Marshall Rosenberg

See “My History with Marshall” to read about the early history of nonviolent communication from the perspective of Marshall’s friend Allan Rholfs.
See “Friends of Marshall Rosenberg” for recordings of presentations and workshops.


Marshall Rosenberg (wikipedia) developed nonviolent communication – or compassionate communication, as I prefer to call it – in the 1960s and 1970s and continued to develop it throughout his life. The core insight has been around an awareness for universal human needs as a life force shared by all humanity and even beyond the human species.

As such, the core of compassionate communication is a spiritual awareness of the divine beauty inside of us and in all of life. There is true power in this.

More on the surface, the four steps communication process is a technical tool a person can apply with or without that spiritual awareness. When used without the spiritual awareness, the tool becomes pointless.

Marshall B. Rosenberg (1934-2015)

Marshall insisted that he had created nothing new and kept pointing to people who inspired him, who contributed to his learning. He gave interesting insights into his path of personal growth and into these various influences in his “autobiography” which was published as part of the dissertation of Majorie Witts.

1966: Psychiatrist Carl Rogers (2R) leading a panel discussing mental health issues.

Originally Marshall had studied psychotherapy and here the influence of the humanist psychologue Carl Rogers is primordial. Carl Rogers (wikipedia) led the way in the empowerment of the “client” – away from a master perspective of the psychotherapist, opening up to a sense that every human being knows their own wisdom and solution, but the _presence_ or another human being who trusts that – can have a beneficial and healing effect.

LP-Record Cover 1971: Al Chappelle together with Marshall Rosenberg

A completely different influence – evaluated by Marshall as “the most important” – was the teaching of Al Chappelle – originally a leader of a black liberation group in St. Louis. After Marshall and Al became friends, they toured the US together in the time of the Civil Rights movement. They worked together with circles of blacks and whites in communities, trying to build bridges across communities.

Al taught Marshall an important lesson in approaching people with power with request. Start with the thing you want. The “Where is the money?” method. Let the bank director ask you for the information they need to be willing to fulfill the request, rather than making a long speech, before saying what you want.

I am particularly touched by the sense of a common humanity, when seeing Al and Marshall as a team in those times. Heart opening.