Listen For The Feeling and Need

The other day I put up a video on my Facebook page. It was a very angry and violent individual. He was angry over the way the perceived people were treating him. I will put a link to the video to remind everyone of what I talking about.

See the video here.

At the time I asked what do you think the feelings and needs are that are being expressed. This can be something very hard to see when someone is acting the way this man was.

I will share a secret with you right now. When we communicate we are only ever really saying two things. There are only two ideas we can really communicate when we share with others. They are either “please” or “thank you.” That is it. I know it sounds crazy. I want you to really think about it, though. When we are angry, like the man in the video, what are we asking of others?

In those moments of anger what we are really saying is, “Please hear my feeling and understand my need.” When we get below the anger and aggression that is the heart of our expression. We are telling others we are in pain and just want to be heard and understood.

The expression of Thank you come in when we are grateful to another for helping us to meet a need. When we feel understood and accepted we say thank you in so many different ways. “I really enjoyed this evening out, it was fun.” Is us saying “thank you.”

Now for the video. First, we need to determine if this person is expression please or thank you. What do you think? To me, he seems to be asking everyone around, “Please hear my pain and listen to my need.” What this person was looking for was just some basic compassion and understanding. If there was one person in the place that was able to hear that and express a willingness to listen the whole situation could have been different.

In our continued evaluation of this video let’s next look at the emotions he may have felt. Of course, there was the obvious anger. Anger is more of a mask emotion. It is a secondary feeling we use to hide our true feelings. I hear scared, longing, self-conscious, leery, or heartbroken. What other emotions can you guys hear? Feel free to use the feelings list on the site to help.

Now we come to the need. That may not always be the most obvious of things to pick out. We all have different needs and we express the emotions around those needs differently. When we are dealing with a friend or a family member who is express anger it can be greatly beneficial to at least guess at the needs expressed. Even if we are wrong the other person is likely to be thankful that we tried to connect with them. They will often be able to explore for themselves what the need is.

Back to our video. I hear so many needs being expressed by this guy. He is asking for understanding, awareness, consideration, hope, or inclusion. The only way to know for sure what someone’s needs are is to ask. We can say, “It sounds like you are needing to be understood right now?”

When we ask a question like that it almost takes the other person off guard. Most people never expect to hear someone ask that. At that moment the angry or hurt person will go to a place of almost calm. They will appreciate that someone is willing to try to connect with empathy and compassion to there feeling and need. It is one of the most powerful ways to disarm an angry person.

In your daily life with for spouse or loved ones could this be helpful? Could this idea of hearing the feeling behind the anger allow you to connect more and hear clearly what is being asked? It is not an easy thing to do but with practice, you can start to hear the “please” and “thank you” in everyday conversation.

You can find the feeling and needs list here.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Matthew Plotner

Matthew is the producer and host of That Emotional Crap. He has spent the last twelve years learning all he can about anger, well all emotions really.