What Marshall Rosenberg asked when he was called a murderer


Here’s a passage from Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication that has repeatedly inspired me. It shows the transformative power of simply being curious about underlying feelings and needs when communicating. Quixote Consulting’s True Communication team building workshop is based on Nonviolent Communication.

I was presenting Nonviolent Communication in a mosque at Deheisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem to about 170 Palestinian Moslem men. Attitudes toward Americans at that time were not favorable. As I was speaking, I suddenly noticed a wave of muffled commotion fluttering through the audience. “They’re whispering that you are American!” my translator alerted me, just as a gentleman in the audience leapt to his feet. Facing me squarely, he hollered at the top of his lungs, “Murderer!” Immediately a dozen other voices joined him in chorus: “Assassin!” “Child-killer!” “Murderer!”

Fortunately, I was able to focus my attention on what the man was feeling and needing. In this case, I had some cues. On the way into the refugee camp, I had seen several empty tear gas canisters that had been shot into the camp the night before. Clearly marked on each canister were the words “Made in USA.” I knew that the refugees harbored a lot of anger toward the US for supplying tear gas and other weapons to Israel.

I addressed the man who had called me a murderer:

I: Are you angry because you would like my government to use its resources differently? (I didn’t know whether my guess was correct, but what is critical is my sincere effort to connect with his feeling and need.)

He: Damn right I’m angry! You think we need tear gas? We need sewers, not your tear gas! We need housing! We need to have our own country!

I: So you’re furious and would appreciate some support in improving your living conditions and gaining political independence?


How does this end? Stay tuned for the next blog post to find out! Meanwhile imagine what you would say next.

Source:  Nonviolent Communication tm: A Language of Life by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, 2003 – published by PuddleDancer Press, for more information visit www.CNVC.org & www.NonviolentCommunication.com

Quixote Consulting’s True Communication team training workshop was inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication model.

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