Review of "What We Say Matters"

By Judith Hanson Lasater, Ike K. Lasater
Rodmell Press, 2009
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Mar 16th 2010
What We Say Matters

This book describes the techniques of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) a method developed by Marshall Rosenberg.  The authors are married couple Judith and Ike Lasater, both of whom are described as "long-term students of yoga and Buddhism."  In 1975, the two co-founded Yoga Journal magazine; Judith, a yoga instructor, is a well-known author of several previous books on yoga, and Ike is an attorney with decades of experience in conflict resolution and meditation.

The authors open this book by discussing the yogic concept of satya (also known as truth or right speech) explaining NVC puts satya into practice.  They then introduce the basic concepts of the NVC method, breaking down the process into four simple steps involving observations, feelings, needs, and requests.  Specific examples of both feelings and needs are provided, and at the end of each chapter, suggestions are given for ways to practice what you have learned in that section.  The volume continues in this basic manner, with the authors presenting additional skills to be used in conjunction with the principle elements of NVC.  Some of these added components include making conversational choices, such as giving empathy to ourselves and/or others, and increasing personal awareness.

In the second half of the book, the authors address communication skills in more specific situations, including talking to partners, talking to children/parents, talking at work, and bringing NVC into the world.  For the partners section, Judith and Ike are able to provide a unique perspective, using examples from their own marriage.  Similarly, in discussing children, the authors acknowledge the challenges they faced within their own family, reflecting on the especially trying toddler and teenage years.  I found myself particularly interested in the applications of NVC to workplace situations.  In this chapter, Ike focuses on efficiency in communication, not only verbal contacts but also other forms of communication such as e-mail and voice mail messages.  Although I found this section useful, I would have liked to have seen some more specific examples.  For instance, Ike mentions that he sometimes drafts his e-mails using NVC language, then re-writes them using more colloquial wording; it would have been very helpful to have included before and after samples here.

Overall, this book provides a basic, useful introduction to the principles of NVC.  The techniques are presented in a simple, straightforward manner, and I especially liked that the authors applied the method to a variety of situations/settings.  However, the authors specifically state that it took them years to learn how to become more adept at NVC techniques.  Although their book is clearly an attempt to simply this process--in fact, they note in their introduction that "learning NVC needn't be so difficult"--it seems clear that mastering NVC is something that indeed requires a great deal of motivation, commitment, dedication, and time.


© 2010  Beth Cholette


Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college


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