By , October 17, 2008 11:24 am

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This month: From Instant “Ahah!” Mini-Manual, p. 7, #2.Active Listening: Short-Circuiting An Angry Confrontation.

Radical Idea: Greet Anger With Empathy!!!!

As I’ve gone through the week, I’ve realized how radical this idea and how worth saying again: “An angry person is a hurting person. Try responding with empathic understanding (Active Listening) instead of attacking back.”

I guess I have become an expert on anger, hurt, and empathy because I am a person who can become really, really angry when I feel betrayed or otherwise blindsided by those that I trust. I’ve come to some understanding about this “personality style” by studying the Enneagram. Of the nine styles, I am an 8: The Challenger, The Boss. “How does an 8 Enneagram cross the river? She jumps in and starts swimming upstream.”

8s are great managers and bosses, but they can also scare people with their anger, assertiveness, bluntness. As an 8, I don’t really know how to “play games,” to be indirect. Give me directness, even anger, anytime! Let me know where you are coming from. Don’t hide or seem to go behind my back. You can imagine the vicious cycle for 8 bosses: they get angry because others are being indirect, seeming to hide, going behind their back — and their anger leads the others to become more indirect, more hidden.

Anyway, from a lifetime of experience, I can tell you that the angry 8 is just a hurting child underneath. While the 8 can look terribly strong and take on any battle, this strong front takes a toll. Like anyone else, the angry 8 responds to empathic understanding (see Enneagram links to find your own personality style).

Read through the examples in Instant “Ahah!” Mini-Manual #2: Active Listening again. What if the husband had attacked back when his wife came at him with anger: “Shut up! You can’t imagine what my day has been like.” Now, two people with their hackles up, attack and attack back (until one of them can respond with empathy: “Okay, I get it. You’re saying you had a really bad day and are needing some empathy and understanding.”(you can download complete chapters on the Interpersonal Focusing Protocol here, from the links at top of page, English and Spanish.

Practice Active Listening In Non-Stressful Situations

Of course, in order to respond with Active Listening in an emergency, you’ll want to practice it in less stressful situations until it can become an automatic response. You can do this through our Self-Help Manual and Demonstration DVD. And you can also learned Active (or Empathic or Focused) Listening as part of a Listening/Focusing Level l class. See Resources for teachers below

Self Help Package

To really learn about Reflection, read Focused Listening at Creative Edge Focusing (TM). To begin practice in a serious way, purchase The Self Help Package, a manual,CDs, and a DVD with four Listening/Focusing Sessions you can study. The manual will help you to find at least one other, and, hopefully, a small group with whom you can start a Focusing Community, supporting each other as you practice Listening and Focusing.

E-Support Group

If you haven’t, also use the sidebar icon at Creative Edge Focusing to join the e-support group so you can share your experiences, ask questions, and participate in demonstrations.  

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 See Core Concept: Conflict Resolution to find a complete mini-course on Interpersonal Focusing and Conflict Resolution, including Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication, Blanchard’s “One Minute Apology,” Patricia Evan’s books on Verbally Abuse and Controlling Relationships, McMahon’s Beyond The Myth Of Dominance, and much more.

See Core Concept: Intimate Relationship to find a complete mini-course on increasing intimacy and sexuality, including the “Sharing Your Day” exercise, Listening/Focusing Partnerships for The Way of Relationship, untangling and equalizing desire, tantric sexuality, and much more.

Download complete Instant “Ahah!” Mini-Manual, in English and Spanish, from CEF Website, or download from links at top of this blog.

Find links to free articles, personality tests, multi-media Self-Help training, Classes and workshops

Dr. Kathy McGuire, Director

Creative Edge Focusing (TM)


  1. Panic Attack Cures…

    Panic Attack Disorder…

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