As I wrote in part 1 of this anger management series, anger is not inherently good or bad. Our goal is to learn assertive ways to handle anger, rather than aggressive. Many people tend to primarily operate as either passive or aggressive and fail to utilize the middle ground: assertive.
When you are too passive, you are a “doormat”. You let everyone walk all over you and never complain. Passive people often have trouble saying “no” and like to avoid conflict. If you tend to be passive, you might enjoy reading this article about people-pleasing or this article about ways to say no.
Some people let their anger build in such situations until it either comes out as aggression or passive-aggression. Passive-aggressive means you let someone know you are angry in a disrespectful, yet indirect way. The silent treatment is passive-aggressive.
Aggressive communication includes behaviors such as yelling, rude gestures, standing too close, threatening or intimidating. Some people think their message won’t be heard if they aren’t loud and dominant. Often the opposite is true. People may be scared of you and tune out your words.
Assertive communication allows us to directly express our anger in ways that don’t hurt and violate the rights of others. Assertive communication demonstrates respect for the other person and for yourself by standing up for your own needs.
Ideas for assertive communication:
- I statements: Begin your sentence with “I” rather than “you”. “You” tends to be blaming and lead to defensiveness. An example is: I feel frustrated when you come home late without calling. Compare this to: You’re so inconsiderate. You’re home late and didn’t bother to call.
- Avoid generalizations and particularly qualifiers such as always and never.
- Maintain an attitude of cooperation and joint problem solving. It’s not about winning or proving yourself.
- Be a good listener.
- Clearly and calmly ask for what you want/need.
Practicing these strategies will help you find assertive ways to handle anger.
I provide anger management counseling as well as therapy for assertiveness and communication in my San Jose counseling office. Please visit the FAQ page for more information.