Red Green Repeat Adventures of a Spec Driven Junkie

Nonviolent Communication - Chapter 9

Connecting Compassionately with Ourselves

One of the most important chapters in the book as it re-iterates themes from earlier chapters and applies them to the most important person: ourselves.

When we are violent to ourselves, it’s hard to treat others with compassion.

Remember: We are Human

It is so easy to forget we are human, especially after constantly judging ourselves in a harsh manner. We tend to evaluate ourselves violently when we are unhappy with things we have done.

We are our own worst critic.

Evaluating Ourselves

So, how do we judge ourselves? It’s important to understand most self-judgment is self-hatred, which stirs up negative and destructive energy.

The author developed nonviolent communication so change comes from energy that enriches life, not one that destroys life.

The lessons learned from self-hatred are not free and joyous acts. Others can sense when actions, even kind ones, come from self-hatred and appreciate those actions less.

Should, must, have to

I have noticed whenever I should do something, I tend not to do it at all. I couldn’t understand why.

In judging ourselves, the most violent word we can use are: should, must, or have to. Like: “I should do this”, “I must get that done”, or “I have to do it.”

Why are these words so violent? The words reduces choice, which decreases autonomy. Any decrease in autonomy is tyranny.

Whenever I judged myself using should, I was really resisting becoming a slave, even to myself. If I treat myself badly, how would I expect others to treat me?

I have to get up early.

Most of the time, the form of these judgments are:

I should/must/have to <action>.

I choose to…

Instead of should-ing myself to slavery and not doing anything, the author suggests converting should to: choose to and adding: “because I…” with a reason or need for the action.

I choose to wake up early, because I want to have an easier commute.

When I choose to do something, I am more motivated to complete it. When I know the need I am fulfilling from the action, I do my best to complete it, even when it is hard.

I choose to goto work, because I want to provide the best life for my family.

When there is clarity connecting the action and the need, even hard, frustrating and difficult things can be play.

Reasoning Traps

When reviewing reasons for one’s actions, the following reasons sound plausible, but do not fulfill a need:

  • Money
  • Approval
  • Escape punishment
  • Avoid shame
  • Avoid guilt
  • Satisfy a sense of duty


This is easy to use: “I need money to…”. It is also an extrinsic reward, which is not sustainable in the long run. How much money is enough??

This isn’t a need defined by nonviolent communication, but one of the strategies that can fulfill a need.


Gaining approval of others is another extrinsic reward, one that is from other people, essentially buying recognition from others.

It is tragic that we need to buy approval from others instead of first buying approval from ourselves.

Escape Punishment

This is the opposite of approval, where one does something to avoid punishment.

While it is understandable one does something to avoid pain, there may be a deeper reason or need for the action. When one looks deep enough, even taxes fulfill a need.

Avoid Shame

This is to avoid self-judgment, hearing ourselves should-ing ourselves endlessly. Ultimately, by doing something to avoid self-judgment, we will end up detesting whatever we are doing.

Avoid Guilt

Avoid disappointing other people or not fulfilling their expectations. The opposite of doing something for others’ approval.

Just as doing something for others’ approval, doing something to avoid guilt only causes one to disappoint themselves.

Sense of Duty

Of all the ones on the list, when pressured to do something as a “sense of duty”, it is most dangerous as we become “robotic” in our actions.

This disconnects us from our humanity and the amount of violence one can inflict on other humans is staggering. The Stamford prison experiment demonstrates to me how a sense of duty is destructive.

Nonviolent Inspiration

Nonviolent communication inspires change with focus on:

  • Direction we want to go
  • With respect and compassion for ourselves

The biggest difference with this system is that it is all self-directed change. You are in charge of the direction you want to go and also moving in a way that is respectful to oneself.

When one is compassionate to themselves, they can have compassion for others.

Feedback Process

Even when we are choosing to do everything and connecting with our needs, there are times where we still mess up. We are not perfect, like a robot, but are human and still make mistakes.

When we mess up, we naturally feel sad, frustration, and disappointment. These feelings are there to help us, by providing negative feedback. It’s important to be conscious of this: it is only negative feedback and not a judgment.

Next, ask ourselves: “What unmet need is causing such bad feelings?” Take a moment to connect with ourselves and find the unmet need.

When we reconnect with an unmet need, we open ourselves to fulfilling that need.

Having Compassion for Ourselves

When we mess up, there are two people that need compassion:

  • the past self that took the action, which we regret now, and
  • the current self that is feeling the negative emotions

Acknowledge that these are two individuals that are different and the same. They are different individuals in time and experience, but the same in the journey of life. One affects the other, which also affects the future.

Have compassion for these individuals, for they will be with you a long time.

Experience: Shift in Cleaning House

When I clean my house think it is a chore and it is something to do to avoid punishment from my wife, I do the absolute minimum and quick as possible.

My wife would scold me, one to remind me to clean periodically but also to nitpick the job I did. Spots I missed, how long it took, the fact she could do better with less.

I decided to connect to my need about house cleaning:

I choose to clean the house because after growing up in a messy home, I need a clean home.

Once I connected with my need, I started doing small things: first, do it on a regular schedule, then I challenged myself to see if I could do it faster, but also do more details in the same period of time. After, I started to take care of the vacuum cleaner too, making sure to change filter frequently so it operated at optimum performance.

My wife noticed this shift in attitude and instead of scolding me to clean the house, she started to compliment me on the job I was doing.

The work was still the same, even more than when she scolded me to vacuum, but I ended up doing more of it and getting compliments on it. The difference: I connected to my needs: I choose to clean the house because after growing up in a messy home, I need a clean home.


The topics in this chapter have been in previous chapters, such as connecting with needs and having compassion. The biggest difference is this chapter focuses on the most important person we communicate with: ourselves.

Ourselves may not just be one person, but two: our past and current self. Holding compassion for these individuals is important.

Learning for the wrong reasons is not only unsustainable due to the amount of destructive energy required, but also others notice the action as negative ones too.