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Anger - you can't escape it and you repress it at your peril.

Though an anger-free world sounds nice, people will disappoint and mistreat you and there's nothing you can do about it. Fortunately, you can control how you respond to mistreatment and feelings of anger, and the path you choose can have an enormous impact on your happiness, mental health, quality of relationships, career success and much more.

When another person mistreats you can choose to...

  1. Obey what's often a first impulse and react aggressively in return (including passive aggressive behaviors) with actions such as yelling, name calling, violence, angry emails or phone calls etc...
  2. Repress your anger and try to forget how you've been wronged.
  3. Clearly communicate how you feel you've been mistreated and work towards a satisfactory outcome or resolution.

By choosing the third option you stand up for your rights and you also work towards remedying an unsatisfactory situation.

Why Assertive Anger Management Works Better

Ever have a trivial argument with a loved one that escalated unnecessarily to all out warfare?

  1. Reacting with aggression generally escalates an already bad situation and can result in unintended negative consequences. Screaming at someone may release some of your tension for a moment but it's unlikely to result in a reversal of mistreatment and may amplify a bad situation with new consequences.
  2. Repressing your anger without addressing the mistreatment does nothing to rectify the situation and can result in diminished self esteem.

Anger creates physiological changes, similar to a stress response. You can repress your behavioral response to anger but you can't repress the physiological response and so people who regularly repress anger rather than venting frustrations in healthier ways risk serious physical and mental health consequences, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, digestive problems, lowered immune functioning, depression, increased pain sensitivity, substance abuse and addiction and other compulsive behaviors.1

  • Responding assertively to communicate your position and working towards a positive outcome to the situation avoids the pitfalls of the first two approaches.

By communicating your position in an assertive manner you stand up for your rights and in doing so you release unhealthy stress energy.

With clear and rational communication toward a resolution you diffuse anger, reduce knee-jerk aggression responses and increase the likelihood of a satisfactory outcome for all.

A Playbook Guide to Assertive Anger Management 9 Steps to Effective Conflict Resolution

So the next time someone does you wrong and you're ready to explode, follow this 9 step process to resolving the situation and see how well assertive conflict resolution can work and feel.

1. Don't Respond Right Away

Whether it's 5 seconds or 24 hours, if at all possible, take as much time as you need to assess the situation with a clear head and to avoid negative communication which distracts from actually resolving the issue at hand.

2. Make Sure You Understand Your Anger Before You Make Any Response

Is your anger appropriate, in proportion to the situation and offense and justified? Are you really angry over what just happened or have you bundled this event with events or people from the past?

3. Think Realistically about What's Going to Happen and about What You Want to Happen

So someone's done you wrong and you're about to communicate your feelings and seek a resolution,  but you can't seek resolution until you've thought about your rights and decided on what you want and what's fair to all parties.

What's the other person going to do or say when you present your side? What will you do or say in response?

If you tend to repress your anger rather than assert yourself you may fall victim to overestimating the probable risks of a confrontation. Talk to a friend (or co-worker)  to get a second opinion on what's likely to happen.

4. Plan for a Successful Meeting

Once you've decided that your anger is justified and you've thought about and accepted the possible costs and benefits of a confrontation it's time to plan for a successful meeting.

Try to pick a time and place where:

  • Both parties feel comfortable and your counterpart will be most likely to hear what you need to say
  • You will have sufficient privacy
  • There will be no interruption

5. Don't Let an Aggressive Delivery Distract from Your Message

The whole point of seeking a meeting is to effectively communicate your message, so don't let the tone of your delivery hijack attention away from what you need to say.

You're angry and you believe your anger is justified, but if your tone of voice and overall demeanor is overly aggressive you risk provoking defensiveness and hostility and reduce the likelihood of successful communication as your counterpart reacts to your delivery, rather than to the content of your message.2

Being assertive means respecting yourself and also respecting the rights of others.

Be firm, but communicate with respect.

6. Maintain Assertive Body language

Don't let passive or nervous body language weaken the assertive message you're there to deliver.

During the meeting:

  • Calm yourself by remembering to take deep even breaths
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Try to sit or stand so that you are both at the same level
  • Speak clearly and slowly, trying to maintain an even inflection3

Avoid:

  • Slouching
  • Fiddling with anything
  • Hiding your face with your hair or hand

7. Use 'I' Statements Instead of 'You' Statements

I statements are perceived to be less hostile than you statements.

For example:

  • Saying "I am angry because I felt disrespected after I didn't get any credit for a project I have been working very hard on."

Sounds much less confrontational than:

  • You took the credit and you never even thought about me. You're such a terrible boss!

The first is clear a statement of facts which can't be denied and which sets the tone for a productive discussion...the second is inflammatory and can lead to non productive arguing.

8. Talk... but also Listen

Your meeting needs to have back and forth and give and take. Say what you need to say but when you're done make sure you listen (and really try to hear) to what's said in return.

Personal feelings aside, if you're after a successful outcome you'll have to at least understand the opposing point of view.

9. End the Meeting with a 'Thank You'

Whatever the outcome, thank the other person for taking the time to meet with you.

References
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Page last updated Nov 05, 2014

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