Expressing Anger Fully

Many people are surprised that not only is it acceptable in Compassionate Communication (NVC)  to express anger, it is strongly encouraged. If this seems odd to you, you are not the first to think this way. The way anger is typically expressed in my culture is with blame, judgment or criticism. No wonder not many people want to have anger expressed in their presence. When anger is expressed with NVC it might be uncomfortable if we start judging ourselves for being the cause of the anger. If you can focus on the feelings and needs the discomfort will be replaced by a sense of peace. Of course, this takes some practice!

Angry Man

Where does anger come from? It comes from using option 2 in the list below. When we blame others we feel anger. Whenever we judge others, find fault, decide the other is wrong or deserving of punishment we will feel some form of anger.

Four options for receiving negative messages:

  1. Blame ourselves.
  2. Blame others.
  3. Sense our own feelings and needs. (Self empathy)
  4. Sense others' feelings and needs. (Empathy)

Expressing step 4 (empathy) followed by step 3 (honesty) is the most likely way to get your needs met.

Situation - you work in a business that involves sales. A potential customer has lodged a complaint about you with your boss. Your boss says,You are the most incompetent employee we have!

  1. Blame myself - I can't do anything right. I deserve this.
  2. Blame boss - she is such a moron, she couldn't recognize a good employee anyways.
  3. Empathize with myself - I am frustrated, I have done my best. I would like to be acknowledged. I would like to be heard.
  4. Empathize with boss - I'm guessing she is feeling disappointment. She is wanting competence and effectiveness.

In the video below, Jeff goes through the 4 options for receiving a negative message. For those new to NVC conventions, sometimes puppets are used for clarity. The giraffe puppet represents someone speaking using the NVC process of observation, feeling, need and request. The jackal represents someone who uses blame, criticism and judgments in their language without taking responsibility. This video does not show the complete NVC process. Requests have been left out.

Serene Lake

Steps to expressing anger:

  1. Stop. Breathe.
  2. Identify our judgmental thoughts.
  3. Connect with our feelings/needs.
  4. Express our feelings and unmet needs.
  5. Make a clear request of what we would like from the listener. Could be a reflection of what was heard.

Fake Feelings are words that someone might use when they say "I feel (fake feeling)  about this person's behavior. Fake Feelings describe behaviors of others. Emotions describe your inner state.
Fake Feelings that might be expressed:

abused attacked belittled betrayed blamed bullied cheated cornered criticized dumped-on harassed hassled insulted interrupted intimidated invalidated invisible manipulated misunderstood overpowered overworked patronized pressured provoked put-down rejected ripped-off screwed smothered suffocated taken-for-granted trampled tricked unappreciated unheard unloved unseen unsupported unwanted used violated wronged

Emotions similar to anger:

(Mild) annoyed aggravated dismayed disgruntled displeased exasperated frustrated impatient irritated irked

(Strong) enraged furious incensed indignant irate livid outraged resentful

Suggested unmet needs when feeling anger:

respect, consideration, freedom, choice, independence, space, cooperation

My personal experience is when someone is angry at another person, respect or consideration are always involved. When I teach this I have asked my students if they have ever been angry and respect or consideration was not a need at that time. No one has told me of a time it was not true.

Based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, specifically Nonviolent Communication A Language of Life

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