As a child growing up in a turbulent Detroit neighbourhood, Marshall Rosenberg developed a keen interest in conflict resolution and new forms of communication that would provide peaceful alternatives to the violence he encountered.

His interest eventually led to graduate school, where he earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. But he was dissatisfied with the focus he saw there on pathology, which didn’t help him understand the very compassionate people he had also known.

Further study of comparative religion, and his own varied life experience, convinced him that human beings are not inherently violent, and this motivated him to develop NVC. He first used NVC in federally funded projects to provide mediation and communication skills training to communities working to peacefully integrate the various races present in schools and other public institutions in the U.S.A during the 1960s.

His work on these projects brought Dr. Rosenberg into contact with people in various U.S. cities who wanted to bring his training to a broad base of people in their communities. To meet this need and to more effectively spread the process of NVC, in 1984 he founded the Centre for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC).

In the course of developing NVC training, Marshall Rosenberg discovered that using hand puppets, typically a giraffe and a jackal, helps to illustrate the mechanisms of communication. The giraffe, because of its large heart, gentleness, and ability to see far and stick its neck out, has now become a popular metaphor for speaking from the heart, and in many places NVC is affectionately referred to as “Giraffe Language.”

Training in NVC is now offered on five continents by over 300 trainers who collectively train around 350,000 people every year, supported by hundreds of committed volunteers who help organize workshops, participate in practice groups, and coordinate team building. The training is helping prevent and resolve conflicts in schools, businesses, health care centres, prisons, community groups and families.