|Step 5: Determine your need.
"Wait a minute, my reliability warning light is on!" The executive who
thought the employee "ruined the presentation" remembered that his anger was
just a warning. When he looked underneath his anger, translated his judgments and
discovered his underlying needs, he realized that he values reliability, integrity, and
trust very highly. Focusing on these needs brought a shift in the executive's state of
mind. His anger dissolved. Instead, once in touch with these unmet needs, the executive
felt worry and a pang of disappointment.
Even the harshest labels like "psychopath" are just veiled expressions of
unmet needs. When a person calls someone a psychopath, it's tragic expression of his or
her needs, possibly for predictability, trust, or safety. Tragic because the very act of
calling someone a psychopath almost guarantees that the underlying needs will continue
to go undiscovered, unexpressed, and unmet.
The beauty of being able to correctly interpret your feelings as warning signals is
that once you discover what you need, you are back in a powerful position to act toward
getting your need met! You can use the human needs inventory in chapter five of
Nonviolent Communication to develop your vocabulary of needs.
Having named your need, spend a while really noticing how important reliability is to
you, how you yearn for it, how much more satisfying life is when that need is satisfied.
You're Half Way There!
In the previous steps you've explored how you are. In Step 2, you took a more
accurate look at what the other person did. In Step 3, you took responsibility for your
feelings, and in Step 4, you took ownership of your thinking and began looking
underneath at your natural feelings and needs. You chose to use your thinking
powerfully, as a way to clarify what you value. In Step 5, you experience a fuller sense
of self because you've gotten in touch with your needs.
In the following steps you will explore who can do what so everyone's needs will be
met. With Step 6, you begin to envision actions that are in harmony with meeting those
Step 6: Find the do behind the don't
When they are angry, people often focus on the behavior that they want the other
person to stop. But this is similar to wanting your car to stop overheating. You can
want your car to stop overheating but you're stuck with a car that overheats until you
identify what needs to be fixed and take the actions needed to fix it.
The executive in the previous example may identify that he needs greater trust and
reliability when it comes to presentations being made on time and with materials he
enjoys using. If he has been trained the way most of us have, he may be tempted to think
he wants to tell the other person, "Don't show up late and don't bring coffee
stained handouts." The problem is that the person may not show up at all rather
than being late, or show up without handouts rather than soiled ones.
He is much more likely to get his needs met if he can come to an agreement around a
"positive" request that states clearly what actions would meet his needs. For
example, "Would you agree to call me 30 minutes before the meeting so I know you
will be on time and put the handouts in a protective envelope as soon as they are
copied?" Place your focus on what you do want, not on what you don't want.
Step 7: Think of a clear action request.
Earlier, you saw that angry people think they're angry because other people made them
angry. Now you harness the power to undo this misconception and focus on the power you,
and others have – the power to deliberately make life more wonderful through the use
of a "present tense" request.
"I want you to be reliable" is not a clear and doable request. In this
step, the idea is to envision the other person doing or saying something right now that
is in harmony with your desire and likely to meet your need. Ask yourself, "Right
now, what could the other person say or do to honor my needs?"
For instance, a man passed over for a long expected promotion was keenly aware of his
unmet needs for recognition and respect. He had already gotten clear about how to say
what had happened, his feelings about it, and his needs. Only then did he consider
making a very clear "positive action" request. He decided that the following
would be a good beginning request for the dialogue he wanted to have with his boss:
"Would you review at least two projects with me that I completed this year, and
that you believe improved the company's market position?"
The man realized that his request was a "future request" and to really stay
connected with his boss he wanted to make a "present action" request. To do
this the man asked himself what action his boss could take in the moment he made his
He figured out two requests that his boss could respond to right now. The first was
starting with, "Would you agree to..." This creates an agreement in this
moment to do something in the future. It is something the other person can respond to
immediately. He also added, " …within the next week" This request creates a
definite time period during which the agreed upon action will take place. Now the
complete request is positive in action language and in time. "Would you agree to
review with me, within the next week, at least two projects that I completed this year,
and that you believe improved the company's market position?"
Step 8: Name their feelings and needs.
Just like coins, every situation has at least two sides. If you really want to
reliably meet your own needs, it is important to make sure that the other person's needs
are met as well. This step is about demonstrating your understanding that your needs can
never be fully met at someone else's expense. It is about shining the light of awareness
on your own feelings, needs and requests and also shining it on people in your life as
Use steps 2 through 7 to guess in your mind what the other person is experiencing.
The essential element is to guess without worrying about guessing accurately. This is
your best attempt to imagine what the other person desires, what the other person needs
when they are acting as they do.
Remember, you haven't started talking yet. You're thinking hard, but you haven't yet
spoken to the other person.
So guess at their feelings. Translate the statement, "He's compulsive!"
into what you imagine the other person does want. For example, maybe they crave beauty
and order (and that's why they're after you to pick up the dirty socks on the floor), or
maybe they are yearning to be nurtured, cared for, or loved (and that's why they
complain about you spending time with your friends). At this point, even though you are
not talking to the other person yet, you are seeing the person differently. You are
replacing your "enemy" image of the other person with a vision of something
beautiful and sweet – the vision of a human being with needs, who seeks to make life
more enjoyable by satisfying those needs.
Step 9: Decide whose need you will talk about first.
Think big. Enjoy imagining that everybody's needs will be understood and honored –
no one will "win" at someone else's expense. The process is complete only
after both people have been heard and understood and walk away satisfied. You're not yet
done when only one person has been heard and understood.
Only one person, however, can be heard at a time. So, now you ask yourself the
following questions to determine who will be speak first and who will listen first. Do
you want to express how you are and invite the other person's understanding? Or do you
want to extend your understanding to the other person first? Who is in the greatest
distress? Who has the greatest clarity? Consider what happens when the person with
greater clarity chooses to focuses their attention first on hearing the feelings and
needs of the person in greatest distress. Being heard in this way the other person will
most likely experience relief and clarity, and be more willing to consider your needs.
Either way, you are the one focusing the light of awareness during the conversation.
You will be the one who will focus on feelings, needs and values, and determining whose
needs to explore first. If you choose to express, you'll be revealing your feelings,
needs and requests, which you identified earlier. If you choose to receive, you'll
invite the other person to reveal their feelings, needs and requests, which you guessed
about in the previous step.
Step 10: Now start talking.
Ask yourself the following questions before you begin talking: Are you clear about
what you're reacting to? Are you in touch with your feelings and needs? Do you have a
hunch about the other person's feelings, needs and values? Do you know what you want to
have happen next? Okay, now's the time to talk! Here are some suggestions about what to
say (and what not to say).
First, don't say anything from Step 3. This is the blameful thinking that fueled the
anger in the first place. Instead, stick to Step 2 and state a clear observation.
("I have been thinking about how you spend three nights a week with your
friends.") Then jump to Step 4 and be open about how you are feeling. Remember to
choose a feeling that comes from the heart or a body sensation like, "I feel lonely
and sad." Watch out if you start by saying, "I feel that" or "I feel
like you…" - remind yourself that what is likely to follow is analyzing or
blaming, and that you are unlikely to get what you want by speaking this way. Remember:
express emotions and body sensations, not analysis or blame.
Once you've named the feeling that replaced your anger when you got in touch with
your needs, name your needs out loud. ("I realize I need more companionship than
I'm getting.") Then make a request that invites a response from the other that will
make life more fulfilling right now. ("Would you be willing to agree to spend every
Tuesday and Saturday evening with me?")
The other person will also want understanding for their needs. But chances are, they
won't have done all the internal work you just did. They will probably go straight to
Step 3. They may be saying something out loud like, "You're so selfish, it's always
about you isn't it?" Just the blameful sorts of things you've just refrained from
saying to them! That's okay. You can handle it. Choose to empathically receive whatever
they say. Move your attention to their feelings and needs. Guess what action they might
like you to take. "So are you worried (feeling) about consideration for your needs
(need) and want to know that I am willing to consider them as well (action)?"
Telling a person that you hear what they want is not the same as agreeing to do it.
By hearing what they want, you make sure you understand clearly so you can let them know
how you are about doing it. When you demonstrate that you really understand what they
feel and need, you will be amazed how quickly they will trust that their needs are
important to you, and as a result will be open to considering your needs in return. They
are also likely to be more receptive to various strategies for meeting their needs.
So, let's recap.
In steps 1 through 3 you learned new ways of understanding and relating to feelings
In Step 1 you learned that anger is a valuable warning signal that tells you to stop
and look under your "emotional hood" at your feelings and needs, and to begin
to look for outcomes that would make life more satisfying.
In Step 2 you learned to identify "just the facts."
In Step 3 you learned that your feelings result from your needs being met, or not
met, and are never the result of what another person does or doesn't do.In steps four
through ten you practice new ways of relating to yourself and others.
In Step 4 you take ownership of your thinking and focus your attention on your
feelings and needs.
In Step 5 you experience a fuller sense of self because you get in touch with your
needs and realize that you can take positive action in meeting those needs.
In Step 6 and 7, you begin to envision positive actions that are in harmony with
meeting your needs right now.
In Step 8 you refocus your awareness on the others involved, connect with their
feelings and needs, and identify actions that might contribute to meeting their needs.
In Step 9 you choose who you would like to speak first, knowing that you can continue
the dialog until everyone's needs are met through actions everyone is willing to take.
In Step 10, you finally put it all together and begin a dance of communication, where
you take turns expressing how you are and receiving how the other person is. You stay
focused on making clear requests and tuned in to how you feel about what is being
requested of you. You continue to dance until everyone's needs are met through actions
everyone agrees to take. Summing up.
Every minute, every one of us is alive with needs and values, seeking expression. You
love to live in harmony with your values, and you love to contribute to others'
experience of harmony, when you can do so with no element of coercion involved. Moment
by moment, with honesty and empathy, you can meet your needs, and bring your values to
life. Practicing these 10 Steps you truly can transform anger into compassionate