Managing Your Anger

by Howard Hurwitz, MSW, RSW
Often when we communicate around delicate personal issues, they evoke strong emotional reactions. How we handle these situations impacts on how effective we are able to communicate with the other person. Managing our anger becomes challenging, particularly when we are passionate about our beliefs and points of view. It should also be said that anger, by itself, is not necessarily a negative state- it is how we handle that anger that becomes a determining factor in how effective we communicate. Sometimes, anger can be a constructive way of promoting communication.

It is essential to be self aware about the emotional reaction you’re having when engaged in communication with another person. For example, is the discussion causing you to become angry? It is helpful to ask yourself a series of questions:
  • Why am I angry?
  • What’s triggering this reaction?
Often, people react with anger to what the other person is saying or ‘how’ they are saying it. To this end we may interpret or ascribe negative meaning to the words being used by the other person. For example, we may read into their comments that they are ‘talking down’ to us or being disrespectful. It is important for a person who feels disrespected to clarify their feelings since sometimes the other person unintentionally communicated the information in a way that they have no idea was being interpreted in a negative way. Sorting out any misunderstandings is a constructive way to ensure that there is clear communication. Sometimes, people become angry while communicating and this could be related to their own issues pertaining to their past. Asking one’s self, the above questions, may provide insight in relation to understanding whether their anger is self generated or in reaction to something done by the other person.

Along with anger, people often experience anxiety. They may experience physical signs where their breathing becomes heavy, pulse rate increases, skin flushes, etc. It’s often useful when this occurs to use techniques aimed at calming oneself down. One such technique is called ‘self talk’. It is based on the notion of giving oneself positive messages aimed at reducing the anxiety.

Communicating is about being clear and effective in getting your message across to the other person. It is important that in any dialogue you are clear about what you want to get out of the discussion. Many communication experts stress the importance of focusing on what you want….what you need…… you feel.

Managing anger by being self aware is one essential way to ensure that your communication is constructive and clear.

Howard Hurwitz is a social worker and has an MSW and over 29 years experience in various child welfare and children’s mental health agencies. Howard's special interest is working with individuals and couples who are deemed to be in high conflict. He is the founder of the High Conflict Forum, a committee made up of professionals working with High Conflict Families.
Howard Hurwitz

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