I gave a talk about anger around a month ago to a women’s group and it has generated a large response – mostly positive, (ironically some extremely negative and angry!). In the talk, we discussed how we had been encouraged to deal with anger as children, and how girls and women are often discouraged from expressing anger openly.
Lately I have been looking at my own behaviours around this and realise that despite assertiveness training and counselling, I do still find it hard to express myself openly and clearly at times, and then I get angry when I don’t get what I need or feel misunderstood. Aargh, it takes such a frustratingly long time to re-train old habits! I found these pages on anger on the Mind website hugely helpful and thought others might too:
From the section on Managing Your Anger:
“Learn to be assertive
It’s important to remember that being excessively angry and aggressive can get in the way of communicating what you are angry about. People stop listening to you and focus on your anger instead.
On the other hand, if you are able to express your anger by talking in an ‘assertive’ way about what has made you angry, this will produce better results for you. Being assertive means standing up for yourself, while still respecting other people and their opinions.
Talking about your anger assertively:
- makes communication easier
- stops tense situations getting out of control
- benefits your relationships and self-esteem
- helps to keep you physically and mentally well.
If you are used to hiding your feelings, it will take time and effort to get into the habit of expressing anger in a non-aggressive way that explains why you are annoyed.
Tips for expressing yourself assertively
If you decide that you want to tell someone that a situation is making you angry, thinking about how you are going to do it might make this easier.
Here are some things you could try:
- Think through beforehand what it is that you are angry about. Ask yourself what you want to happen. Is it enough just to explain what you are angry about or do you want something to change?
- Breathe steadily – this will help you to keep calm.
- Be specific. For example, say “I feel angry with you because…”. Using ‘I’ avoids blaming anyone, and the other person is less likely to feel attacked.
- Listen to the other person’s response, and try to understand their point of view.
- Treat the other person with courtesy.
- Be prepared for the conversation to go wrong and try to spot when this is happening. If you feel yourself getting angry, you might want to come back to the conversation another time.
Following these tips won’t mean you never get angry, but it should help you express your anger constructively and feel better about yourself.
Assertiveness training classes may be available in your local area, either privately or run by your local council or adult education institution. Details of these and other classes should be available online or at your local library and there are several websites with more tips on them.
Look at your lifestyle
You may find that an improved diet or taking more exercise helps to reduce angry feelings.
Lack of certain nutrients can make you feel irritable and weak, and so a healthy diet is likely to help you feel more in control of your feelings.
See our Food and Mood pages for more information.
Exercise can increase your self-esteem, releases ‘feel good’ hormones, and is a good way to let out any tension that is building up. It is more likely to be beneficial if it’s something you enjoy doing. If you can do something outdoors, even better – just getting out into the fresh air for a walk can provide you with a sense of perspective and make you feel more grounded.
Lack of sleep can make you irritable and less able to contain your anger, so making sure you get enough of it to be able to think and function clearly is really important. See How to cope with sleep problems for some tips.
If you are finding the stresses of daily life are causing or worsening your anger, it might help you to look at ways of dealing with the causes of this in the long term. See How to manage stress. “