We all get angry. But for some people this basic and powerful human emotion is difficult to manage. We may have trouble expressing anger, or even recognizing it in ourselves. On the other hand, it can lead to destructive and violent behavior, frightening people around us and causing friction in relationships.
Problems with anger have been linked to a range of physical, mental health and social challenges. There is a great deal of advice out there for anyone who wants to learn how to deal with anger in a constructive and healthy way.
- Try not to avoid confrontation. Many people, particularly women, aren’t comfortable feeling anger or experiencing it in others. But it’s a legitimate emotion that can highlight important issues. Burying your feelings of anger, or shying away from it in others, will either cause bigger explosions of internalized anger in the future, or may lead to depression.
Know your own mind by getting in touch with your true feelings. Could it be the present situation has brought up a hurt from the past? Perspective is necessary in order to settle a dispute in a way that’ll make you content. Believe in the validity of your feelings, especially when you’re certain the other person is taking things too far. If you can, talk over the situation with a trusted friend who will offer their viewpoint. Having someone else on your side emotionally can diffuse your frustration, at least temporarily.
- Avoid assigning blame. No one likes to be in the wrong, but immediately defending your position by attacking the other person will just put them on the defensive. If they have let you down, for example, focus on how it made you feel rather than resorting to name-calling. Try to keep on the same topic rather than bringing up past mistakes they have made. Tackling it this way has a better chance of positive results. Often the other person will apologize, especially if the atmosphere remains fairly calm.
- Stay cool. Although having a big rant is tempting, there are better ways to get your point across. Your tone of voice is crucial. Let it express the fact that you care for the other person and let it allow for them to express their warm feelings toward you. This will help both parties remain level-headed.You may have a tendency to let the argument escalate and become hysterical. Recognizing this pattern is vital. You’ll often find there’s a moment when you realize what’s going on. The trick, although not easy, is to listen to this warning and make a different choice. For this technique to work, you will have to give it some thought in advance. Consider all the benefits: more chance of being listened to and understood, less chance of feeling ashamed or guilty afterward, less pressure on the relationship or friendship. This will provide the motivation for stopping yourself when things are getting out of control. Having managed it once, you’ll have faith that you can do it again.
- Be professional. If it’s not a friend, family member or romantic partner, but a work colleague that you’re confronting, take a few deep breaths and step back for a moment, if you can. It’s possible to keep your dignity and stand up for yourself at the same time. Don’t let it get overly emotional. End the confrontation as soon as possible so you can give yourself space to regain your composure and set out the facts. Schedule a meeting knowing exactly what you want to discuss, perhaps involving a suitable third party. Suggest how things could be done differently in the future.
- Be ready to make a compromise. Aim to think flexibly during confrontations. Have a resolution in mind, but stay open to compromises based on the other person’s opinions. Neither side is likely to get what they want 100 percent. Try to keep listening even if they appear to be completely unreasonable. They may not be skilled in confrontation themselves.Anger and hurt feelings can skew our interpretation of events and conversations–it may be far less personal than you first imagine. Stay open to the potential solutions. But don’t agree to binding conditions or rules when you know you’re not thinking straight. You can usually reassess any heat of the moment agreements afterward and decide if you’re truly prepared to stick to them.
Remember — we’re all human and sometimes we let anger get the better of us. But just because you allow yourself to be angry doesn’t mean you also have to let anger rule your interactions with others, or spiral out of control. Try these techniques and practice them in your own life to deal with anger more constructively and put yourself in control of your anger.
Collingwood, J. (2010). Dealing with Anger Constructively. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/dealing-with-anger-constructively/0003155
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.