Nonviolent Communication - Chapter 10
Expressing Anger Fully
The title chapter: Expressing Anger Fully is less about how to express anger in the typical sense of expressing oneself, by hurting someone superficially, physically or emotionally.
This chapter describes how to use anger to discover and express unmet needs, a central concept to nonviolent communication. After weeks of reading about nonviolent communication, I am slowly understanding needs is the central part of all communication, even with ourselves!
Once understanding our unmet needs, anger transforms to life-enriching energy.
Anger is another feeling, a strong one that expresses itself as violence, physical or emotional.
Violence results when people trick themselves into believing one should punish other people for making them angry.
- “He hit me.”
- “She stood me up.”
- “The company fired me.”
- “They wouldn’t serve me.”
Anger is another feeling. With all feelings, there is a stimulus and cause for a feeling. Remember from chapter 5:
- others may be the stimulus of feelings, external event.
- only we are the cause of the feeling, own interpretation of the event.
|She stood me up||I waited for 30 minutes.||I feel disappointed when she did not arrive for our meeting.|
Another possible cause for the feeling, with a different view:
|She stood me up||I waited for 30 minutes.||I feel relievedto get some time to myself while waiting for her to arrive.|
The stimulus is the same: “I waited for 30 minutes.”, but the cause of the feelings are different. The cause depends only on one’s own interpretation of the stimulus.
Anger in Nonviolent Communication
In nonviolent communication, anger is an alarm clock, a way to:
- stop oneself from taking action that may hurt others, physically or emotionally.
- ask “What unmet need that is causing me to feel angry?”
Basically, anger’s key role in nonviolent communication: reconnecting with unmet needs!
Using anger as an alarm clock is easier said than done. The author provided four steps in expressing anger in nonviolent communication:
- Stop. Breathe.
- Identify our judgmental thoughts.
- Connect with our needs.
- Express our feelings and unmet needs.
Following these steps will take time & practice, especially in the heat of the moment. I am considering having these on my phone’s lock screen so it is always handy.
The author also suggests between steps 3 & 4 to add an optional step: show empathy to the other party.
The more we listen to another, the more we can connect with their needs. When we connect with another person’s needs, the more than connect with ours.
Understanding Cause & Stimulus
Anger is such a fundamental emotion it can easily permeate all levels of thinking. By having a solid understanding of stimulus and cause creates better understanding of anger and control of emotion, essentially to avoid hurting others.
The author shared examples of where having a strong understanding of this difference provides safeguards to expressing oneself violently, in a way that one will regret for the rest of their life.
- stimulus is the event that cause a feeling
- cause is the interpretation of the stimulus
Exercise: “I am Angry”
One of the most important exercises in the chapter on anger:
Everytime one is thinking “I am angry because they…”, replace it with:
“I am angry because I am needing…”
This exercise paired with another in the workbook brought insight into a previous situation I was angry. The exercise help clarify the real reason why I was so mad, even though at the time I considered all the possible reasons.
So, even with great injustices that can make anyone mad, such as polluting the planet, in nonviolent communication these are not righteous indignation that deserve punishment. Nonviolent communication suggests it is more important to understand one’s unmet needs, than trying to punish someone for such injustices.
Ultimately, violence begets more violence. To prevent the spread of violence, it starts with oneself.
This chapter title was a bit misleading, as there was no expressing of anger, but a strong focus on unmet needs.
After working through the exercises, I understand that no all expression requires a direct translation of the feeling. Using anger as an alarm clock with the four steps to express anger allows one to really express anger.
Expressing anger superficially means to hurt others physically or emotionally. Expressing anger fully means to connect with our and others’ unmet needs which anger sends a message about.