Who is Marshall Rosenberg? What is Nonviolent Communication (NVC)? Why do I believe this simple communication methodology could strongly benefit not only every customer experience professional but also anyone wanting to meaningfully and peacefully interact with someone else?

What is Non-Violent (or compassionate) Communication and why does it matter?

Marshall Rosenberg (October 6, 1934 – February 7, 2015) is the American psychologist who created Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a communication process that “helps people to exchange the information necessary to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully.”

In the past two years, I have followed several NVC training modules from Yoram Mosenzom (Basic, Intermediate & Advanced Training Modules and Mediation Module) and Cara Crisler (NVC applied to Motherhood and Connecting to Children).

I have deep respect for this communication methodology and highly believe in its capability to empower and facilitate real connection to oneself and others. I especially believe that not only it can change the way we live with our family & friends, but also the way we interact with our colleagues and the way contact center professionals deliver customer service & technical support.

Ultimately NVC is about empowering people to acknowledge, express, and understand needs and about empathizing with each other’s needs, so that, instead of getting stuck on our preferred strategy,  we can think of creative solutions to meet our respective needs, contributing to making life more wonderful for each other.

This is very close to the vision of customer experience that I want to help companies achieve: a human-needs-driven, happiness-empowered growth, which makes the world a more beautiful and peaceful place for us to live in.

Rosenberg died earlier this year. This post is a collection of some of the most inspiring quotes from Marshall Rosenberg, as a tribute to his work and as inspiration for customer experience professionals working from a place of focusing on customer needs, nurturing happiness, and contributing to life.

This post had been in our drafts for a few weeks already. But after the Paris attacks of November 13th and months of powerlessly witnessing the Syrian refugees’ crisis, publishing felt like my only possible voice and contribution to world’s peace and humanity, because the more people will get familiar with NVC principles and way of communicating, the more hope there is for peaceful resolution of all conflicts and differences.

Ultimately, worrying about delivering exceptional customer experiences becomes trivial and unnecessary in a world where the basic needs of safety (and equality) cannot be met, where people get attacked in the very same places (theatre, restaurants, or stadium) where we strive to deliver remarkable experiences, and where people live in fear.  For this reason, I decided to add an extra paragraph “Addressing Terrorism“, with an extract from Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Speak Peace“, because, never more than today peace and safety return to being a necessary foundation for any customer experience, something which, at least in Europe, we had taken for granted since World War II.

The link between emotions and needs

(Update March 2024) Since I first learned about NVC in 2013 and initially wrote this blog post in 2015, NVC has been an integral and deep part of my work on Customer Experience, Wellbeing, and Customer Service Training. While this deserves a dedicated blog post, here I wanted to at least share:

  1. The simple yet revolutionary view of EMOTIONS from Rosenberg that I fully adopted in my life and in my work, and it has become my “if you remember one thing from me, let it be that…” in every training/keynote I give or class I teach: “There are no positive or negative emotions, just emotions we feel when our needs are met and emotions we feel when our needs are not met.”. When our needs are met we feel pleasant enriching emotions like happiness and love, when our needs are not met we feel unpleasant depleting emotions like sadness, fear, and anger (which is an escalated emotion when our sadness or fear has not been acknowledged).
  2. By understanding our universal human NEEDS, we can proactively and intentionally nurture these needs in our lives (see post 15 tips to cultivate Happiness and blossom like a sunflower) and in our business, for our employees, customers, and society overall. These needs, and their link with emotions, have become the foundation of the research work I did in 2017 and 2018 that culminated in the book Yellow Factor (formerly Yellow Goldfish). More about this in the Yellow Factor and Happiness in Business Blog series
  3. Understanding the link between emotions and needs and applying it to their CX management and Customer Service Training, can enable CX Professionals to gain better customer understanding and clarity on Net Promoter Score’s drivers, and ultimately to nurture Happiness in Customer Experience as A Competitive Advantage
  4. A visual of the 4 steps of NVC Empatic communication which shows the role of emotions and needs and the difference between observation and judgment, needs and strategy.
NVC Emotions
Yellow Factors
NVC needs
NVC 4 steps

Marshall Rosenberg Quotes selection

Quotes about Needs Expression/Understanding

There are no positive or negative emotions, just emotions we feel when our needs are met and emotions we feel when our needs are not met.

Always hear the ‘Yes’ in the ‘No’.

At the root of every tantrum and power struggle are unmet needs.

People do not hear our pain when they believe they are at fault.

Every message, regardless of form or content, is an expression of a need.

Your presence is the most precious gift you can give to another human being.

Always listen to what people need rather than what they are thinking about us.

Get very clear about the kind of world we would like and then start living that way.

When we hear the other person’s feelings and needs, we recognize our common humanity.

Understanding the other persons’ needs does not mean you have to give up on your own needs.

When we understand the needs that motivate our own and others’ behavior, we have no enemies.

Our goal is to create a quality of empathic connection that allows everyone’s needs to be met.

In our culture, most of us have been trained to ignore our wants and to discount our needs.


Quotes about Communication

When our communication supports compassionate giving and receiving, happiness replaces violence and grieving!

If we want to make meetings productive, we need to keep track of those whose requests are on the table.

Regardless of our many differences, we all have the same needs. What differs is the strategy for fulfilling these needs.

When people hear needs, it provokes compassion. When people hear diagnoses, it provokes defensiveness and attack.

My ultimate goal is to spend as many of my moments in life as I can in that world that the poet Rumi talks about, ‘a place beyond rightness and wrongness.’

Four D’s of Disconnection: 1. Diagnosis (judgment, analysis, criticism, comparison); 2. Denial of Responsibility; 3. Demand; 4. ‘Deserve’ oriented language.

Labeling and diagnosis is a catastrophic way to communicate. Telling other people what’s wrong with them greatly reduces, almost to zero, the probability that we’re going to get what we’re after.

To practice NVC, it’s critical for me to be able to slow down, take my time, to come from an energy I choose, the one I believe that we were meant to come from, not the one I was programmed into.


Quotes about Empathy

Empathy is presence. Pure presence to what is alive in a person at this moment, bringing nothing in from the past.

We need to receive empathy to give empathy.

The more we empathize with the other party, the safer we feel.

The number one rule of our training is empathy before education.

It may be most difficult to empathize with those we are closest to.

Empathizing with someone’s ‘no’ protects us from taking it personally.

Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.

A difficult message to hear is an opportunity to enrich someone’s life.

Self-empathy in NVC means checking in with your feelings and needs.

Empathy allows us to re-perceive our world in a new way and move forward.

It’s harder to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status, or resources.

Empathy is like riding on a wave; it’s about getting in touch with a certain energy. But the energy is a divine energy that’s alive in every person, at every moment.


Quotes about Learning

Every time I mess up is a chance to practice.

Learning is too precious to be motivated by coercive tactics

Getting in touch with unmet needs is important to the healing process.

Schooling teaches us to dehumanize human beings by thinking of what they are rather than what they need.

Postpone result/solution thinking until later; it’s through connection that solutions materialize – empathy before education.

We recognize that real educational reform is essential if today’s and tomorrow’s children are to live in a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.


Quotes about Anger

It isn’t what people do that makes us angry. It’s something within us that responds to what they do

Anger is a gift, challenging us to connect to the unmet needs that have triggered this reaction

Blaming and punishing others are superficial expressions of anger.

Anger is the result of life-alienated ways of evaluating what is happening to us

What others do may be the stimulus of our feelings, but never the cause.

The cause of anger lies in our thinking – in thoughts of blame and judgment

Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment.

We are never angry because of what others say or do; it is a result of our own ‘should’ thinking.


Quotes about Judgment & Conflict

Translate all self-judgments into self-empathy.

When we judge others we contribute to violence.

Classifying and judging people promotes violence.

Empathy lies in our ability to be present without opinion.

Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts.

Judgments of others contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies.


Marshall Rosenberg Addressing Terrorism (extract from “Speak Peace“)

<<Many people have asked me how we can use NVC to address terrorism. For starters, we need to get rid of images of terrorists and freedom fighters. As long as we are thinking of the other side as terrorists and ourselves as freedom fighters, we’re part of the problem. Then we need to empathize with what was alive in these people when they did what they did that’s so frightening and hurtful to us—and to see what human needs they were trying to meet by doing it. Until we can empathically connect with that, whatever actions we take are likely to come out of an energy that’s going to create more violence. Now, with regard to the people who have done things we call “terrorism,“ I’m confident they have been expressing their pain in many different ways for thirty years or more. Instead of our empathically receiving it when they expressed it in much gentler ways—they were trying to tell us how hurt they felt that some of their most sacred needs were not being respected by the way we were trying to meet our economic and military needs—they got progressively more agitated. Finally, they got so agitated that it took horrible form. Instead of thinking of them as terrorists, we need to empathize. So that’s the first thing. Instead of thinking of them as terrorists, we need to empathize. Many people hear that as saying terrorism is OK—that we should just smile and act like it’s OK to kill thousands of people. Not at all! After we empathize, we need to make clear what our pain is, what needs of ours weren’t met by their actions. And if we can have that connection with these people, we can find a way to get everybody’s needs met peacefully. But if we label them as terrorists and then try to punish them for being terrorists, we already see what we’re going to get. Violence creates more violence.>>

Questions for ReflectAction and learning

What about you? Were you already familiar with Rosenberg NVC?

Which of Marshall Rosenberg’s quotes most resonates with you?

Can you imagine a world where everyone would be using this communication language?

Share your insight with us in the comments.

How can I contribute to more happiness in your life and work?

I will be embedding all the new learning from this Yoga Teacher Training in existing & new courses to empower conscious leaders & companies to pursue happiness-driven growth both outside in & inside out! Get in touch if I can contribute to your individual or team growth with dedicated Yoga Programs. In the meantime, below you find a list of existing programs with which I can contribute.

Do you want to bring more harmony and happiness knowledge to your team or organization? I have a few options for you:

Do you want to bring more harmony and happiness knowledge in your own life? Here are a few FREE options for you:

Stay healthy, happy, and yellow!

Keep Smiling! Start Laughing!

💛 🌻 ☀️ Yours truly, Rosaria


* Sharing is happiness. If our message resonates with you, please help us share it. Let’s start building together the world we wish to live in. Thank you! #YellowFactor #HappinessDrivenGrowth

** If you would like to know more about how to pursue Happiness Driven Growth in your company or would like us to deliver an engaging talk about NVC or an HCX masterclass at your company, get in touch or simply follow Rosaria Cirillo on LinkedIn & Instagram to receive her inspirational DOSE of Happiness.

*** Our new book Yellow Factor – including insights about how NVC has been applied in contact center training – is available for sales on Amazon/Kindle. Find links to your local Amazon store here.


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About Rosaria

I’m an Italian sunshine of energy, enthusiasm, and passion, living in the Netherlands. I’m a Certified CX & Happiness Trainer, Advisor, Speaker, and Author with a mission to bring more happiness in the world one interaction at a time, the business and education worlds being my chosen playgrounds!

I help conscious leaders make happiness their company’s competitive advantage with advisory, speaking, and training focusing on improving customer & employee experience (using VOC, VOE, and VOP as drivers for change).

I’m committed to empowering leaders and companies to achieve growth, productivity, and profits by cultivating happiness. Get in touch to find out how can I help you and your team with keynotes, training, and advisory services


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