5 Ways to Manage Anger
by Tina M. Roemersma, Ph.D.
All of us can relate to getting mad sometimes. All of us have “lost our cool” at times; have said something more harshly than we meant; or wish we could take back something we said or did while mad. We can’t control how we feel, so the goal of anger management is not to stop feeling angry. The goal is to learn how to respond to situations or people more effectively.
- Recognize the Anger Benefit: We are wired to feel anger for a reason and it can actually be a productive emotion. Anger is energizing. Anger is motivating. I love working with clients, who come to me for anger management because they have an energy about them. They are often motivated to make changes and receive feedback due to experiencing the negative outcomes of mismanaged anger. So, identify what your anger is telling you and use it as motivation for productive action.
- Regulate the Reaction of Others: I have observed that most conflicts and arguments begin with sound reasoning in which both parties involved have a reasonable point…at least initially. When someone feels their point is being dismissed, criticized, or disrespected, however, things can escalate…quickly! I teach my clients that “anger management” is more complicated than just monitoring their own anger because it is really about managing the tone of the whole exchange and not triggering someone else. While we may not be able to control others, we most certainly can influence and affect the reaction that we will get.
- Present Viewpoint Artfully: We can choose to yell, scream, threaten, storm off, or tell someone off (all highly unproductive behaviors). Or, we can choose to take the more artful approach in which we present our points in a manner in which the intended audience can hear, understand, and respect (much more productive!). It’s about timing, tone, and particularly pacing. When people are arguing quickly back and forth to each other, neither is taking the time to really think about what they are saying or doing. It’s all just happening too fast. That’s where people really tend to get off topic, bring up other problems, and say hurtful or regrettable things.
- Know When Enough is Enough: Another key component of anger management is having a stopping point. If a couple, for example, only stops arguing once someone is in tears or slamming something, then their arguments are lasting too long. If you find yourself repeating the same point more than once, it might be time to agree that progress is not being made and revisit the topic later. It’s not that the other person isn’t hearing you, it’s that they don’t agree with you. You don’t have to say it louder or more forcefully. You have to give them time to consider your perspective and that’s not going to happen if you continue to engage in an argument.
- Improve Communication: Anger management is really about improved communication. Like I said, anger can be helpful. It is a signal for us to respond to something. When managed well, anger can be the impetus for us having difficult, but necessary conversations. Anger can be the motivator for us to leave a bad situation or relationship. Mismanaged anger, however, has obvious repercussions, which is why it is so important to learn how and when to speak to others; recognize how we are triggering others; and communicate to one another in a more effective manner. In all of my years of seeing clients, not once have I heard that after being screamed at, threatened, or criticized has someone ever responded with, “Yes, I see your point.”
If you are interested in therapy for anger management/improved communication, please contact Dr. Roemersma directly at (703) 636-2888 ext. 3.