Early Childhood and Education
Marshal Rosenberg was born on October 6,1934 in Canton, Ohio. His mother name was Jean (Weiner) Rosenberg while his father was Fred Rosenberg. Rosenberg’s grandmother, Anna Satovsky Wiener had nine children.
Although Rosenburg grandmother was not particularly well to do and was not living any affluence, she managed to keep a place, taking in and helping people in need.
Her hobby was dancing and was a role model to Julius, her son-in-law. His grandfather worked at Packard Motor Car Company, his grandmother taught workers’ children how to dance.
In Steubenville, Ohio, his father loaded trucks with wholesale grocery stock, and Rosenberg went to a three-room school.
Jean Rosenberg was a professional bowler with tournaments five nights a week. She was also a gambler with high-stakes backers. His parents divorced twice, once when Rosenberg was three, and when he left home.
The family moved to Detroit, Michigan one week prior to the Detroit Race Riot in 1943 where about 34 people were killed and 433 wounded.
At an inner-city school, Rosenberg discovered anti-Semitism and internalized it.
“Growing up as a kid, I couldn’t stand to see people torment other people.” He developed a “kind of awareness of suffering – why do people do this – and particularly, why does it have to happen to me?”
“My family was very affectionate. I got heaps of love, and if it had not been for that, the effects of this self-hatred could have been much harder to deal with.”
His maternal grandmother, Anna Satovsky Wiener, was dying of ALS in the dining room, cared for by Uncle Julius and his mother. His parents were also caring for his grandfather and aunt. Rosenberg hid under the porch and learned to be invisible.
Uncle Julius projected a model of compassion in the care for his maternal grandmother (Julius’s mother-in-law). Julius was a pharmacist with a drugstore on Woodward Avenue.
After Rosenberg’s father bought a house in a better neighbourhood Rosenberg attended Cooley High School and graduated in 1952 as valedictorian.
A neighbour boy Clayton Lafferty first mentioned psychology to Rosenberg. He wrote a high school term paper on criminal psychology.
“I did an honours program as an undergraduate, and my professor’s father, who was a warden, got me an opportunity to see what psychology is really like in prison.”
When considering medicine as a career he worked with an embalmer for a while to measure his interest in the human body.
At age 13 he began Hebrew school but got expelled. He was beaten by his father twice for gross misconduct and once so badly he missed school the next day.
Rosenberg’s first college was Wayne State University. With money earned, he entered the University of Michigan and, he worked as a waiter at a sorority and a cook’s help at a fraternity.
The State of Wisconsin paid for Rosenberg’s training as a psychologist. Rosenberg recommended Carl Rogers book Freedom to Learn.
“Of the twenty-seven of us in our first year class at Wisconsin, only three got through – not the ones with the qualities you would want them to have. I got through because I had been through worse in Detroit.”
Professor Michael Hakeem radicalized Rosenberg when he indicated that psychology and psychiatry were dangerous in that scientific and value judgments were mixed in the fields.
Hakeem also had Rosenberg read about traditional moral therapy in which clients were seen as down on their luck rather than sick.
Rosenberg was influenced by the 1961 books The Myth of Mental illness by Thomas Szaaz and Asylums by Ervin Goffman. He also remembered reading Alberta Bandura on “Psychotherapy as a learning process”.
Rosenberg’s practicum placements were the Wisconsin Diagnostic Center, schools for delinquent girls and boys, and Mendota State Hospital. There psychiatrist Bernie Banham “would never have it where we would talk about a client in his absence.”
In Mendota Rosenberg began to practice family therapy with all parties present, including children. After graduation, Rosenberg worked in Winnebago with Gordon Filmer-Bennett for a year to fulfil his obligation to the state for his graduate training.
Growing Up & Career
Growing up in a turbulent Detroit neighbourhood, Dr Rosenberg developed a keen interest in new forms of communication that would provide peaceful alternatives to the violence he encountered.
His interest led to a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin in 1961, where he studied under Carl Rogers. His subsequent life experience and study of comparative religion motivated him to develop the Non-Violent Communication (NVC) process.
Rosenberg started out in clinical practice in Saint Loius, Missouri, forming Psychological Associates with partners. In making an analysis of problems of children in school, he found learning disabilities.
He wrote his first book, Diagnostic Teaching, in 1968, reporting his findings. He also met Al Chappelle, a leader in the Zulu 1200s.
Rosenberg went to teach his approach to conflict resolution to the gang in exchange for Chappelle appearing at desegregation conventions, starting in Washington, D.C. While Chappelle was harnessing communication against racism, Vicki Legion began to collaborate to counter sexism.
“I started to give my services, instead of to individual affluent clients, to people on the firing line like Al and Vicki, and others fighting in behalf of human rights of various groups.”
The superintendent of schools, Thomas Shaheen, in Rockford, Illinois called upon Rosenberg to deal with conflicts in an alternative school that were established.
In 1970 Shaheen became superintendent of schools inSan Francisco, California and was charged with racially integrating the city’s schools. He called on Rosenberg to help as before and Rosenberg organized a group but Shaheen was dismissed before it could come into action.
Rosenberg decided to stay in California and promoted the Community Council for Mutual Education with the help of Vicki Legion.
NVC “evolved out of my practice with people who were hurting, and experimenting with what might be of value to them, whether they be in the correctional school for girls, or people labelled schizophrenic.”
The San Francisco experience gave me the exciting concept that we could start local projects to train masses of people in the skills, quickly and with no money.
He worked for four years in Norfolk, Virginia’s school integration. As a caricature of his program in the street talk he offered this version, spoken to himself
About 1982 Rosenberg invested his last $55 for admission to Midwest Radical Therapy Conference, which he later acknowledged the training as the “best investment he ever made because he met people and made contacts that he still hold on till date.
The importance of strokes of appreciation or affirmation, between communicants, had been emphasized for instance by adherents to transactional analysis.
“My workshops before this time used a language of conflict resolution and talked about getting power with people and stuff like that. They focused entirely on helping people deal with behaviours that were painful to them and finding ways of changing them.”
“There was nothing about celebrating with people or affirming each other, or the words ‘nurturance’ or ‘compassion’.”
Rosenberg says the program led to the femininization of the program beyond conflict”.
Rosenberg was called to many states, countries, and conflicts to provide his expertise in Non-Violent Communication.
In 2004 he was visiting about 35 countries per year on his mission as a travelling peacemaker. Rosenberg enjoyed success in his work.
“Such incredible things happen when I leave groups so that when I go back, I can hardly believe what they’ve accomplished in the time since I was last there. I see this everywhere I go.”
” The people I work with want to radiate this process and transform things. They want everyone to have access to these principles, and they have enormous energy for spreading this kind of work” He said.
One of the things that distinct Marshall from the thousands of conflict resolution and communication experts he has influenced was his exceptional capacity to role-play interactions with the audience.
Whether it was a misunderstanding between couples, or conflicts between villages, a dialogue between a victim and perpetrator, or modelling an interaction between a counsellor and her patient, these powerful role-plays offered a unique, moving and powerful experience to all who experience them.
A dedicated teacher, peacemaker and visionary leader, Dr Rosenberg led NVC workshops and international intensive training for tens of thousands of people in over 60 countries across the world.
He provided training and initiated peace programs in a number of war-torn areas including Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, the Middle East, Colombia, Serbia, Croatia, and Northern Ireland.
He worked tirelessly with such groups as educators, managers, mental health and health care providers, lawyers, military officers, prisoners, police and prison officials, clergy, government officials, and individual families
In 1986 he was awarded Diplomate status in clinical psychology from the American Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology.
During his life, he authored fifteen books, including the bestselling Non-violent Communication: A language of Life, which has sold more than one million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 30 languages, with more translations in the works.
Dr Rosenberg has received a number of awards for his Nonviolent Communication work including.
In 2002, he won Princess Anne of England and Chief of Police Restorative Justice Appreciation Award just two years earlier he has given the Listener of the Year Award by the International Listening Association.
He won both Religious Science International Golden Works Award and International Peace Prayer Day Man of Peace Award by the Healthy, Happy Holy (3HO) Organization in 2004.
In 2005 he won the Light of God Expressing in Society Award from the Association of Unity Churches, a year after this, Bridge of Peace Nonviolence Award was bestowed on him by the Global Village Foundation.
In 2014, he was awarded the Champion of Forgiveness Award from the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance.
Dr Marshall B. Rosenberg, age 80, passed away peacefully and surrounded by family, at his home in Albuquerque on February 7th, 2015, after a courageous battle with cancer.