Using speaking with empathy does not mean that the core of your anger is not fully expressed. It is not squelched, denied or ignored. Instead the core, the heart of your anger is expressed wholeheartedly. A persons actions or inactions are a stimulant for our anger- not the cause. Even if we really want them to be as I know I often do when someone/thing ticks me off.
Our thoughts and feelings related to an other persons actions or inaction are the cause of our anger. This is an important shift in approach to communication through the language of empathy. Anger is a wake up call, an analysis shouting “HEY pay attention here an important need is not being meet!” Anger is useful, but dangerous because it can co-opt our energy towards punitive measures rather than a compassionate response more likely to result in getting our needs meet without ignoring those of ours. A win-win is always better than a win-lose or lose-lose situation.
To express anger there are 4 simple steps we can use:
- Stop. Breath.
- Identify the judgmental thoughts running through your mind.
- Connection with your feelings.
- Express your feelings and unmet needs.
You may need to hear the other persons feelings and needs, and the more you hear them the more the other person will hear yours. Expressing empathy between steps 3 and 4 can make the connection clear for both of you. Expressed empathy for the other person’s perspective and experience is transformational. Rather than intractable foes you are two human beings with a common ground of human experience. You may need to practice translating the judgments running around in your head into expressed unmet needs. Take your time. You may also need to take some time expressing your empathy between steps 3 and 4, likely anything new or unfamiliar, it could take a few tries for people to hear past the expected. Take your time.