Tag Archives: angry

Communicating Effectively under Stress:
“This is horrible!”

"Enlightenment" Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Enlightenment” Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

Fear and anger are signals that warn you to pay attention to your physical surroundings, your situation or your relationships. Appropriate fear and anger often mean that you may be in danger or are being treated unfairly.

Becoming overwhelmed with emotion is counterproductive to taking appropriate action or communicating with others. So when you experience fear or anger, take a deep breath, and then switch over to your intuition and rational mind to determine what to do next.

Calm down

It is very important to calm down and get centered before you speak. Otherwise your anxiety, hostility or panic will be ineffective and infectious. Your tone of voice and sarcasm will betray you and put the other person on the defensive and prevent you from resolving the situation.

You may need to talk with someone else or take a walk alone to calm down. It may take a few minutes or it may take hours to feel balanced and calm enough to be able to have an effective conversation. In serious situations, such as infidelity or a breakup, it may take days or weeks to get enough handle over your feelings to have an effective conversation.

If someone wants to talk immediately but you need time to feel in control, it is critical that you say that you need to calm down first and to do so. Give a time frame: “I need some time to calm down. Let’s talk in five minutes/after dinner/tomorrow.” Otherwise, if you simply walk away, the other person may feel rejected, abandoned, or ignored and become angry, which is not helpful.

If the other person says, “What do you mean? Let’s talk about it now,” just firmly say, “That’s not going to be productive. I need some time.” Stand firm and don’t be swayed.

Tone of voice

Tone of voice and body language are more important than words. Some research says that they account for 80% of what is communicated. They can convey positive intention, self-control, respect, and self-respect, which will make it more likely that others will listen to you. Or they can convey weakness, loss of control, and desperation, which can freak people out or put them on the defensive. Even if you are extremely angry, it is more powerful and effective to show self-control than to let your anger loose.

No judgment

Avoid negative judgment, name-calling, and expressing yourself in a way that makes the other person feel attacked. Keep yourself from exaggerating or listing all the bad things the other person has ever done. Then it more likely that the other person will actually listen to you.

You’ll have a more productive conversation if you say,  “I waited for 20 minutes. What happened?” than if you exclaim: “You drive me crazy the way you are always late. You are so rude!”


Some people tend to control others rather than simply state their own feelings because they don’t want to seem weak or self-oriented. Yet a direct declaration of one’s feelings is powerful, not weak. Rather than attacking the other person, state your own feelings: “I was worried.” “I felt angry.” “I’m disappointed.” “I was sad.” “I felt frustrated.” When you state a feeling, no one can reasonably argue with it.

Feelings are not judgments such as, “I feel that you are selfish.” That’s a negative judgment pretending to be a feeling.

It is important not to become identified with or immersed in what you are feeling. If you are sad, you can show a little sadness, but don’t fall apart. If you are angry, express the fact that you are angry, but don’t become ballistic.

People who are able to express their emotions without being overwhelmed by them garner more respect and empathy from others. They are also more capable of dealing effectively with the problems being signaled.

Desires and needs

Express what you desire, value, or need. “I would like more intimacy.” “I want a trusting relationship.” “I need support.” “I would like to have more time alone each day.” “I want to pursue my passions.”

Some people don’t like to express their needs because they don’t want to appear needy. Yet a direct declaration what you value and want is less manipulative than using blame or guilt trips. Such openness also supports the other person’s autonomy, allowing the other person to choose his or her actions freely.

Needs and desires are general, not tied to a particular person. For example, “I need you to love me more” should be replaced with “I want to be in a relationship with someone who really loves me and expresses it.”

No one can argue against your desires or needs even if they might not fulfill them.

Make a specific positive request

  • Specific: General requests such as “Support me” or “Clean your room” are not nearly as effective as a specific request such as “Would you help me pay the bills tonight?” or “Would you be willing to put your clothes lying on the floor inside your closet?”
  • Positive: Beware of saying something like “If you’d just get up off the couch and help around the house once in a while.” This reeks of hostile criticism.
  • Request: A request is not a threat or a demand. By making a request, you offer the other person the opportunity to do something nice for you. Rather than a scolding session, where everyone feels lousy, it can be a win-win situation, in which someone will likely help you and you will feel appreciative.

Transform the relationship

If you make repeated reasonable requests and another person repeatedly refuses to accommodate you, that is the other person’s prerogative. However, you should probably change your expectations of the other person and in some cases consider changing the scope of the relationship.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Anger: ‘I have a right to be angry.’”

Watch “Expressing Anger Effectively.”

Read “Random Thoughts from So What I Really Meant.”

Anger: “I have a right to be angry.”

"Kej" from the Mayan Collection by Mimi Stuart ©       Live the Life you Desire

“Kej” from the Mayan Calendar Collection by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

Anger as a signal

When you feel anger rising in your belly, your subconscious is generally warning you to pay attention and perhaps to take action in order to avoid potential pain or loss.

Anger can be a powerful emotion. In threatening circumstances, it can be effectively channeled to help defend yourself or others, to command action or to set and maintain boundaries. In many circumstances, however, showing raw anger prevents understanding and perpetuates suffering — yours and others.

Beneath the anger

When you view anger as a signal, then the most effective response is to pause and reflect before taking action. Assessing the emotion and thoughts underlying the anger is generally the best way to plan how to rectify the situation or avoid further injustice.

Often it is helpful to figure out specifically what is underlying the anger. Generally, anger is triggered by fear of immediate loss, pain, or future damage, or by the recognition of an injustice. For example, you might fear being physically or emotionally hurt, or being abandoned or losing someone you love. You might fear financial insecurity or being ridiculed. Anger is also triggered when you see others hurt or treated unfairly.

The other individual

To be most effective, first consider the perspective of the other individual(s) involved even if you don’t agree with their perspective. You can communicate much more effectively if you can find common ground and if you use a solicitous tone of voice and effective choice of words.

For example,

“Perhaps you meant to help…”

“I imagine this promotion means a lot to you…”

“I know economic times are rough…”

“You seem to have a lot going on in your life…”

How to communicate anger effectively

The best communication occurs when people show their vulnerability while remaining self-possessed, in other words, if they don’t give in to the underlying vulnerability and they don’t go ballistic. So, don’t attack, cry, beg or whine. Stay neutral, find common ground, and state your case or make your point.

Here are some examples of bad vs. better communication:

Bad: “How dare you talk to me like that!”

Better: “I know you’re upset, but I feel pushed away when you talk to me like that. Would you explain what you want without raising your voice so much.”

Bad: “How selfish of you not to call until the last minute!”

Better: “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, but when I didn’t hear from you, I was disappointed and decided to make other plans rather than be angry with you.”

In summary, when you feel anger, don’t become reactive, but do the following:

1. Understand what is motivating your anger, so you can be clear about what you want.

2. Find common ground to keep lines of communication open.

3. Express the feelings of fear or sadness that cause your anger without becoming overwhelmed by fear or sadness.

4. Maintain a calm demeanor, that is, maintain your self-respect and self-control.

5. Make a request, not a demand of the other person, if appropriate.

In certain life-endangering circumstances, however, using the full power of your anger could just be the most effective way to prevent harm.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

“Angry people make me angry.”

"Serenity Buddha" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Serenity Buddha” by Mimi Stuart ©

Feeling anger vs. acting out of anger

Feeling anger and acting out anger are two very different things. When you feel anger it is usually a signal that some harm is being perpetrated against you or others. However, when you let anger take over, it is no longer an effective way to deal with the harm being done. In rare highly-dangerous situations, expressing rage can be an effective means of scaring a person or an animal away. Yet even when it is effective, you want to be able to consciously choose when and how to express anger.

When anger takes control

The problem with letting your anger take control, rather than viewing it as a signal, is that anger destroys the ability to think rationally, to get along with others, and to find solutions. A single moment of inappropriately expressed anger can destroy an evening, a relationship, or your job. You can undermine a lot of effort and history when you let it drive your actions.

If you’re bound up with dissatisfaction, frustration, or desire for revenge, acting out your anger will not help. It can lead to distraction, accidents, and destruction. It can lead to outbursts, hostility and regret. It can also lead to the loss of reputation, the ability to have positive relationships, and the ability to help others and to participate in the community. Alternatively, anger turned inward can lead to depression.

Cultivate patience

The best way to learn to deal with angry people and your own anger is to cultivate patience. To communicate effectively with another person, you need to wait until neither of you is consumed by anger. Take time to find out why someone else is behaving poorly or treating you unfairly. Take time to understand what underlying values you seek to re-establish in your life and your relationship. Only then can you figure out the most effective way of dealing with a bad situation.

Anger can be overwhelming. So it requires a lot of effort to develop self-restraint and composure. When someone is angry with you, it is important to respond with compassion or at least neutrality, rather than piling your own irrational behavior onto theirs. Patience does not mean accommodation. It means taking the time to understand the situation and the people involved before taking appropriate action from a place of inner strength and calm.

Ask questions and listen until the angry person calms down. If you can’t take being around someone who’s angry, tell the other person you need some time to calm down and think about the situation. Then go for a walk, breathe deeply, and take the time you need until you can gain a wider perspective about the situation.

Cultivate patience with yourself as well as others. The result will be a feeling of equanimity and core strength, which allow for the most effective problem solving and the least pain in your life and in your relationships.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Anger: ‘I have a right to be angry.’”

Read “Displaced Anger: ‘All you think about is your career!’”

Watch “Dealing with Angry People.”

“Anger is eating me up.”

"Basso Profundo" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Anger is generally a signal that indicates that you or somebody is being treated unfairly or being harmed. Once angered, it does no good to dwell in the hell of repeatedly going over the betrayal or wrongdoing that has occurred.

You need to deal with your anger or it will consume you.

There is plenty of unfairness and personal injury in life to make us angry. Therefore, we serve ourselves best by paying attention to anger and taking the following steps rather than falling in the pit of obsessive brooding:

1. Understand the motivation of the perpetrator.

Understanding does not mean accepting harmful behavior. The behavior may have been caused inadvertently, by unfortunate circumstances, or a by personality deficiency (selfishness, envy, greed.) Making sense of wrong-doing is not easy, but when we do so, we move out of the position of being a victim. Understanding the motivations of the perpetrator frees us of some of the toxicity of festering rage.

2. Change your expectations of the wrong-doer.

Anger should push us to change what we expect of particular people. Most people have weaknesses and we need to become more aware of the signs of various weaknesses. Anger can signal us to pay attention and tune into similar circumstances in the future.

3. Act so as to avoid further harm.

The disappointments that trigger anger should not leave us bitter. Instead learning about people and life should cause us to grow and become better prepared to navigate through life’s challenges.

4. Focus on other more fulfilling, life-enhancing activities.

When we focus exclusively on how we’ve been harmed, indignation festers and grows. Once we’ve taken to heart the lessons of our experience, we can free ourselves from torment by embracing more enriching friends, activities, and ideas.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

~Buddha quotes

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I don’t want to get angry anymore.”

Read “Transformational Vocabulary: ‘I’m angry, totally confused, and an emotional mess over these overwhelming problems.’”

“I don’t want to get angry anymore.”

"Spaceship One" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.


Anger is usually a reaction to fear — fear of being hurt, overlooked, or betrayed, for instance. Anger is a helpful emotion insofar as it makes us aware of possible unfairness or mistreatment. It can appropriately signify that an injustice has been done or is occurring. Thus, don’t eliminate or repress anger altogether, but take note of it and inquire into the real causes of the injustice without jumping to conclusions or jumping into a tirade.

Ongoing rage is often the disposition of people who are ineffective, unaccountable, and powerless. People who storm around, rave, and point fingers don’t take responsibility for themselves and are ineffective in improving their situation.

One of the keys to making anger our ally is to develop the habit of clarifying how much we ourselves as opposed to others may be contributing to the unfairness or offense. For instance, we may be contributing by continuing to overlook mistreatment as it gradually worsens, or by provoking someone with veiled insults or a condescending attitude.

As people become more accountable for their own participation in a problem, the bitterness felt tends to diminish. While angry and aware, you hear another voice inside saying, “you’re overreacting; you’ll have to be accountable for this,” or “you’re staying in this unworkable situation; you’ll have to get out of it.” Knowing that you will have to be accountable and take action tends to subdue the inner drama-queen.

When intimates know that you will eventually take responsibility for your part in a confrontation and take real action regarding mistreatment from others, whether that occurs in five minutes or three days, the exchange tends to be less rancorous. The fact that others know that you will be accountable and hold them accountable adds some seriousness to the exchange while lessening some of the harm caused by seething accusations.

Learning to see the situation from the other person’s perspective takes away the intensity of the anger and informs you how to communicate effectively with that person or take necessary action. When you learn to look at several perspectives at once, rather than being locked into your own perspective, your anger softens, and so will your self-righteousness. Moreover, you’ll be able to focus on taking effective action, which is where real power lies.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Changing your neural synapses: ‘It’s just the way I am. I have a bad temper and can’t change it.'”

Read “Flexibility: ‘My negative emotions bring me down. I tend to dwell on feeling hurt or angry.'”

“What do you mean by that? You’re always attacking me!”

"ICE" Jarome Iginla by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

It is important to be able to stand up and defend yourself. However, the best defense does not involve acting defensively.

Being defensive means you are overly sensitivity to criticism, and are anxious to challenge or avoid it. Unfortunately, showing anxiety in the face of criticism weakens your position and often invites further criticism.

Here are three reasons not to be defensive:

1. Defensiveness weakens you and empowers the hostile person. Showing that you are anxious in the face of criticism indicates that you buy into the attack or criticism being made. Giving a heated response to a comment or criticism can make you look guilty, and gives the assailant power over you.

2. Defensiveness causes a vicious cycle of anger and hurt, resulting in escalating personal attacks. You paradoxically invite the other person to increase his or her efforts to get an explanation or apology, or make a connection, however negative it may be.

3. Defensive strategies hinder open communication and understanding between partners, and they certainly do not enhance goodwill and romance.

I’m not suggesting that you become a doormat. You might need to establish firm boundaries, but you can do so without becoming defensive. Answering comments or criticisms with less emotional heat diminishes the likelihood of hurtful, unproductive conflict.

If your emotions are getting the better of you, you can say, “I feel defensive right now. I need to calm down before discussing this. Otherwise, nothing good will come out of this discussion.” Notice that saying you feel defensive shows more self-control than acting defensively.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I can’t deal with my husband’s anger.”

Read “Dealing with angry people.”