Emotional Intelligence, NVC, Conflict Resolution and Anger ~ What Have We Learned?

We’ve learned many things and we can look at these and see which of these helps us most.

To Learn More about Emotional Intelligence and How it Can Help Men and Women:

In Emotional Intelligence, we see anger as an adaptive and intelligent emotion, letting us know that something is wrong or perhaps even threatening to us. We can choose to use anger as fuel in situations of injustice. We’ll want to do so as skillfully as possible, ofcourse. But what does that mean? Certainly yelling at a child to stop running into traffic is a skillful use of anger (and fear), so we can’t say that all yelling is bad. Some yelling is useful.

However, we’ll want to know how our choice of expression falls on those we aim it towards and we’ll want to know if their experience of our expression will meet our objectives or not. If only the moments during which we experience anger happened more slowly so we could strategize toward that goal! All we can do is practice, build our skills, learn, read, surround ourselves with others who are also practicing, and do our best with support.

In NVC, we look at anger as an emotional signal that a crucial need of ours is not being met. Often we realize that we are looking for this crucial need to be met, as the song goes, in all the wrong places. The very good news is that once we’ve identified our needs, we can set about having them met in all the right places.

NVC does give us formulaic communication tools to help us express our anger in more constructive ways–without the need for the fantasy time slow-down mentioned above. We can observe, state our feelings, state our needs, and then make a request. This will sound absolutely ridiculous in the example I’m about to provide, but it really can work. I do this to make a point, however.

I’m noticing that when you punch me in the face, I’m feeling really angry.
I’m feeling angry because I have a need to be treated with respect and have my well-being protected.
I’d really like it if you would punch that bag over there instead of my face.

There are a bunch of aspects of NVC that I am still learning about, but which I currently call the “crucial invisibles”.
Or, as my wonderful trainer, Thom Bond might make into both a joke and a new word: “the crucibles”.

So, the point, which the forumla doesn’t point us to is: are we looking to have our needs met in all the wrong places?

Are we in a relationship while we value mutuality, respect, kindness, care, consideration, yet we do not get these needs met?
Are we in a job while we value competence, effectiveness, ease, respect, and integrity, yet we do not get these needs met?
Are we living in a place while we value peace, nature, rest, ease, and community, yet we do not get these needs met?

I asked Thom Bond if there had been any studies done on people who study NVC and whether or not they wind up making massive changes in their lives after learning these simple yet profound truths about feelings and needs, and he said he knew of no studies but that yes, people do tend to make life changes.

Are you in a workplace or relationship where your experience is that you’re banging your head against a wall? Your needs are probably not being met and you are probably having alot of unpleasant feelings about that. Is it realistic for you to get your core needs met in this relationship or in this workplace? These are very important questions for all of us to ask ourselves.

When we combine EI and NVC, we come up with a number of tools to help us deal with our anger. Sound Conflict Resolution methods can also help. NVC and EI have contributions to make to conflict resolution as well.

NVC TOOLS For Men and Women:
Please click on the letters “NVC” (below) to learn more about how NVC can help us all:


View more presentations from UCSC.

NVC Feelings List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

NVC Needs List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

In EI we look at assertiveness, flexibility, self-awareness, and a number of other important factors. The expression of anger is allowable in EI and certainly encouraged so long as it is productive and not violent.

Let’s say the conflict is that one person is punching another in the face (as above) and they’ve met to resolve this conflict.

If the person who is unequivocally punching the other person is the face is unaware that s/he is doing this, s/he is lacking in sufficient self-awareness. If the person being punched in the face is unaware that s/he is being punched in the face, s/he is lacking sufficient self-awareness.

(Bear with me, the face-punching is just a symbol of anything you’d like to substitute).

If the person being punched in the face is aware of this but is low in assertiveness, this could go on forever without ever being addressed.
If the person doing the punching is lacking in flexibility, s/he may not change the behavior and this could go on forever.

In NVC terms, we understand requests as things that can be responded to with a yes or a no.

So, if I ask Joe to please punch that punching bag instead of my face, he might say yes or no.
If he says, yes and his actions then follow through, we have success.

If he says, no, however, NVC teaches us that a NO is really a yes to something else. Maybe Joe will say that he has a medical problem, a spasm and he cannot control where he punches and he is very sorry that his hand keeps hitting your face. He’d like to punch the bag instead, but he needs a doctor’s help. Problem sovled!

However, what if Joe’s response is “Yeah, i’ll punch that bag instead of your face, sure!”
But, then Joe continues to punch you in the face with no further discussion.

NVC teaches us that this is a NO disguised as a yes. It is still a NO. The person being punched in the face has a crucial invisible:

Getting punched in the face sounds pretty horrible, and it probably is causing alot of unpleasant feelings and creating alot of unmet needs. What will this person do? Will they believe the yes that was spoken or the NO that is actually happening?

Will this person choose to stay far away from Joe? We can only hope.

In Conflict Resolution, we do our best to look at conflict as inevitable among humans and so an opportunity to get more information about the many possible solutions that exist and how anyone in the conflict can probably contribute. We also see the value of anger in conflict resolution and we encourage the expression of it. Again, we see anger as an important signal that something is very wrong.

We do our best to use behaviors such as inquiry so we can better understand the other’s position.
We do our best to use a measured amount of advocacy so we clearly state what we need and want; keeping in mind that needs are very different from positions. We may think we MUST have the window closed, when really we are cold and putting on a sweater may solve the problem.

We also do our best to look at unifying responses and remember that we are on the same team–if, in fact, we are. In many conflicts, we are not on the same team, and it’s important to recognize this.

Frequently in conflicts, we are the recipients of information we don’t really want. We learn about ourselves, how we come off to others, how we’ve been misunderstood, how we may have contributed to that, and how we have harmed others and made mistakes, sometimes very grave mistakes.

We also may learn that the other with whom we have a conflict doesn’t really meet our needs, doesn’t really care as much about the conflict or about fairness as we had hoped or thought, and we may find ourselves with difficult decisions to make:

Should I leave this job?
Should I leave this relationship?
Should I distance myself from this painful family relationship for my own well-being?

When conflicts become particularly difficult, it’s a great idea to involve a skilled mediator. However, not everyone is open to that. So what do you do when that happens?

In NVC, we say that if someone doesn’t want to connect with you, why would you want to connect with them? Ofcourse, this very reasonable question can feel glib if we’re talking about an important relationship such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or child. Sometimes, just a cooling off period is needed–but it needs to be a real cooling off period and not complete avoidance of attempts to connect and resolve.

In Conflict Resolution, we call this impasse, and there are many helpful ideas about how to address impasse.

In EI, we look at how a number of skills can be developed to increase the likelihood of each person’s ability to resolve conflict by being aware of self and others.

Perhaps most importantly, NVC addresses that we all have a right to have our needs met and that we never want to meet our needs at the expense of someone else’s, which is a huge point in many conflicts.

We also know that anger frequently masks hurt. There is a great deal of anger in the world. What are we angry about? What are we hurt about? What needs of ours are not being met? What are you angry about? What are you hurt about? What needs of yours are not being met? Are you looking for your needs to be met in all the wrong places?



About Denise A Romano

Denise A Romano is the author of The HR Toolkit: An Indispensable Resource for Being a Credible Activist, published by McGraw Hill in 2010. She is a workplace expert and has a strong interest in government, business, workplace, and personal ethics. She can be found on LinkedIn. View all posts by Denise A Romano

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