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Wednesday
Oct052005

SPEAK PEACE book review

Reading Marshall Rosenberg's newly released book, SPEAK PEACE in a World of Conflict, What YOU Say Next Will Change YOUR World helped me to deepen my understanding and inspired hope that positive social change is achievable.  Marshall reveals an abundance of practical strategies that can transform conflict and offers profound insight into his theory of human conflict and violence.

Marshall Rosenberg has tirelessly traveled the globe mediating disputes and training practitioners in Nonviolent Communication for more than forty years.  In this new work, he offers an overview of the "mechanics" of the NVC process interwoven with a tapestry of tales illustrating the "consciousness" of NVC and its real world application.  Marshall also adds theory concerning the roots of violence, the role of language, "domination systems", and "enemy images", while offering unique strategies for dispute resolution used by everyone from Israeli kindergartners to African tribal chieftains.

Three themes delineate the book's structure.  The first section of the book covers the "Mechanics of Speaking Peace", including an overview of the Nonviolent Communication process developed by Marshall.  Featured throughout this section are exercises that invite the reader to have a direct experience of the potential of the process to deepen self-awareness and open to new possibilities for how we interact with one another.

In Part 2, Marshall focuses on "Applying Nonviolent Communication".  First, he shows how the NVC process can be utilized for working on oneself to deepen a connection to "divine energy", a phrase Marshall uses to describe the "spiritual basis" of NVC.  He defines this divine energy as "our natural life-serving energy", and asserts, "this divine energy is manifest in the joy we feel in giving to one another."

Marshall continues, "Unfortunately, many of us are blocked from that divine energy by the way we’ve been taught to think."  He offers Nonviolent Communication as a process for connecting with this divine energy, first in oneself, and then within the context of interpersonal relationships and social change.  He covers the practice of empathy, a skillful process required to sustain connection.  Marshall also explains the roots of violence contained in the language we have all been educated to speak.

Finally, in "Speaking Peace for Social Change", he focuses on effective strategies for facilitating social change.  Including examples from the fields of education and intertribal conflict, he highlights our habitual tendency to manufacture "enemy images" which limit our capacity to be effective agents of social change.  He shows how the NVC process can be used to dismantle these enemy images and build a bridge of connection, human to human.

Marshall offers practices for dealing with the burnout and despair common for agents of social change, including the power of gratitude for building internal resources to sustain one's efforts in a world filled with pain and suffering.

Although some of the material in Speak Peace will be familiar to readers of Marshall's previous books, this book contains a depth and breadth not available there.  Marshall conveys his material in a light-hearted yet deeply touching manner.  Reading the book, I both laughed out loud and was moved to tears. 


This book will be valuable to both new and veteran practitioners because it offers a rare insight and clarity into the nature of human conflict and its resolution, while offering specific exercises and practices designed to immediately implement the theory and make it practical.

by Jim Manske, CNVC Trainer and Mediator

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