What Is “Non Violent Communication?” Is It Soft and Infuriating?


I’ve posted about Marshall Rosenberg before, the creator of NVC (Non-Violent Communication) who divided all language into “Jackal” language (dominant, accusatory, carrying deeply concealed needs) and “Giraffe” (deeply hearing, translucent, expressive of needs and feelings, but not to be mistaken for “gentle,” which can also be Jackal in disguise.) Rosenberg used to joke that he grew up in Chicago, and so spoke “many dialects of Jackal.”

Pete Townshend called him a “tough Jew,” which he also was. I loved that choice of words, because it let us know right away that this is not New Age faux kindness. All that does is make the issuer appear to have gold when really he has rocks. False kindness is worse than real cruelty.

Nor does Rosenberg espouse the kind of “tough love,” that is actually sadism in drag, claiming spiritual  legitimacy. Marshall Rosenberg was not a man of psychological or spiritual fashions.

Nothing frightens me more, personally, that people who can’t, or won’t, say how they feel. My own mother definitely, always, could, and did. It was often–to choose the correct word–terrifying, but not, I think, as terrifying as it would have been to climb the walks trying to interpret an icy silence in the house, like so many people I know grew up. My mother did not “do” silence and I am eternally grateful for that, because I believe that nothing hurts more. When my very loved mother was entering a rage, you knew because her fist actually came down on the table and the plates and glasses shook. There are four known responses to trauma, all beginning with the letter F: Flight, fight, freeze, and fawn.

In our house, I resorted to fight and fawn, and my sister Bibi: Flight and freeze.

But Marshall Rosenberg tried to tell us we can actually express our needs, if we can reach them, and transcend all these armored reactions. This is the language of the Giraffes.

We have a conflict here at The Truth Barrier. I think about how I might resolve it but I put it off and put it off. It’s very hard to enter into peace talks when you are under attack from another person whose needs have not been met but who is no longer trying to get them met, rather, the anger is just always coming at you, on a continuous loop. My own anger “stimulated” it, I have to accept. I don’t like to be told my ideas and thoughts are wrong or crazy because somebody else has other ones. The need then, is sovereignty. Let me be me. You be you. Let us be different, and just say, “Oh, that’s what you think! OK then.”

It’s not just I who am the target of rage, but others too. The fighting makes me think, sometimes, of closing down The Truth Barrier. That’s not a manipulation. Who wants to stay at a party where the guests have left the spirit of a breaking bread and everything is shaping up for a brawl and broken glass?

But then, we seem to get better, for the time being. I did block overt trolls. I did not block any real people, who just happen to ‘hate’ me right now, because I hurt their feelings. What people need to do is say: How did I hurt the other person’s feelings? This is “translucency.” Giraffe.

But all parties must first be willing.

I believe that anger is the deadliest of sins. I also believe it can be transformative.

“I’m saying,” says Rosenberg, “that all judgements are tragic expressions of unmet needs.”



4 thoughts on “What Is “Non Violent Communication?” Is It Soft and Infuriating?”

  1. Rosenberg was brilliant. I grew up in a family where ALL of my immediate family members were (and still are) complete psychopaths. Psychopaths are narcissists who gaslight people. Needless to say, I have had rage and anger issues my entire adult life from a lifetime of abuse, despite being a peaceful, loving and compassionate person.

    Recently I found a therapist who uses a technique called cognitive re-patterning. She has helped me remove the charge on my rage and anger issues COMPLETELY within just a few sessions. This work is very powerful. If you would like her contact information just let me know and I will put you in touch with her.

    I just turned 61 years old this week and finally feel free of rage and anger issues for the first time in my life. You don’t have to live your life being triggered, nor do you have to wait as long as I did to find this out.

    You are a clearly a thoughtful and loving person, and I wish you all the best on your journey through life.

  2. Well put. Very helpful information here. And very, very relevant not just to this site, but all over the world.

    This is the human condition and it is brave of one to hang in there and try out courageous solutions.

    This business of – “I quit” – I divorce thee, I divorce thee” – “Fk off!” – and otherwise shunning ourselves into lonely corners where we suffer in knowing that while some of those “disconnections” were healthy and warranted, many were not, and tragically, life is too short to repair such things once the initial opportunities are gone.

    The predator class thrives on our fragmentation, and anything that can alleviate that by improving understanding and healing relationships is highly welcomed.

    Or to put it another way, we are not happy and prosperous when we lose our allies to bickering over what often prove to be essentially minor differences.

  3. I am sorry for that person not letting you jam out and breathe your ideas. If I may say something giraffickal here to that person… live and let be and fuck him if they have to eclipse your sun Celia. To a sweet and thoughtful Easter weekend to you and yours all is good keep on keeping the faith…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.