This article is part of an ongoing agency focus on preventing assaults in Charlotte County, highlighted in a community letter from Sheriff Prummell in August. The article is authored by Jean Tucker, LMHC, Assistant Vice President of Outpatient Services at Charlotte Behavioral Health Care.
Dealing with anger – whether yours or someone else’s – can be difficult. Most anger is based on an underlying feeling of sadness, disappointment, or fear; and some people feel that anger is a stronger reaction than the underlying emotions.
As we process emotions, we use “self-talk” or “self-statements” that can increase or decrease our anger.
For example, if a store clerk treats you in a way you feel is disrespectful, you could react with the self-statement of “Wow, they must be having a really bad day to lash out like that”, or you could react with the self statement of “Who do they think they are to talk to me like that?” The second reaction can lead to increased anger and a loss of control of your emotions. When this happens, you should walk away, take some deep breaths to calm down, or ask to speak with another employee.
Anger can be short term if you’re dealing with a stranger, but if there is someone in your life that causes you to feel angry or you’re scared about their anger, there are some things to keep in mind.
- When talking about a subject that could lead to anger, notice how you’re feeling. If you start to get angry or you notice that the other person is starting to get angry, you can say to the other person something like “I’m starting to get upset. Could we please take a break and talk about this in 30 mins (or tonight at 9 or tomorrow morning at 8)?”
- Using “I” statements is less confrontational. The difference between “I’m starting to feel upset” and “You’re making me angry” sends two very different messages.
- Suggest a time to return to the subject. This allows the person to know that they will get to make their point. By doing this, the other person is less likely to want to continue the discussion just to make sure (s)he tells you her/his point of view.
- Make sure that you return to the discussion as agreed.
- If the discussion again starts to escalate, it’s okay to take a second or third or fourth time out until both people have been heard and a compromise has been reached.
Sometimes in personal relationships we allow people to “push our buttons”. This happens when someone wants to get us angry, so they say or do things that they know will push us into feeling angry.
If this happens, remember that self-statements have a lot of impact on the outcome. One reaction is “Wow, this person is really trying to get me upset, but that’s not going to happen” or another is “They know I don’t like that and are doing it even though they know I hate it” which can lead to increased anger. Try to stop the anger before it escalates and say something like, “When you do that, it really makes me feel like you don’t respect me.”
Again, “I” statements are seen as less aggressive, so use this formula when making statements:
- “When you ______, it makes me feel _______, and I really need you to _________” OR
- “I feel ___________ when __________. May we talk about it can work well.”
If you continue to have feelings of anger, and you need more help with ways to understand you’re reactions, please seek professional help to work through your triggers and learn coping skills.
If you are in a relationship where you are fearful of being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, please contact your local domestic abuse shelter to help.