How Marshall Rosenberg went from being called a murderer to being invited to dinner

Here’s the second part of a harrowing 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.

nonviolent communication

This post picks up in the middle of a Palestinian refugee camp with a man very, very angry at Marshall Rosenberg when he finds out he’s an American….

He: Do you know what it’s like to live here for twenty-seven years the way I have with my family—children and all? Have you got the faintest idea what that’s been like for us?

I: Sounds like you’re feeling very desperate and you’re wondering whether I or anybody else can really understand what it’s like to be living under these conditions.

He: You want to understand? Tell me, do you have children? Do they go to school? Do they have playgrounds? My son is sick! He plays in open sewage! His classroom has no books! Have you seen a school that has no books?

I: I hear how painful it is for you to raise your children here; you’d like me to know that what you want is what all parents want for their children—a good education, opportunity to play and grow in a healthy environment . . .

He: That’s right, the basics! Human rights—isn’t that what you Americans call it? Why don’t more of you come here and see what kind of human rights you’re bringing here!

I: You’d like more Americans to be aware of the enormity of the suffering here and to look more deeply at the consequences of our political actions?

Our dialogue continued, with him expressing his pain for nearly twenty more minutes, and I listening for the feeling and need behind each statement. I didn’t agree or disagree. I received his words, not as attacks, but as gifts from a fellow human willing to share with me.

Once the gentleman felt understood, he was able to hear me as I explained my purpose for being at the camp. An hour later, the same man who had called me a murderer was inviting me to his home for a Ramadan dinner.


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

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

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