Stephanie Misaki Whiting, ENFJ, MS


. . . Part 3 of a series of four articles on Anger Management

Concerned about your anger? Does it feel like a symptom of "worseness" rather than wellness? Is your anger behavior becoming noticeable or disruptive in the workplace? Have your personal relationships begun to suffer?

In this series of four articles, I will focus on practical steps that can help you change how you experience and deal with your anger. Following these steps, you will learn how to pay attention to your anger and how to handle it in a calmer, more effective way. You can learn to use your anger constructively by letting your anger become a wellness lesson.

Step 3: Getting Your Needs Met

The previous articles in this series have prepared you to notice when you start to get angry, to pause while taking a deep breath and in that pause, to identify your thoughts, feelings and assumptions about the trigger situation. You have been encouraged to practice these steps in order to change your automatic anger behaviors. The next step, channeling your motivation and energy into getting your needs met, is the focus of this article.

As a result of your practice, you may have identified which types of situations or interactions lead to your becoming upset. What other emotions do you feel in these situations? Is it fear, disappointment, embarrassment, or hurt? Anger may be the primary emotion, but upon reflection, you may have discovered underlying emotional needs. The previous article asked you to explore the thoughts and feelings behind your anger in order to gain perspective on your unmet needs. Once you have a clearer picture, how can you more effectively communicate this to others?

Express yourself using "I" language.
Saying "I am disappointed and frustrated" rather than "You're frustrating me" lets the other person know how you feel. Your "I" statements are not blaming and do not put the other person on the defensive.

Use objective, specific language . . .
. . . avoiding put-downs, sarcasm or accusations. Describe your concerns specifically without resorting to global, inflammatory language that may result in escalating conflict. The statement "I worry when it's late and I don't know when you're coming home" works much better than "You never think of anyone else, but yourself!"

State your request simply, avoiding demands or challenges.

Say "Would you call me, if you're going to be late?" rather than "If you don't call me the next time you're late, don't bother coming home." Being able to talk about what you want requires leaving room for two-way communication!

Listening is a Communication Skill

An equally important part of effective communication is active listening. Active listening promotes accuracy of communication. It involves giving the other person your complete attention and clarifying their messages. You do this by using phrases and questions that are door openers, such as, "This sounds important to you, can you tell me more?" or "It sounds like you're worried about this, help me understand your point of view."

Restating your impression of the other person's message can also help to clarify the speaker's intended meaning, for example, "You're saying that it feels unfair." Door opening statements invite more information exchange and facilitate the expression of feelings. In addition to showing attentiveness, active listening helps to promote warmth and acceptance between people, leading to a sense of openness and equality. Remember to be attentive, ask follow-up questions and rephrase what you've heard.

Keeping a Cool Head

When talking about your anger, use language that helps you to maintain your composure without escalating the emotionality of the situation. Avoid name-calling and profanity, because these kinds of words objectify and dehumanize others. Name-calling and profanity can lead to unfair treatment and be used to justify hostility, adding fuel to the fire. If you are in the habit of using emotionally hurtful words, dismantle your own personal "arsenal," it will help you to keep a cooler head and be less damaging to your relationships.

Another way to keep a cool head is to consider using words such as "irritated," "concerned," "displeased" or "annoyed" rather than using "angry" or "mad" or slang words that indicate extreme anger. These more neutral terms are less emotionally loaded and less likely to "fan the flames." Using milder language can help keep you at a "3" instead of escalating your anger to an "8" or "10." With a cooler head, you will be better able to understand what your anger is telling you and what you need to do about it.

The last article in this series will combine your breathing practice with daily mindfulness meditation. You will learn how to use centering techniques to increase your awareness of the flow and rhythms of life. Handling your anger well is a part of living your life day to day, building awareness and understanding that will help you make choices for a more rewarding and balanced life.

>>Part 4: Practicing Calming Techniques

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