Your room is a mess", is a judgment. A pure observation might be: "There are five pieces of clothing on the floor and nine toys are scattered around the room”. This is not an evaluation, but just an observation.
Judgments include statements like "he’s a slob", or calling someone mean, messy, needy, stupid, lazy, inconsiderate, racist, sexist, selfish, or inappropriate. These words are basically about making another ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ in some way. They are about blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticisms, comparisons or assessments.
Other, more subtle judgment words include the words always, never, ever, whenever, often, frequently, and seldom, when used loosely or to exaggerate. For example, "His room is often messy", confuses observation with evaluation. A pure observation is without comparison to the past.
If you want to refer to the past, you could say, “The room was messy three other times” or you could say “many other times”. But adding the “always” or “usually” word is vague often just adds a subtle judgment quality to the pure observation.
Learning to just observe without much evaluation or judgment is very difficult for most people. In fact, it is one of the hardest steps in this process. Most people are accustomed to moving from seeing or observing to evaluating, comparing and judging very quickly.
Learning to just observe a situation means slowing down and looking at the entire scene or process much more carefully. One must not be in too much of a hurry in order to accomplish this.
For example, if someone stabs someone on the street corner and you observe it, you must observe the entire process, not just the stabbing. Who spoke first, what was said, were gestures made, did someone punch the other one, and so on. What happened after the stabbing, and so on.
Once you have formulated a non-judgmental observation, you are ready for the second step in the process.
STEP 2. IDENTIFY A FEELING
Having observed, the next step is to identify a feeling inside of you that is related to the observation. Feelings are always related to your body, and never involve others. Once again, this is often not easy to do.
Many people are not in touch with their real feelings at all. Some even pretend they have no feelings. Learning to feel feelings and being able to say or express what they are is a chore in itself.
In the example of the child’s room, the parent may feel frustrated, upset, sad, lonely, depressed or even despairing at the condition of the room. A parent might also feel fear or anger that the child will grow up very sloppy, or that bugs or other vermin are hiding among the mess, for example. The parent could feel anger because the parent does not want to deal with the problem because it is not enjoyable and perhaps the parent has to go to work. The parent could feel angry because he or she does not want to clean up the mess himself or herself.
Many people confuse feelings with subtle judgments. In the example above, the parent might have said something like "I feel abused, abandoned, violated, attacked, betrayed, misunderstood, cheated, guilty, insulted, used, bothered, disappointed, neglected, or ripped off".
These seem like feelings, but they are not. They are judgments, because they involve another person or a situation doing something to oneself. A huge problem in communication is to avoid using these words when describing your feelings!
Taking Responsibility For Feelings. Incidents like the child’s clothes all over the floor may set the stage for feelings, but they do not cause feelings. Although some will deny this point, one always has a choice how one will feel.
For example, upon observing the mess of toys on the floor, the parent could say “I am so grateful my child at least lives at home and plays at home, not in a dangerous schoolyard”. The parent might also have said, “I can see my child is very intelligent by all the toys that are on the floor”. The parent could have said, “I see how bright my child is the way he can arrange all the toys on the floor”, and so on.
In other words, one could look at the messy room and still feel mainly gratitude, instead of upset. One could feel other things, such as pride in how intelligent the child is, or shame about how sloppy the child is. Any feelings are possible, in other words, and the situation itself is not the cause of the feeling, but just a trigger or incident that is neutral by itself, until the parent gives it a value or judges it in some way. This is a critical point about our reality.
Even a rape or a robbery that might seem horrendous could have an outcome or consequence that is positive. This happens more often than one thinks. So the essential point is to learn to 1) observe the situation without judging, and then 2) identify a feeling inside, but not to judge anyone and do not think the situation caused the feeling in you, but rather that because of your perception, you have simply chosen to react in a particular manner.
Subtle ways that we deny responsibility for feelings include speech patterns such as "It bugs me when ..." or "That bothers me", “It makes me angry when”. These phrases imply or actually state that responsibility for your feelings lie outside of yourself. A better statement is that “When I saw your room so messy, I started to feel angry”. Here, one may at least be taking some responsibility for the feeling of anger, and not simply blaming the child for causing one’s feelings.
Another subtle denial of responsibility for one’s feelings is a statement like "I felt angry when I saw your messy room.” Again, this sort of implies that another is responsible for one’s feeling. Instead, one could say "When I saw your messy room, I chose to respond with anger because I want the house to look neat and clean”. I realize that the difference in the wording is subtle, but it can be important.
By the way, people often are in the habit of blaming feelings and actions on anything imaginable such as dark forces, a disease or condition, authorities, group pressure, policies and rules, gender or age roles, or impulses. "I did it because I had to", "because they made me", or "because it is our policy or rule". Denying responsibility for one’s actions and feelings denies one’s power and sovereignty, makes one the victim, and subtly blames others for one’s dilemmas.
Assuming responsibility for others’ feelings. This is another trap. It can seem like caring, but it is not! This is a huge source of conflict in relationships.
An example of assuming responsibility for another’s feelings is to say, "I’m sorry I made you mad". A much better statement is "When I see how mad you are, I feel sad because I want a connection with you".
In other words, each of us always chooses and is responsible for his or her own feelings. Strictly speaking, you cannot make another person mad, or sad or even happy, despite what you may have heard or learned from others. You can do what you will, and the other person then chooses the feeling they wish to have. Many people have learned this the hard way, that you cannot make others happy. You can only do what you do, and others will choose their responses or their feelings.
Once you have identified a feeling about the situation that is not related to others, you are ready to identify a human need or desire about the situation.
STEP 3. IDENTIFY YOUR NEED OR DESIRE
The third step, after making a pure observation and properly identifying a feeling inside yourself, is to identify your need in this situation. This is also tricky.
A need is always about oneself, not about another.
Also, a need, as defined here, is always a basic human quality such as a need for protection, love, caring, warmth, autonomy, respect, nurturing, intellectual stimulation, or play. These may be called psychic or basic needs.
To understand this better, in the example of the child’s room, the parent’s need may be for respect or for cleanliness (protection from germs). In contrast, however, if the parent says my need in this situation is "That you clean up your room", the parent is not in touch with his or her needs. To clean up a room is not a deep human need. It is actually a request or a demand for action by another, in this case. So it is not about the parent himself or herself, but about another, and it is not a basic desire or psychic need.
This is a very difficult area for most people. We all have needs, or what we believe are our needs. We all want to be loved, respected, honored, obeyed (with children), nurtured, pleasured, stroked or at least acknowledged. These may be called the basic human needs.
Inability to clearly state our needs. Children are good at announcing their needs, though they may not be able to articulate them exactly. They cry or scream, for example. They hold up their little hands if they want to be held or hugged. This, at least, gets the message across.
As we grow up, it would be excellent if we were to learn how to articulate our actual psychic needs. One might say, I am really looking for security, or I feel the need for acknowledgment or love, or something else.
However, many of us not only did not learn how to articulate our deep needs. We learned it is not okay to express our needs at all. Indeed, many people learn their needs are not important, and perhaps that no one cares about them anyway.
However, remembering this aspect of our selfhood and our humanity is most important for connecting with others in deep ways. Basic physical, emotional and mental or psychic needs are one of the ways to bring people together, as we all have them, to varying degrees.
Getting in touch with our needs and expressing them is also the only way, in many cases, to have our deep needs met by others. The alternative is to just wait around and hope that others will figure out our needs. This is what many people do, in fact, in their relationships, marriages, etc. work settings, etc. It does not work well at all! Many people seek a “mind reader” to keep them happy because they do not even know what they need or want, and depending upon others to figure out and satisfy our needs is an easy way out, but one that rarely works.
Three stages of recovery. Dr. Rosenthal states that many people pass through three stages of recovery as they get in touch with their needs. In the first stage, one feels like a slave, unable to express one’s needs, and often feeling responsible for other’s needs. For example, in this stage one may be in the habit of saying "I have to leave now because my children (or my friends, or my parents) expect me to come home".
In the second stage, one rebels and may act obnoxious. One may be prone to statements like, "I’m not responsible for you". “I do my thing and you do yours”.
The third stage is one of maturity and liberation. One takes responsibility for one’s feelings and needs, but not those of others. This represents healthy boundaries. One chooses to respond out of compassion, but never out of guilt, fear or shame. One can state needs clearly and be concerned with the needs of others. "I choose to go here, but not there, because I want to".
Choosing your feelings. Upon hearing a statement by another, one has four options: 1) blame the other for the feeling, 2) blame oneself, 3) sense one’s own needs and feelings, or 4) sense the others’ needs and feelings. The latter two are compassionate communication responses.
STEP 4. FORMULATING A REQUEST
The fourth step in the NVC process is to formulate a request based on one’s observations, feelings and needs. A parent might make this request: "I am feeling frustrated because I have a need to protect you from illness caused by germs. Would you be willing to clean up your room?"
Here are some tips about formulating requests.
1. It is best to phrase requests positively. "Would you be willing to clean up your room?" is better than "Would you be willing to stop making a mess?"
2. Make the request as specific as possible, as in "Would you be willing to hang your clothes in the closet and take your pillow off the floor?" This tends to be better than “Would you be willing to clean up the room?”
3. Always speak kindly, but firmly and clearly, without unnecessary emotion such as sarcasm. For example, it would not be helpful to say “I am so sick of your mess, will you get going and clean it up for once?”
Requests Versus Demands. A request is very different from a demand, but the two are often confused. The difference is that a request is voluntary, without threats.
Demands force the other person to submit or rebel, which stops communication. A subtle form of demand occurs if the person blames, judges, or lays a guilt trip if the request is not complied with. For example, “You had better clean up your room” is a veiled threat and is effectively a demand because it implies negative consequences if one does not go along..
It is only a request if the one making the request can accept either a yes or no answer. If, when asked to clean up, the child says "no" and the parent says "You never do what I tell you!", then it was a demand.
It was a request if the parent can answer, "I see that you prefer to play rather than clean up right now. I am disappointed because I was hoping you would want to cooperate. Would you be willing to do it after you play?"
The goal is an honest, empathy-based relationship, not just compliance!
Words that indicate a subtle demand. The words should, ought, must, or have to are often demands. For example, a parent might say, "The room should be cleaned up". This is a subtle demand, rather than a request.
A reflective request. An excellent type of request is to ask for reflection. This is especially helpful if one is not sure one was heard and understood. For example, one could say "Would you tell me what you heard me say?" This is a request for empathy and for clarification only. It is not to be confused with sarcasm, as in screaming at the other, "Did you hear me?"
These are the basic steps in the book, Non-Violent Communication.
My concern with requests versus
demands. A problem with always making a request
instead of a demand may be that, at times, real action is needed. In these cases, a demand may be needed,
as I see it. It might sound like,
“Get out of the middle of that busy street or you will be grounded for a
Marshall Rosenberg does not deal much with these types of situations, and it is a weakness of his system, in my view. However, I understand that he wants to keep all communication open and this requires totally voluntary participation. His method often works, but may be slower in an emergency.
Also, in some cases, like the current (2011) conflict between the Palestinians versus the Israelis, it may not work at all. If one of the parties really does not want communication, but only action (getting their land back and kicking Israel into the sea), then I do not see how any type of communication skill will really work.
Dr. Rosenberg is counting on our humanity to save us – that we truly want to be heard, to feel our feelings, and to communicate with others. I hope this is true, but am not always sure it is the case.
AN EXTRA STEP OR STEP 5. OBTAIN FEEDBACK ON EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE SO FAR
This is not part of Dr. Rosenberg’s basic 4-step communication system, although he certainly suggests it. This is a key because sometimes you are not in touch with your own feelings or those of the other person at a deep enough level. So it is always wise to say to the other “How are we doing with this conversation?”, or “Am I on the right track with this conversation?” or “Time out. How are we doing resolving this issue?”
You may be surprised at the answer you receive. Few people ask for feedback, and so people are often taken off guard and appreciate being asked for feedback.
You can even do this with young children. You can say to your five-year-old child, “Well, how am I doing in getting you to clean up your room?” You might be surprised when the child blurts out that you were doing okay until you got angry, or until you said the room is always messy when that is not true. You may learn how to communicate much better as a result.
OTHER TOPICS RELATED TO NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION - EMPATHY
Psychologist Carl Rogers wrote: "When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, and without trying to mold you, it feels damn good." Listening to others is ‘saying a lot’.
Empathy is central in NVC. The key ingredient for empathy, according to Marshall Rosenberg, is presence. It involves being in the present moment and in the body. It is a non-judgmental state in which one observes oneself and notes as well what the other person is observing, feeling, needing and requesting. This is not easy most of the time! One needs empathy to give empathy. This can come from a spiritual source within, or from living with empathetic others, but is not so easy to just learn on one’s own.
Empathy is unfamiliar to many people. Empathy is not the same as sympathy, which is feeling what another person is feeling. Empathy is something else. For example, let us review what empathy is NOT.
What Empathy is Not. When someone speaks, instead of simply empathizing, one may: offer advice, educate, console, story-tell, sympathize, interrogate, explain, correct, reassure or explain a position or feeling.
Just jumping in after someone speaks is likely to be a knee-jerk reaction to make the other person feel better by offering somehow to "fix" the situation. This is a common response, but is often not empathy!
Women often complain that men do this to them, rather than just listening attentively. This may have something to do with how women prefer to communicate, in contrast to how men communicate.
Empathy demands the following order of actions:
1. First simply be present. This means to say nothing and to listen carefully and fully, not formulating any response.
2. Respond first by paraphrasing or repeating the essence of what you heard: "What I just heard you say is….".
If you can, express what you believe you heard in terms of what you sense the other is observing, feeling, needing and requesting.
3. Then ask the person if it is okay to respond.
4. If you ask for more information, first express your own needs and feelings. For example, you might say, "I am feeling confused by your statement. Can you tell me more about what happened".
5. Reflecting back emotionally-charged messages is especially powerful. This can diffuse anger and could save your life. It may seem time-consuming, but in practice it saves time and energy by avoiding misunderstanding and expressing patience, kindness, presence and empathetic behavior.
For example, if someone screams at you that you are killing them by not listening to them, instead of taking offense, try to stay calm and repeat back to them something like “I sense you are very angry at me about what I did”. If the person continues to scream at you, just continue to answer in the same way. This can diffuse a very tense and even dangerous situation, according to Dr. Rosenberg.
Just stay with empathy until there is a release of tension, or until the end of the flow of the person’s words. Dr. Rosenberg’s phrase is: Don’t put your ‘but’ in the face of an angry person. Just empathize. This includes empathy for a person saying "no" and empathy for silence (no answer).
One woman who attended a workshop with Dr. Rosenberg was alone on duty the next day at a homeless shelter. A man came in asking for a bed. When she told him they were full, he pulled a knife and in no time he was sitting on her chest with the knife at her throat. She decided this was a good time to practice her NVC. She kept expressing what she thought he was feeling - afraid, upset, disappointed, and frustrated. Each time she did so, the man softened a little. Finally, he calmed down and she was able to drive him to another shelter.
THE DESIRE AND INTENTION FOR COMMUNICATION
This is so critical, and is not dealt with too much by Dr. Rosenberg, in my limited experience. In fact, some people are not too interested in communicating deeply. I would say they do not love you enough. They just want what they want. Children sometimes do this. They just want their toy or their food. They do not want to discuss the matter very much, or learn about communicating. If you do not comply with their request, they will just irritate you until you do comply, or until you wear them out.
The same takes place in every other situation, even international politics. The Palestinians, for example, are not too interested in a deep discussion about Israel. They want the Israelis out, and that is all.
The lack of desire for deep communication is one of the main stumbling blocks, since without desire and intention, little else will take place. Always keep this in mind if you are not succeeding with communication. Perhaps the other party simply does not desire much communication, no matter what they say.
COMMUNICATION AS LOVE
A deep form of love is to be willing to communicate. This may not sound like much, but it is. For this reason, if a person you are with does not wish to communicate deeply and learn how to do it, they may not love you as much as they say they do.
BLOCKS TO EXCELLENT COMMUNICATION
I have mentioned a few of these. One must desire communication, and one must sustain the intent to communicate. One must also have some skill, or be willing to learn communication skills, such as those suggested in this article.
One must also stay in the present, and stay focused with communication. Another important block is lack of time. How can two communicate if the time is not allotted for this activity?
Another block is an inability to think logically, or to hear properly.
A more subtle and important problem in communication is discussed in detail below. It is the presence of often hidden traumas in the psyche that interfere with and can completely block effective communication.
THE PROBLEM OF HIDDEN TRAUMAS
To return to the example used throughout this article, let us say the child whose room is messy was traumatized in the past by a stern parent who beat the child or screamed at the child whenever his room needed cleaning.
Such a child may encounter serious difficulty each time his parent wants his room to be cleaned up. The child may become rebellious, or may simply shut his ears and try not to hear, or the child may impulsively start to cry, or some other response besides simply listening and responding. This is a simple example of how a past trauma, whether it is consciously known or not, can ruin or impair communication.
In fact, most people have been traumatized at some time or another, often in very subtle ways. Later in their lives, they wonder why some types of communication, perhaps with the opposite sex, or with the boss, or with the government, or another type, is so difficult for them. This is the reason.
This is an enormous topic. I want to explain it energetically to help simplify it. It is as though communication between two people is one frequency or vibration. An old hidden trauma is like another vibratory frequency that mixes with the first one. The result is a mixture, or null effect, or amplification, or distortion of the original frequency or vibration that disrupts it, or may completely inhibit it.
Dealing with trauma is discussed in other articles on this website and in the text, Nutritional Balancing And Hair Mineral Analysis (2010 edition).
HUMOR, RELAXATION AND COMMUNICATION
Leaders, parents, teachers, advertisers, preachers, and others whose livelihood, success or just happiness depends upon communication know that if you can relax a person, you may have more success with communication.
This is often a key with children, for example. Humor, silliness, jokes, and so on help people relax and can “break the ice” to help move communication forward.
TIMING AND CONTEXT IN COMMUNICATION
This is another factor in successful communication, at times. For example, many parents know they should not make requests of their children when the child is overtired, or angry, or rushing out the door. Instead, it is best to wait for a quiet moment, or maybe during the child’s favorite mealtime snack or even while the child is watching his favorite television program. Then communication may be far easier because the child is relaxed and happy.
The same principle applies to all communication. Wait for the right time, if possible. Also, wait for the right context. A parent I know says she does best communicating with her teenage daughter when they are in the car, just the two of them. The reason is that the daughter is relaxed, away from her friends and her computer, and the two are locked up together, so to speak, which tends to favor some types of communication.
NUTRITIONAL BALANCING SCIENCE AND COMMUNICATION
This website recommends a very specific type of nutritional and lifestyle healing program called nutritional balancing science. Among the many benefits of this particular method is often an improvement in communication ability. The reasons for this include:
1. Abundant energy. Many people are simply exhausted, and have difficulty with communication for this reason. Nutritional balancing focuses on restoring a person’s energy and vitality at the deepest levels. The importance of energy for communication and all human activities cannot be overemphasized. Here are a few reasons to improve your vitality and energy:
- One is more able to take risks, which communication often requires.
- One is more able to think clearly. Thinking requires plenty of energy.
- One is more able to stand up for what one believes. This is also important for honest communication.
- Energy often brings much better self-esteem and self-confidence that is vital for communication.
- People with energy are generally more positive, outgoing and interested in others.
- It requires energy to feel feelings deeply, even to feel how uncomfortable or depressed one is feeling. This may sound odd, but I have observed it in myself and many other clients over and over again. Without enough energy, one just shuts down or takes the easy way out. This is even a cause for suicidal thoughts in some cases.
- People admire energy. In the world of business, it is sometimes said that “people buy energy”. This assists self-esteem, but also helps both parties to engage in real communication based on mutual appreciation.
2. Reducing mental/emotional symptoms helps communication. Some people cannot think clearly. They suffer from ‘brain fog’, distractibility, ADD, ADHD, anxieties, depression, and other mental/emotional symptoms that seriously get in the way of excellent communication. Most of these will lessen or disappear with a nutritional balancing program that improves overall body chemistry and removes hundreds of toxins from the brain.
3. Removing other imbalances. Some people are unbalanced in other, more subtle ways. They have an unbalanced oxidation rate, unbalanced minerals and mineral ratios and patterns, they have infections that affect the brain, and more. Many people report to me that as their health improves, they are mysteriously better at listening to others, and other aspects of communication.
4. Releasing deeper hidden traumas. Interestingly, a properly designed nutritional balancing program may be able to undo some deep hidden traumas. These can be either physical or mental/emotional ones. This is a unique ability of this program. It stems from increasing a person’s vitality to a sufficient degree. Then the body suddenly begins to process the trauma on its own. It will also make other therapies much more effective, such as counseling and others.
ROY MASTERS MEDITATION AND COMMUNICATION
Part of nutritional balancing science that can be particularly helpful for communicating is the daily practice of a type of meditation exercise originally taught by Mr. Roy Masters. This exercise only, when done daily, can do much for anyone to improve communication ability and effectiveness. Read the article on meditation for more details.
COMMUNICATION VERSUS PROPAGANDA
Unfortunately, the material in this article can be and is used daily by advertisers, politicians, parents and many others to coerce, manipulate and inculcate certain ideas into the minds of unsuspecting people.
One may say that the ability to communicate is one of the most powerful weapons of war, in fact. This science is called propaganda. This can be defined as the use of communication skills to manipulate and control others. for dark or evil purposes in this way.
I mention this because one must always be on guard against the “good communicators”, which include the likes of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and other very effective and murderous dictators who used communication effectively to control and manipulate millions of people, often causing their deaths.
Thus communication skill can be used for any purpose. At least, knowing about it you can use it well, and hopefully you will see when others are using it against you, not for you.
There is more in Marshall Rosenberg’s book and tapes about expressing anger, receiving empathy, expressing appreciation, the proper use of force and punishment. One’s intention to really connect is very important in NVC. Otherwise, the best-chosen words and phrases will be hollow. Vigilance and practice are also most important, especially until old habits have been undone.
I find compassionate communication to be an excellent spiritual practice, useful in every waking moment. Even when I am alone, old life-alienating phrases like "I should do this" arise. Remember the four steps: 1) observe the situation without judging or evaluating, 2) identify a feeling in oneself, 3) identify one’s psychic or deep human need, and 4) formulate a request.
Communication is a large topic, and this is but an introduction.
Rosenberg, M., Nonviolent Communication,
A Language of Compassion, PuddleDancer Press, Del Mar, CA 1999. For books, tapes, workbooks, seminars
and workshops, call 1-800-255-7696 or visit www.cnvc.org.