True or False: you can prevent another person from getting angry.
Whatever your response to the above 'true' or 'false' statement may provide insight into your response to another person's discharge of anger.
There are behaviors we consider acceptable and those we deem unacceptable. The inappropriate discharge of anger is among the behaviors we consider unsuitable. Anger management divides opinion. The dividing line seems thin regarding whether anger management is effective or ineffective. Some people find the ability to self-regulate their emotions and deal appropriately with anger, resentment, and frustration when confronted with provocation an excellent skill. Others think practicing "an eye for an eye" is necessary.
Anger management is not complex because it is impossible to contain this powerful emotion, which is sometimes poorly handled for various reasons. One reason is the lack of awareness of the thoughts and feelings associated with anger and the ability to distinguish between anger and aggression. Another reason is the absence of strong role models who consistently demonstrated practical anger management skills. Whatever the reason, some level of anger management is crucial for maintaining the many interpersonal relationships and reasonably resolving conflicts we will have in our lives.
Anger management serves a protective function when expressed assertively versus aggressively. Anger becomes a problem not only when it is felt too frequently and intensely but when it goes unresolved and ferments resentment and a desire to get even. For instance, advice such as "let things roll off your back" is well-intentioned but not consistently effective. Since some of us tend to internalize our anger, we make no attempt to resolve the feelings associated with the anger. In other instances, one-half of the involved party left the interaction, not knowing we were dissatisfied with their behavior.
Typically, we are taught to manage our expression of anger and not necessarily how to respond to anger directed at us. When anger is directed at us, we are often tempted to mirror the emotions directed at us because we do not "accept other people's crap." This does not imply you accept rude and disrespectful behaviors but remember your response can positively or negatively impact the direction of the interactions.
The emphasis on learning to manage our anger is appropriate, given we cannot account for someone's response to any situation. Here are a few suggestions to respond to anger directed at you:
Although anger does not always lead to aggression, prioritize your safety, trust your judgment, and leave the situation if you can.
This suggestion might be the most challenging. When you feel attacked, do not take the anger directed at you personally. Instinctively, you will want to defend yourself, which you have the right to do. Still, the other person's anger is theirs to deal with appropriately.
To an angry person, "you" statements seem accusatory; instead, use "I" statements to communicate your feeling. For example, "I feel upset when you shout, curse, and hit the wall."
Try not to engage in who is 'right' or 'wrong' as these types of conversations leaves you taking a defensive posture.
Your responsibility is not to persuade the other person; their behavior is inappropriate.
Stay away from the desire to right other people's wrongs.
Do not try to out-talk an angry person.
Do not use sarcasm to torment the angry person, intentionally or unintentionally.
If you say something to the angry person, use statements that are non-threatening and not those that can be interpreted as threatening. For example, use reflective listening and paraphrase what the other person says; it sounds like you are saying …
Use request vs. demand statements to communicate with the angry person.
Request: would it be possible …
Demand: you should calm down …
When responding to someone's angry outburst, it may be difficult to not take things personally, defend yourself, or make right what you believe is wrong. Instead, prioritize taking care of yourself and protecting your safety. Anger management is practice and adaptability, not a convenient solution.
Stay Naturally Curious
Karmin, A. (2016). Anger management workbook for men, take control of your anger and master your emotions. Althea Press.
Thomas, S. P. (2001). Teaching healthy anger management. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 37, 41-48.