Everyone experiences anger from time to time, but if you don't control your anger, you may speak or act without thinking, or even act aggressively and hurt others. However, just ignoring your feelings can cause you to turn that anger on yourself. According to Jeanne Segal, psychologist and co-founder of HelpGuide.org, symptoms of self-directed anger include high blood pressure, high cholesterol or depression. Using effective communication skills to control your anger gives you a chance for a happy medium as you learn to be assertive rather than aggressive.
Calm yourself down on the inside. Before you say anything to anyone, calm your emotions. Use relaxation techniques to slow your heartbeat and relax your muscles. Use a special word or phrase that reminds you to relax such as “calm down” or “take it easy.” Remind yourself to listen before you speak, and that being calm will help you to better assess the situation.
Think logically about the situation. Don’t assume that you “know” how others feel or why they made certain choices. Focus solely on the issue. Look at how the issue affects you and make logical choices about how you can handle the problem. This takes the emotional component out and allows you to be more objective, which can cool your anger.
Respond assertively not aggressively. Assert your needs by using “I” statements rather than “You” statements. If a co-worker hands over a report on Friday that must be completed by Monday, an aggressive person might say: “You always do this to me! Why do you always leave everything to the last minute?” This puts the other person on the defensive and escalates the anger of the situation. Instead, use effective communication skills and say something like: “I’m really sorry that I just got your request. I won’t be able to finish the report before the end of work, so the deadline will need to be pushed back.” This lets the person know that you are listening and willing to work, but that the current situation doesn't work for you in a firm but kind manner. Rehearse your words if necessary so that you are comfortable using assertive communication.
Avoid over-generalizations. Keep words like “always,” “never” or “everyone” out of discussions. For example, instead of saying “everyone takes advantage of me,” and getting more and more worked up, focus just on the other person in the conflict. You might say instead “I can’t do this for you over the weekend. I already have plans.” This keeps the discussion to the issue at hand and helps anger from building to unmanageable levels.
Communicate assertive strength through non-verbal behavior. You convey a lot of emotion by how you say what you say. Use a calm and authoritative voice. Stand straight and tall and look the other person in the eye. Keep a neutral expression on your face. Be aware of your hands. Don’t use gestures that show anger or anxiety such as wringing your hands or picking your nails. By controlling your physical responses, you can diffuse a tense situation because you are better able to calm down and reframe the situation mentally, focusing on the logical aspects of the frustrating situation, according to the American Psychological Association.
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Components of Effective Communication
- Start with controlling your anger in smaller conflicts. As you learn to be more assertive you will have the confidence to handle larger issues in your life.
- Be aware of triggers for your anger. For example, you may find that you get angry more often when you lose sleep or skip a meal. Try to take care of yourself to keep those triggers out of your life so that you can more effectively use good communication skills when unavoidable frustrations arise.
- If you find yourself angry all the time or fighting feelings of rage, talk to your doctor or seek other help.
Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.