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FIRST ARTICLE Feel a Fight Coming On?
By Wayland Myers, Ph.D.

Would you like to transform your intimate partner's anger into an opportunity for connection and growth? The most common emotion I've seen couples struggle with is anger. This is what often happens:

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SECOND ARTICLE Marshall Rosenberg to Receive the
CHAMPION of Forgiveness Award
from The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance

Sunday, August 3, 2014


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NVC Academy Theme of the Month

Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. talks about the keys to prevent all forms of conflict and violence in this 10-minute video.
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Author News
Marshall Rosenberg to Receive the CHAMPION of Forgiveness Award from The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance
Keep reading this article below >>
NVC Quote of the Month

"Use anger as a wake-up
call to unmet needs.


"Anger is a signal that
you're distracted by
judgmental or punitive
thinking, and that some
precious need of yours
is being ignored."


"If we wish to express
anger fully, the first step
is to divorce the other
person from any
responsibility for
our anger."


Feel a Fight Coming On? ...continued

Someone gets angry (usually because they are hurting or afraid). The couple comes together to try to resolve the anger. So far so good. But then the trouble starts — their dialogue is filled with ways of speaking and thinking that tend to make matters worse, like blaming, shaming, accusation, criticism, name-calling, defensiveness, and even silence. The new pain is added to the initial pain, and an ever-mushrooming spiral of pain is born. What a lovely outcome. But, gratefully, there's hope.

Stop the Cycle

When caught in that spiral of pain, some couples break off all communication, leaving the initial issue unresolved. Remaining unresolved, the issue can become an irritant that continues to show up in future conversations. As unresolved issues pile up, it becomes even harder to resolve new ones. Nonviolent Communication can help us stop this cycle from beginning in the first place.

Marshall Rosenberg has an insight into anger that I love. He believes that when we are angry, three things are true:

We are experiencing a strong need and feel an urgent desire to have it met. (We may want to feel safe, valued, or connected to others; we may want to make our own choices, to believe we matter, to be heard, etc.)

Because our need is so important, we don't want others to have a choice about meeting it, so when we talk about our need we apply moralistic rules that we hope will compel others to meet our need. (These rules sound like: "I deserve... You should... The right way is... That's not fair, you're supposed to... ").

Because we believe our rules are correct, we feel justified in treating others in unpleasant ways that will almost guarantee that they won't care about meeting our needs. Oops.

This is a sorry cycle, but it does reveal how we can convert anger into understanding and connection. First, we can recognize that the moralistic rules our partner has about how we should or shouldn't act are just their attempt to compel others to meet their needs. The rules themselves don't really matter. What does matter is to identify the unmet needs that are embedded within these rules.

How I do this?

Look Beyond the Rules

The first thing I do is set aside my reaction to what the person has said, if I can.  Then, I begin my search to identify their unmet needs by saying something like this, "When I hear that you are upset about this, it tells me there was a way you wanted to be treated that didn't happen. Am I right?"

This usually brings an affirmation and another round of venting. Then, I deepen my search for their unmet needs by asking a question something like this, "If you could have been treated in a way that was perfect for you, what would that look like? What would have happened?"

Connect to the "Dream"

This gets them thinking about a positive, the dream they have for how they would like to be treated. I often have to help people develop the details of this dream because most people are more used to knowing what they don't want, rather than what they do.

I then try this question, "If your dream happened, if you were treated exactly as you would like to be, how would that be better for you? What would make that way of being treated a lot more satisfying, valuable or comfortable for you?" These questions usually evoke responses like, "Then I would know that my feelings mattered," "I wouldn't be yelled at," "Then I would feel respected," "Then I wouldn't be so scared." Now their needs are beginning to show.

Use the Clues to Find the Need

Luckily, their answers are really clues — I can use them to begin guessing what their unmet needs might be. Like presenting a person with different clothes to try on, I present my guesses and let them decide what fits. We keep trying different possibilities, narrowing the search, until we have a sense that, yeah, that's it.

Here's an example: They say, "I want my feelings to matter too." I respond, "So it's important that you are listened to?" "Yeah, why does everybody else get to have their say and I don't?" I respond, "I think you're telling me that you too want to have a say in choosing what we do." "Yeah." "OK, I can understand you'd like the power to influence our decision just as much as anyone else" "Yeah, what am I, chopped liver?" "You certainly aren't, and I very much regret that you got that impression." "OK, thanks."

See the Potential Beyond the Fight

In this dialog, you can see that I start with what they say they want, and then burrow my way down until we are talking about some basic need – like the need to be heard, to be valued. I know when we've gotten to the heart of their anger when we both feel a deep sense of relief and relaxation. This is the deepest form of empathy I know and it transforms the alienation of anger into the joy of connection. While it took me a while to learn how to do this, I not only have less fear of anger, I have a sense of eagerness about what needs our search will reveal, and the sense of closeness that search will create.  


Wayland Myers, Ph.D. is a psychologist living in the Northern part of San Diego County who writes books and articles on Nonviolent Communication and other applications of compassion. He was introduced to the Nonviolent Communication process in 1986 by its creator Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, and has since used it extensively in his personal and professional lives with profound and deeply valued results. He is also the author of Nonviolent Communication: The Basics As I Know and Use Them, which has sold over 27,000 copies in English, French, German, and Spanish.


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"The cause of anger
lies in our thinking -
in thoughts of blame
and judgment."

"Every moment each
human being is doing the
best we know at that
moment to meet our needs."

"We never do anything that
is not in the service of a
need, there is no conflict
on our planet at the level
of needs. We all have the
same needs. The problem
is in our strategies for
meeting the needs."




Nonviolent Communication:
The Basics As I Know
and Use Them
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CHAMPION of Forgiveness Award from The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance
... continued

Forgiveness Day 2014

Marshall Rosenberg is scheduled to receive the CHAMPION of Forgiveness Award, given by The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance, at the 18th Annual Forgiveness Day Event on August 3, 2014.

The "Champions of Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Peace" designation is bestowed upon those whose professional work inspires and leads the way by defining, applying and spreading the concept of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.

The award will be presented at the Angelico Hall, Dominican College, San Rafael, CA 94901, in a ceremony lasting from 7pm to 9:30pm. For more information or to attend the event, please visit:
The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance

CNVC Certified Trainer Christine King, from Santa Cruz, California, will receive the award on Marshall's behalf.

Who is the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance?

Mission Statement

The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)3 tax-deductible organization whose mission is to evoke the healing spirit of Forgiveness worldwide.  We declare that “Forgiveness Is the Greatest Healer of Them All”1 and that “Without Forgiveness There Is No Future”.

To accomplish this far-reaching mission we have set the following goals:

  1. To establish an International Forgiveness Day in every village and hamlet across the world by the year 2025.
  2. To bring the curative powers of forgiveness to the elderly, to youth, to chemically dependent and/or abused women, men and children through classes, workshops and seminars.
  3. To promote the practice of forgiveness as a Life Skill and to develop curriculum, classes and workshops for children, youth and adults of all ages.
  4. To develop training programs to certify counselors as “Forgiveness Life Skill Teachers.”
  5. To create forgiveness workshops and seminars in corporations to effectuate breakthroughs and help increase net profits.  The benefits of forgiveness training breakthroughs make possible more creative, stress-free and happy job relationships which can increase net profits.
  6. To promote and publicize the research findings that Forgiveness creates better health, abundance and ease, more joy, greater optimism and hope and lessens depression, stress, illness, disease.  Forgiveness also opens one to more lasting, happy, supportive relationships. 
  7. To help develop and conduct further research to quantify and codify the powerful effects of the applied practice of forgiveness in a multiplicity of settings. 
  8. To create entertainment/learning events (Forgiveness Film Festivals, Forgiveness Concerts, etc) in communities around the world.