Red Green Repeat Adventures of a Spec Driven Junkie

Nonviolent Communication - Chapter 2

Chapter two title is: Communication that Blocks Compassion, for me, this is a great introduction and analysis of different forms of violent and life-alienating communication.

Reading Summary

The chapter introduces different forms of life-alienating communication. Basically summarized in four categories:

Form Basic Description
moralistic judgments judging those not in agreement with our values
comparisons another form of judgment
denying responsibility assigning blame of one’s action to something else
demand threaten with punishment for non-compliance

This language causes one to judge others and preoccupy their minds with continuously categorizing others, instead of being open to others.

Performing an analysis of others is a way to express a need in ourselves. While this kind of communication makes one look ‘intelligent’, it can be easily misused on others (i.e. “They should do better.”) and become a form of comparison or judgment.


I learned some communication can depend on the situation, when interacting with a significant other, one has different labels for their partner based on what they need.

  • If the partner wants more attention: “They are needy.”
  • If one wants more of their partner’s attention: “They are insensitive.”

It seems the only difference in the above situation is the perception and the needs of the individual.

Value & Moralistic Judgments

One item I spent time on thinking about is the first category: moralistic judgments. What is it? In the chapter, the definition of moralistic judgment is: implying wrongness on those who are not in harmony with our values.

This is easy to mix up with a value judgment, which the dictionary defines:

A judgment assigning a value (such as good or bad) to something.

If one values peace, anything that goes against peace, like violence, is a basis of a moralistic judgment. A moralistic judgment could be simply: “Violence is bad.” While a value judgment could be: “I value peaceful conflict resolution.”

Language of Wrongess

The language of wrongness contains: should or have to. This made me rethink all the times I have used or heard any statement. These two words are common around me, even in my own internal dialog. “I should have got that done by now”… Now I see it’s a rough sentence on the listener and on myself! I make an effort to avoid using should in my writing as well.

Reading Review

  1. What is the meaning of ‘life-alienating communication’?

    Language that contributes behaving violently or reducing compassion to others.

  2. Name some forms of life-alienating communication, and give an example of each.

    a. Moralistic judgments: “Smoking is bad.”

    b. Comparison: “Why aren’t your grades as good as your classmates??”

    c. Denial of responsibility: “Company policy only allows business casual during the summer.”

    d. Demand: “Go to bed now.”

  3. It is the author’s belief that our analyses and judgments of other human beings are tragic expressions of ______.

    Our own values and needs.

  4. Why does he use the word ‘tragic’ to describe these ways of expressing ourselves?

    Life-alienating communication is a tragic form of communication as the speaker usually wants to express themselves so they can connect with the listener, instead, the listener is indirectly alienated when the speaker uses such communication style.

  5. What happens when people do what we want them to do out of fear, guilt, or shame?

    Diminished goodwill between us and them, they build up resentment towards us, and they decrease self-esteem.

  6. When other people associate us in their minds with feelings of fear, guilt, or shame, what is likely to happen in the future?

    There is a lower chance of other people responding compassionately to us the future.

  7. What is the difference between value judgments and moralistic judgments?

    Value judgments are the items/concepts we hold dear to life. Peace, Freedom. Moralistic Judgments are judgments that go against our values.

    “Violence is bad!” (Moralistic judgment)

    “I am fearful of the use of violence to resolve conflict” (expressing a value judgment)

    I find moralistic judgments to have a general form: who is what.

  8. Give examples of how words or phrases in the English language (or another language) obscure awareness of personal responsibility and choice.

    They are of the form: have to or makes me feel.

    “I have to do this, it is company policy.”

    “Punishing you makes me feel worse than you do.”

    These obscure awareness and/or choice by the speaker basically assigning blame/responsibility for their action to an authority or deny responsibility.

  9. What is a ‘demand’ as defined by the author?

    Any statement that implies punishment for not complying with the demand.

  10. Marshall writes that his children taught him that he couldn’t make them do anything. Explain what he means by that.

    Even from a position of power, Marshall’s children always found a way to make Marshall regret punishing them for not complying with the demands.

Chapter Exercises:

  1. Identify 4 D’s of disconnection: diagnosis, denial of responsibilities, demand, & deserve in my own speech:

    • Diagnosis

      I am really, really guilty of diagnosis. if I hear a problem, my gut is to just respond: “this is a solution.” “have you tried this?” “When I encountered something similar…”

    • Denying responsibility

      I have used the lines: “I told you so…” or “I warned you of this…” as a way to deny responsibility of the listener’s feelings.

    • Demand

      Whenever I make a demand and the listener just does not comply, I have followed up with an indirect demand: “Why can’t you do this for me?”

    • Deserve

      I have had a lot of deserve speak “I deserve more time off!” “I deserve a job”. I use this as another form of demand.

  2. Write down a dialog that isn’t going too well (6-8 lines) where two people are not communicating well. Analyze if either has communicated using the 4 D’s.

    employee I deserve a raise.
    boss How much?
    employee Double my salary.
    boss I’m not authorized to increase salary that much.
    employee Why not?
    boss The company doesn’t have the budget.
    employee Why not?
    boss Do you act like a person that deserves that much money?

Looking at this dialog, the employee is making a demand from their boss and the boss is denying responsibility.

  1. Examples of 4 D’s in my life recently:

    “It all depends on you” from Mozart in the Jungle, denying responsibility.

    “Why don’t you do something” from Mozart in the Jungle, demand.

    “That is not a good way” overheard, moralistic judgment.

    “You need to work harder than them” overheard, comparison.

  2. The author quotes:

     I have thought for a long time now that if, some day, the
     increasing efficiency for the technique of destruction finally
     causes our species to disappear from the earth, it will not be
     cruelty that will be responsible for our extinction and still
     less, of course, the indignation that cruelty awakens and the
     reprisals and vengeance that it brings upon itself … but the
     docility, the lack of responsibility of the modern man, his
     base subservient acceptance of every common decree. The
     horrors that we have seen, the still greater horrors we shall
     presently see, are not signs that rebels, insubordinate,
     untamable men are increasing in number throughout the world,
     but rather that there is a constant increase in the number of
     obedient, docile men.
       - George Bernanos

    source, do you agree or disagree?

    Yes. I believe the more we deny responsibility for our own actions, the more harm we do to others.

    Stamford prison experiment is an experiment that I learned that by denying responsibility of one’s actions, one can (and will) harm others, to an extreme.

  3. Do I see life-alienating communication benefiting those who are in control of socio-political systems: governments, multinational corporations?

    Yes, life-alienating communication is beneficial for those in control of any socio-political system. This type of communication allows those in power to reduce their subordinate’s self-esteem and allow them more power.


This chapter has given me a lot of things to think about, especially in the way I communicate with others and myself at a detailed level. Simple words like should or have to are far more violent than I expected. Diagnosis is something I do so naturally, which is another form of life-alienating communication.

The surprising thing to me is these changing from communicating using these forms I use will take more effort than just reading a book. It will take conscious effort, slow deliberate practice with the tool, and time.