Anytime we endeavor to learn something new, especially if it’s a new language process like NVC that is transformative and healing, it’s a journey. Like a road trip. All kinds of bumps may appear in the road, detours, construction, harsh weather. Sharp curves may come up unexpectedly, ice patches on the road, accidents, traffic jams, you name it.
Many years ago I attended an NVC International 9-Day Intensive Training in New York City. At one point a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of the cultural/talent-sharing program and raised her voice in anger. She was shouting so that everyone in the auditorium could hear and see that she was furious about something that wasn’t meeting some of her needs. She wasn’t expressing through the four steps in that order, but she touched on her observation, her feelings of anger, and what she was feeling so indignant about. I don’t recall if she stated a request or what she would have liked to see. When someone is feeling intense anger it’s extremely difficult to remember the fourth step of making positive requests.
At the time I felt annoyed and disappointed that none of the world-class NVC facilitators in the room tried to calm her down or ask her to soften her voice. I felt slightly frightened by the outburst and needed some emotional safety.
Years later I grew into an understanding of why those facilitators let her express her anger fully in the natural way she knew how to. Raising one’s voice, even shouting, yelling or screaming, isn’t wrong in NVC–especially for beginners. It may be less likely to evoke compassion or connection, but it is an honest statement of intense, sizzling feelings. Sometimes it may even frighten people into fulfilling our requests if they feel worried or apprehensive about future outbursts of anger or rage. Rosenberg said that the emotional force of anger may motivate people to meet some of our needs, but not necessarily for the heartfelt reasons we’d prefer to have them meet our needs.
Still and all, it’s a step along the journey, a rough patch. It does serve to inform us of a need or needs that are painfully unmet. We sometimes feel embarrassed or regret about our angry horn blasts, because we needed more competence with our NVC skills. We also feel worried about any future fallout from our outbursts.
A friend sent me an email filled with road signs that were intended to be amusing. One of them was an actual highway sign that reads:
NO HORN BLOWING
Except for Anger
Now and then, we all find ourselves leaning on the horn of our car or of our emotions. Maybe not a pleasant part of the human experience, but very much a part of it nonetheless.