Enjoy Improved Relationships by Using Nonviolent Communication, Part VIII

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This is part eight in my series on Nonviolent Communication.  You can find parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven here.

Today we'll be finishing up this series by focusing on anger & gratitude.  


It's important to learn how to fully express anger (and not in superficial ways like hitting or blaming).  Anger functions like an alarm clock; it signals needs we have that aren't being met so we can do a better job of focusing on them.

Even "righteous" anger should be handled this way.  Anger takes a tremendous amount of energy and instead of focusing this energy dwelling on horrible things like murder, we should look at the root - what needs aren't being met - in order to understand what led to the action.  This is not excusing such atrocities, but attempting to enhance life.

3 Things to Remember When You're Feeling Angry

  1. Realize that what people do isn't the cause, but the stimulus, of your anger.  What is the cause?  Choosing to blame or sit in judgement (even if not conscious of it) instead of focusing on which needs aren't being met
  2. Focus on your own feelings and needs so that connections can be made with others
  3. Focus on the other person's feelings and needs, which allows us to share in common humanity and follow what's going on in the heart instead of what's going on in the head

Steps for Dealing with Anger

  1. Stop and stay quiet for a moment, then: 
  2. Identify the thoughts that are making you angry (what action set you off - like the fact that when someone arrived at a business party, they spoke to all the men first) 
  3. Look for the need behind whatever judgement jumps to mind (that person must be sexist since he talked to men first & I have a need to feel valued equally as a woman) 
  4. Share what needs haven't been met by this action, which can require lots of courage *You might first need to empathize with the other person so they'll be able to reciprocate to you 
  5. After you share your need, stop and ask the other person to state,what they heard 
  6. Take your time doing all of this (sometimes using a card as a cheat sheet, like the graphic below, can help walk you through this process until it becomes automatic)
If you often find yourself angry at others, then it might be helpful to practice these skills.  Try this exercise:  Make an "I don't like people who are ______" list.  Then ask what your needs are when you make those judgements.


Nonviolent Communication is not just about dealing with difficult issues.  At its core, it's about celebrating life, so this means also expressing gratitude with yourself and others.

As with everything we've discussed in this series so far, our intentions behind our actions are vitally important.  This means we have to scrutinize our praise and compliments.  Although these forms of communication seem positive, they can still come from a place of judgement, making them helpful tools only on a short-term basis.  This is because their effect wears off once people realize they are being manipulated in this way.

Remember that labeling others is always a judgement.  This is true even with positive labels.  "You're such a good boy" might seem like a helpful thing to share with your son, but it creates impossible standards for him to live up to (the need to always be good and perfect, as well as a tie in his mind to his behavior and your love/approval).

In order to use NVC to express gratitude, you need to celebrate the way your life has been enriched by others and not hand out praise just to get something.  Keep in mind also that if you are giving a compliment in order to help another person's self-esteem, then you're really promoting an addiction to relying on others for their feeling of worth.

Steps for Expressing Gratitude

  1. Identify actions that were a stimulus 
  2. Share what needs were fulfilled 
  3. Share what pleasurable feelings you had that came from the fulfilled need

Just as we want to show ourselves and others empathy in difficult situations, we must always receive gratitude with empathy, too.  (Often this is done from a place of egotism or false humility)

Well, we've made it through the series. 


I know these posts have been a bit heavy at times, but NVC is such a helpful tool for relationships that its principles had to be shared.  I hope you use (or at least consider) implementing some of these relationship strategies in your life.

Download a printable version of the cheat sheet here

What do you think of the strategies and steps of NVC?  Do they sound like something you might use?  Do you think you might investigate this topic further, or just use the information I presented to help improve your communication skills with those around you?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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