By Rhonda V. Magee
Marshall Rosenberg dedicated his life to the study and practice of the conditions that bring about peace. As a consequence, he knew well the critical, sometimes life-saving importance of emotionally-intelligent, awareness-based communication. Dr. Rosenberg drew on his own painful experiences in racially-divided Detroit and his training in psychology to develop Nonviolent Communication: a particular approach to addressing conflict that emphasizes listening with empathy, naming and expressing feelings in responsible ways, and recognizing our common humanity, even in the midst of our most difficult moments together.
Since the publication of a slender, easy-to-read book by that name, and through his own tireless presentation schedule each year, tens of thousands of us around the world have trained in the skills of expressing ourselves honestly and receiving one another empathically. We’ve practiced leaning on the four core components of the Nonviolent Communication process: speaking concretely about what we observe; naming the feelings that arise in response; uncovering the needs, values and motivations that underlie our feelings; and asking for what we need to enrich our lives. Those of us experienced, for example, in working with anger through mindfulness and through the specific teachings of this method—stopping and breathing; identifying judgmental thoughts; connecting with one’s needs; and expressing our emotions—know from experience how deeply the practice of mindfulness supports the practice of Nonviolent Communication, and vice versa: how deeply Nonviolent Communication supports the practice of mindfulness.
Dr. Rosenberg’s passing is a great loss to those inspired by his embodied, practical approach to peacemaking. And yet his work lives on as an inheritance, one that we may discover, rediscover and invest in ourselves and in one another, sharing these instruments of harmony that were meant to be shared in a diverse, complex, and complicated world.
Rhonda V. Magee is a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. She is a senior fellow at the UC-Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law.