NMG Moderator Liz shares some thoughts about not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings while expressing our own feelings--especially anger or frustration. This concern comes up for nearly all of us in the Girls Online Community—and the rest of our lives. FYI, Liz has been a psychologist--and moderator-- for many years and, in our opinion, has lots of wisdom.
Anger is a normal human feeling that arises when someone feels hurt or violated in some way (being demeaned, unheard, rejected, disrespected, put down, etc.).
Anger is not a bad thing -- it's a signal from inside ourselves, giving us useful information that something is NOT RIGHT.
However, as we all know, many people express anger in ways that is--or is perceived as--damaging or hurtful…whether or not that was the person's intention.
We’re not born with the ability to communicate difficult feelings. It's not usually taught in schools, either.
Many parents haven't learned it themselves, so have trouble modeling it or teaching it to their children.
So we're left to figure some, or most, of it out on our own, learning what we can from our experiences and observations.
From what I see as a NMG moderator, the members of the NMG community do a great job of expressing feelings and beliefs on very complicated and often difficult issues
You also have a great capacity for providing support, advice and empathy.
Still, there are times when there are hurt feelings, misunderstandings, disagreements, and drama. In this time of COVID-19, and the many other crises we are all dealing with, we can all feel more vulnerable, sensitive, and easily triggered.
I'd like to share some guidelines for communicating difficult feelings that I find helpful, and that might be helpful for you, other NMG community members--and all of us!!
It’s called "Nonviolent Communication", a system developed by Marshall Rosenberg, a psychologist, mediator, author and teacher. I am not an expert, but I have some familiarity with it. The goal of this approach is:
- To express ourselves authentically and honestly
- To listen with empathy
- To deal with potential conflict respectfully and considerately
(This is quoted from the web-site www.nonviolentcommunication.com, where many resources are very generously offered for free).
There are 4 suggested steps in this system of communication:
- Observation: State what you observe(d) without judgment. Example: "I noticed that you interrupted me 3 times."
- Feelings: State what emotions and physical sensations you are feeling in response to what you observed. Example: "I feel angry, hurt and invisible when you interrupt me."
- Needs: We all have needs, and we feel better when those needs are met. It's important to state our needs clearly, without making them a demand. Example: "I need to have a chance to have my say and to feel heard."
- Request: When we learn to request concrete actions that we and the other person can do in the present moment, we begin to find ways to cooperatively and creatively ensure that everyone’s needs are met. Example: "Would you be willing to let me finish what I'm saying? And then to acknowledge what you've heard, before you respond?"
Let’s say you're afraid to express anger because of ways you've noticed NMG members responding to earlier expressions of anger--yours or other member's. Here’s what using "Nonviolent”—or respectful—Communication might look like. Of course, you'd use your own words, these are just examples:
(1) (OBSERVATIONS) When members express anger about something, I've noticed that sometimes the responses seem to disapprove of, or disrespect the person, their feelings, or the way the person expressed their feelings.
(2) (FEELINGS) When I see that or experience it myself, I feel sad, hurt, alone and afraid. Sad and hurt that I don't feel like anyone really listened or heard what I (or the other person) was saying, and scared that I'll be rejected, not liked, and ostracized. I'm also scared of hurting other members' feelings and being thought of as a bad person.
(3) (NEEDS) I need a community where I can trust that my feelings and opinions will be heard and responded to respectfully, even if other people disagree with me.
(4) (REQUESTS) Would you be willing to tell me that you hear my feelings and appreciate my honest expression of them?
All of this takes practice. It involves establishing trust that everyone in the community can be heard and respected. We practice understanding that this kind of communication goes both ways. It means that everyone has needs and the right to express those needs.
In a good relationship, you and I can make a request that can help meet a particular need. I'll express my feelings and needs, and I'll listen to yours. We build trust when we practice communicating in this way.
I, and all the mods and S2S mentors welcome your comments, questions, any feedback you have to share.
With great admiration and care,
Liz V (moderator)