Don’t Get Yourself So Upset!

Here is the second blog post in our series edited by Jennifer Coleman, based on Connecting across Differences, which is being released in German this Fall. I hope you enjoy it!

Wanting to read Connecting across Differences in English? You can get your copy here!


I loved playing board games with my older brother when we were children. Inevitably, they would start out fun and end in tears and possibly with thrown Monopoly pieces. My older brother knew just how to push my buttons and as a child, I definitely thought my anger was his fault! The worst game was Sorry!….just when I almost had my game pieces in the safety zone, he would land on them and send them back to the beginning. Of course he would sarcastically say, “sorry,” but I never thought he meant it.

When I lived Germany as a nanny, I often played the same game with the children and I watched the incredible frustration they faced when losing. The game in German is more appropriately called “Mensch ärgere dich nicht!” which literally means, “Don’t get yourself so upset! “We have choice about our reactions. It is us getting us upset – no one is making us upset. This is a core principle of Nonviolent Communication. It means we take responsibility for own feelings and needs. It also gives us freedom and liberation, since it’s the first step to taking charge of own responses. 

Given all this, I guess I owe my big brother an apology!

Here’s a fun exercise from Connecting across Differences looking at how we react to the strong emotion of anger. You may wish to try this exercise with a friend or family member, to see what you might learn from and about each other!


EXERCISE 3: Developing Choice in Responding
to the Anger of Others

Part One
Imagine you are in each of these situations and then answer the
following questions:

A. Without thinking about it too much, what might your
“automatic” response be? Freely express all your judgments;
they will assist you in clarifying your needs.
B. What are your feelings and needs beneath your judgments?
C. Once you are connected to your feelings and needs, how
might you respond in each situation? Note that you may
choose to honesty express your own feelings and needs and/or
empathically respond to the speaker.

Example: Your boss says, “You’re incompetent and irresponsible.
You’re fired!” My response might be:
A. “You can keep your stupid job! Why would I want it anyway?
You have never liked me. You probably want to hire your son.”
B. I’m feeling angry, and underneath my anger I’m feeling
scared, hurt, and nervous. I’m wanting security, trust,
openness, and honesty.
C. Connected response: “I’m hearing you say that I’m
incompetent and irresponsible. Can you tell me what I’ve
done so I can understand why you’re upset with me?”


Now you can try:
1. Your partner says, “You’re not doing enough to help out at
home. They’re your kids too!”

2. Your sister says, “I’m tired of how you take the family for
granted—it’s always just about you and your work!”

3. When you question a bill at a service station, the attendant
says, “If you don’t like it, just take your business elsewhere.”

4. Your loved one says, “How come we always do what you
want to do?”

Part Two
Go back to each situation above and guess the feelings and needs of
the other person. Does this impact your feelings and needs about the
situation and how you might respond?

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