Monday, March 18, 2013

How To Communicate Anger In A Healthy Way

Effective communication is a key ingredient in managing anger and stress. However, because people tend to communicate their anger in one of two ways, aggressively or passively, effective communication does not always occur. Despite what you might think, the vast majority of people suppress their anger and wind up carrying it around in the form of resentment. This approach is unhealthy and unproductive. Consequently, in order to communicate anger in a healthy way you need to translate your upsetting thoughts into words and actions that are not offensive to the people around you. In other words, you need to express exactly how you feel, in a way that takes other people’s feelings into consideration.

Keeping in mind that there are four styles of communication, it is important to realize that most of us use different ways of communicating depending on the situation, our mood, and the behavior of the person with whom we are attempting to communicate. The four styles are as follows:

Passive communication: The passive communicator avoids direct eve contact, fails to accurately express his or her feelings, and tends to have low self-esteem. His or her anger is self-directed rather than toward the source of the anger.

Passive-Aggressive communication: The passive aggressive communicator sounds passive but is hostile in his or her manner of speaking. He or she will often use sarcasm and other hostile gesture to get a point across. The listener is left without any indication of what the passive aggressive communicator needs or wants.

Aggressive communication: The aggressive communicator invades the space of the listener and speaks in a threatening manner and may even throw objects, glare, or attempt to intimidate the listener. He or she often attempts to blame the listener for whatever the source of the disagreement may be.

Assertive communication: the assertive communicator speaks in a reasonable tone, establishes eye contact with the listener, uses “I” messages, and clearly states his or her needs, feelings, and requests. He, or she, invites the listener to work towards a mutually satisfactory resolution of the conflict. The assertive communicator consciously influences the listener by his or her own behavior. He or she demonstrates emotional intelligence skills.

In reviewing the four styles of communication, it becomes clear that assertive communication is the most effective manner of communication when attempting to express feelings. The following is an outline of how to effectively communicate anger:

First, state your position using “I” statements, such as “I feel upset when you yell at me my in front of my coworkers.” Remember to be mindful of “you” statements like: “You shouldn’t criticize me in front of co-workers,” or “You make me angry,” and avoid them completely. You are communicating your feelings; therefore, you must take ownership of them by using “I”. When at all possible, substitute any other word for the word “angry” since this word is such a button-pusher. Use words like hurt, upset, confused, or disappointed. By always formatting your opening statement in this way you will prevent an immediate counter-attack that would prevent your message from being heard.

In his book, Anger at Work, Dr. Hendrie Weisinger reveals three secret weapons for effectively communicating anger: Listening, Negotiation, and Praise.

Listening: Once you make your opening statement (I feel upset when…), listen to what the other person has to say in response. When you listen attentively, you validate the other person’s feelings. You can add to this sense of validation by saying, “I can understand why you would feel that way…?” Please keep in mind that sometimes, even when you carefully format your opening statement, the other person may still counter-attack. If this happens, just keep restating your position until the person responds appropriately.

Negotiation: When you’re angry, it’s hard to concede anything to the person you are angry with. You will be more likely to get what you want in the long run if you come to the table prepared to make some kind of concession.

Praise: Praising the person you are angry with may seem like a contradiction, but, if done properly, it will take the edge off your criticism. For example: “I appreciate how quickly you got that letter out, but next time you type a letter, please run it by me before mailing it.” Mixing in a bit of praise, as long as it is sincere, lets the person know you care about him or her.

For further information about communicating anger in a healthy way, please visit our website at, or call us at 1-888-992-6479 today.