I came around the corner to find someone loudly swearing at his child. After questioning whether there was a better way to handle it, he turned his anger toward me expressing that he would handle it however he wished. I associated such behavior as a precursor to physical violence and fear welled up in me.
I asked him to leave because yelling and swearing directed at a child (or me) was not acceptable in my space. My request temporarily addressed my need for peace. It provided a solution. While I wanted to send a message that the behavior was not okay with me, it unintentionally suggested the feelings were not valid. (You may always feel what you feel; however, feelings do not justify harmful behavior to yourself or anyone else). It shut down communication and did not allow us to get to the heart of the matter, or create resolution.
Creating resolution takes more time and energy. Resolution delves deeper and understands that when someone expresses anger or frustration they are asking for help. A person may really be saying, “look at me” or “listen to me” or “please help meet my needs.”
In hindsight, I would: 1) acknowledge the anger or frustration, 2) listen to understand what both he and the child need in the moment, 3) create a personal boundary for safety while respecting their needs.
In a formal mediation setting, it may be easier. I can listen for underlying need and clarify what might be happening as a neutral person. Even so, a myriad of ways exists for asking someone to help meet our needs.
Marshall Rosenberg invites folks to envision asking someone for the word for “please help me.” Someone tells you the word is (insert swear word), and you go around saying (swear word) when you really mean, please help me. Knowing the words “please help me” does not necessarily increase the comfort in asking, especially when emotions run high.
What help looks like to each person takes a variety of meanings as well. In some situations helping involves support in fixing, and some times it calls for understanding and listening. Be mindful of what the person really wishes to receive. Be clear about the type of help you want as well.
What words do you use to ask for what you need? Are you listening for others needs as well?