Red Green Repeat Adventures of a Spec Driven Junkie

Nonviolent Communication - Chapter 1

Recently, I have been working on learning and integrating Nonviolent Communication, NVC, into my life.

nvc book

How I found NVC?

At GoRuCo 2016, Nadia Odunayo mentioned that to be a better programmer, read Nonviolent Communication. This surprised me, but I got the book right away.

It’s just around a year now, I’ve read the book numerous times in different formats and just feel I am scratching the surface of NVC.

Why is NVC important?

After reading the book, I understood NVC is way more than just a way to say things, but a holistic way of connecting with yourself, and through that, connect with others.

If you would like to have another tool to help connect and communicate with others, I highly recommend trying out NVC and seeing how it fits.

Why write just the first chapter?

nvc workbook

After reading the first time, I felt I knew what was NVC, but after getting the workbook, I see I did not really understand what I read.

Now that I am going through the workbook, I have a much better understanding and analysis of my own communication.

I am at a point where I want to accelerate and solidify my understanding of NVC by writing about it.

Going chapter by chapter is the pace I would like to go through book and mirror the workbook exercises.

Reading Summary

Chapter 1 of Nonviolent Communication is an introduction and whirlwind tour of Nonviolent Communication. The author describes his inspiration for NVC as understanding: why people can treat each other so badly, at the same time have so much compassion, even to their aggressors.

The author shares an excerpt from a concentration camp survivor’s memoir that illustrated to me that prisoners can have compassion for oppressors, even under the harshest conditions.

This range of human emotion is astounding and I am glad for the examples as a reminder of how awesome people can be.

In essence, NVC has four parts:

  1. observation
  2. feelings
  3. needs
  4. requests

The most important part is that these all come from the heart, that before communicating, one connects with their best selves so they can connect well with others, instead of just having a knee jerk reaction.

The chapter shares examples of NVC in action, from a couple almost divorcing before their NVC seminar, to a doctor using NVC to help their patient through difficult treatments, and to resolving international conflicts.

It’s a whirlwind tour and the author describes pieces of NVC throughout. It might be my third time reading this chapter, but almost every time I gain more insight. Since the words used to describe NVC is so plain, but its implications are far more deeper.

Reading Thoughts

I remember reading this chapter the first time and feeling confident I understood what NVC was and can apply it right away. Even now, I feel I am just scratching the surface to understand and integrate NVC into my life.

The chapter is easy to read and interspersed with stories of NVC. Looking back, I definitely had a false sense of security in understanding NVC because I could easily visualize the stories as they are so engaging.

The core NVC materials were a little harder to see, especially after seeing the workbook questions. That’s when I knew I needed to do more to understand NVC.

Workbook Questions

The following are questions from the workbook and answers I have for them.

What inspired the author to develop Nonviolent Communication?

Ultimately, Marshall wants understand how some people can treat others badly, at the same time, show immense compassion, even under distress.

What else is NVC known as?

NVC is also known as: ‘compassionate communication’, because nonviolence is the state of compassion after violence has subsided from the heart.

Nonviolence is not ‘non-violence’ (i.e. not using violence) but is Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.

What is the purpose of NVC?

The ultimate purpose of NVC is to provide of communicating that leads from the heart

How does NVC differ from other forms of communication?

NVC differs by putting the focus on the things we can control: our mindset and where the message comes from.

NVC re-frames how we express ourselves and listen to others. NVC four distinct parts: observation, needs, feelings, and requests

Is NVC more than a process or language?

To me, NVC is more process than language, it seems to be a specific way to deliver a message in a better context.

No matter how one delivers the message, The core of NVC is to refocus communication so the message comes from the heart.

Workbook Exercises

These are additional exercises for the chapter with my responses.

Times where I have given from the heart

I like to believe my normal operating mode is to give from the heart. I like to believe people are good (and when I find out they are not, I hold back to protect myself.)

After working through NVC, I understand myself better. There are times where I have given from the heart, some specific examples:

  • Gave strangers I barely knew a place to stay with me in Japan. These were friends of acquaintances that were just visiting Tokyo. I really enjoyed the friendships that have spawn from sharing space with them.

  • Organizing Mannheim Toastmasters Club & n-languages meetup group. I initially did it to build my leadership skills, but I really enjoyed helping and organizing the group. It felt very natural to help and I believe the clubs have [improved](( after my tenure.

Times where I have given from places other than the heart

There are times where I have been selfish that I never felt ‘right’ with me at all. I won’t go into specifics here, because I have learned that not giving from the heart is not worth the effort.

How does all of this lead to better programming?

Directly, learning NVC won’t make one a better programmer in a particular language.

NVC will make one a better programmer when communicating with other programmers (i.e. pull requests).


Going through the first chapter again and the workbook has been really good to solidify my thoughts around NVC and integrate NVC more into my life.

I learned that NVC is more than a process or language, but a whole system focused on the heart. Violent communication is any communication that alienates us from each other.

Finally, the exercise was a good reminder of the times I worked from the heart and its results are greater than I imagines.

I am looking forward to writing the next chapters. This was a great exercise for me to focus on the first chapter of Nonviolent Communication.