Healthy communication is based on the assumption that we all have the right to have feelings—and to express these feelings in ways that show respect for others as well as ourselves. Personal relationships become more authentic and satisfying when we share our honest reactions with others and allow them to do the same.
Below are some helpful hints to assist in preparing for a confrontation, communicating openly and effectively with natural emotions, such as anger, and assessing the results of an angry encounter. These suggestions may appear impossible to reflect on in the heat of the moment, but actually, they can help by acting as a buffer against the destructive hyper-arousal of feelings that damage a relationship.
However satisfying it might be to “let it rip,” the defining principle here is that the more structure one puts into a communication of difficult feelings, the less anxiety and uncertainty is generated and the more control one feels. Sometimes it might be a good idea to do some behavioral-release techniques first to release some of the hyper-aroused energy before you begin a confrontation. Our self-esteem becomes higher when we feel that we have control of our emotions.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Engaging in an Angry Encounter
1. Am I merely annoyed with this person or am I really angry?
2. At what point will my frustration boil over?
3. Do I have real evidence that something is seriously wrong?
4. Should I really fight about this or not?
5. How afraid am I of this fight?
6. How afraid am I of rejection?
7. Am I ready to be honest as well as tactful in this encounter?
8. Am I sure that I have identified the true issue and am not about to do battle about a trivial matter that actually camouflages another, deeper grievance?
9. Am I ready to follow up my anger with a specific demand or suggestion for change in the status quo?
10. Am I ready to take responsibility for my part in a conflict or apologize if I am in the wrong?
11. Am I willing and prepared to take a time out if I become hyper-aroused?
Preparing for an Angry Encounter
1. Obtain the attention of your receiver by structuring the time to work through a conflict.
2. Prepare him/her to receive your message, making sure that you are not hyper-aroused.
3. Send out your message clearly and with a minimum of extraneous words.
4. Make sure your information is beamed toward the receiver’s wavelength.
5. Stake out your own area of interest and stick to its limits.
6. Keep yourself and your receiver focused on the present time issue.
7. Actively listen and provide feedback that you have heard what was said.
8. Obtain feedback to check how your message was received.
9. 9 Seek to understand rather than need to have your position agreed with.
Expressing Angry Feelings to Accomplish Your Goal: Non-Controlling Anger
Below are some principles of communication designed to help you accomplish your goal of understanding what the other person’s position is, while communicating clearly your own position in any conflict. Remember, your primary goal is to understand first before trying to be understood.
• Use “I” statements. For example, use the statement “I am angry with you” rather than “You make me angry.” This increases the likelihood that your message will be heard rather than reacted to in a defensive manner.
• Make statements that are descriptive rather than evaluative. By describing your own reaction, it leaves the other person free to use it or not to use it as he/she sees fit. By avoiding evaluative judgments, you reduce the need for the other person to respond defensively.
• Statements need to be specific rather than general. If you are told that “you are dominating,” it will probably not be as useful to the receiver and giver of feedback. Feedback can be destructive when it serves only your own needs and fails to consider the needs of the person on the receiving end.
• Make direct statements about behaviors that the receiver can do something about. Frustration is only increased when you remind someone of some shortcoming over which he/she has no control.
• Make well-timed statements. In general, feedback is most useful when spoken at the earliest opportunity after the given behavior. For example: “Just now when we were deciding the issue, you did not listen to what others said, and I felt forced to accept your arguments or face attack from you.”
• Make statements based on observations rather than on inferences. They need to be on what you can see or hear in the behavior of another person, not on interpretation and conclusions. Take into account the needs both on the person’s readiness to hear it and the support available from others.
• Check to ensure clear communication. One way of doing this is to have the receiver try to rephrase the feedback he/she has received to see if it corresponds to what you, the sender, had in mind.
Questions to Ask Yourself After an Angry Encounter
1. What have I learned from this fight?
2. How badly was I hurt?
3. How was my partner hurt?
4. How valuable was this fight for letting off steam?
5. How useful was it in revealing new information?
6. What do I think about the new positions arrived at?
7. What do I think about explosive and impulsive acts when I’m angry?
8. When I get angry with people, how do I want to end up with them?
9. Where do I stand on sulking and pouting?
10. Am I willing to remain unaware of my anger sometimes?
11. Knowing how attached I am to behaviors which produce immediate gratification, what is my position with regard to short-term gains and long-term losses?
12. What is my position on hostility and hate?
13. Overall, what do I most want to have happened as an outcome of my anger expression?
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