I just finished Kelly Bryson’s Don’t Be Nice, Be Real, (B&N) which is by a fellow who studied with Marshall “Nonviolent Communication” Rosenberg. He’s a family therapist and has spent some time teaching NVC in other countries, and is involved with alternative communities in San Diego.
I definitely got some valuable stuff out of reading this. He teaches NVC, but he’s a pretty different person than Marshall Rosenberg, so you get his own take on it, which is helpful. His emphasis is much more on NVC in love relationships than Rosenberg’s book is. He likes to play around with cute wordplay a lot more than Rosenberg. He does even more sharing of personal stories than Rosenberg, I think, and they’re often very powerful & touching.
It was really interesting to hear story after story of somebody trying to use NVC in a variety of life situations, and it was especially useful to read Bryson’s emphasis on how to do NVC badly. Doing it out of a feeling of moral obligation, for example, or doing it with a specific agenda for what you want to get out of the other person’s behavior. Bryson talks a lot about NVC as a form of enlightened selfishness, and while I’m not entirely happy with that verbal formula, with all its Libertarian-capitalist associations, it was a good counter-perspective to viewing NVC as some kind of saintly path.
The difficulties for me were when he gets off on a rant. He spends a lot of time criticizing segments of culture in very general and entirely negative terms — he goes off on institutional religion, on Western “Dominator” society as a whole, on psychotherapy and psychiatry, and it seemed so know-it-all and judgmental (and hard to credit, because he repeats a lot of really dubious factoids, like the “rule of thumb” story) that it got hard for me to take.
But then he would drop in a story from his own life, and I was back right there with him. And the last chapter, which was about hope for creating change in culture, really was inspiring. So it was worth slogging through the rants.
Overall I’m glad I read it; I liked it; I’m not sure I would have liked it so much if I hadn’t read Rosneberg’s book first to put it in perspective.