23 October 2014

Q&A: How do you do Anger?

communication styles, anger,
Today I'm going to switch up the Q&A a bit.  A smidge.  A tad.  Today I'm asking the question, and you are giving the answers...in your heads/journals/or comments if you so desire.

Q: How do you do Anger?  Think about how you respond to your spouse/significant other/boss/neighbor/siblings as you read this.

In general, there are three main camps people fit into when it comes to communicating.  When we get angry (usually as a result of feeling sad, or hurt, or threatened somehow) we tend to jump into autopilot when it comes to communicating, and that can lead to some big time communication mistakes.  Here are the three communication styles:

Aggressive -- Behaviors that are aggressive responses to anger are the following: yelling, screaming, intimidating in any way, becoming physical at all (throwing things, pushing, hitting, etc...), swearing, using sarcasm (yup, aggressive), eye rolling, making faces, mimicking, making fun of responses ("oh, now you're going to cry?  You're so sad that you're crying?!"), blaming, being condescending, threats, put downs, getting into the other's personal space. The belief is that your opinions and emotions are more important than anyone else's.

Passive -- Not expressing genuine feelings, avoiding conflict, long rambling sentences (not unlike the one I'm currently writing), overly apologizing, avoiding eye contact, hesitant, avoidant, "I'm not worth it," "he knows better than me," "he will think badly of me if I say anything."  The belief is that your opinions and emotions are less important than anyone else's.

Assertive -- Able to communicate your thoughts and emotions without violating the rights of others.  The belief is that your opinions and emotions are equally as important as everyone else's.

When you are angry,  you will most likely lean more towards aggressive or passive behavior by nature.  We could talk a lot about this, about the pros and cons, about how to shift to more assertive behaviors, but for now just identify which camp you fall into.  And identify which behaviors are your go to choices in a moment of anger.  If you're not sure, try to pay attention the next time you and lover boy get in a fight.  Or the next time the boy toy doesn't call when he says he will.  How do you respond?

There is a combo category, what we call Passive Aggressive behavior.  This would be someone who is passive in such a way that they want to avoid conflict, they do not openly communicate their feelings, but then they feel angry and resentful about it, so they do an aggressive act that is not directly related to whatever they are feeling upset about.

For example, Sally hates pizza. Julie invites Sally to lunch.
Julie: Hey, where do you want to eat?
Sally: I don't care.
Julie: Ok...well there is a great pizza place downtown.  Let's try that!
Sally: Sure.

Sally does not want pizza, but does not want to cause conflict or tension. So she passively goes along with Julie's idea for pizza, but is frustrated that she isn't getting her needs met.  That's the passive part.  At lunch, Julie gets up to use the restroom, and Sally purposefully knocks Julie's pizza to the floor.  That's the aggressive part.  Sally is passive in her ability to communicate what she needs, but then becomes angry that her needs are not being met, so she acts out in an aggressive, possibly unrelated way.  This is obviously an exaggerated example.  Most passive-aggressive responses are more subtle (such as intentionally "forgetting" to pick up your husband's dry cleaning when you are mad at him, disguising criticism as a compliment "oh, you look so skinny in that shirt!  You must have spent a fortune on that!" or giving someone the silent treatment).

So my friends, chew on that chunk of information for a while.  Decide which communication style is your typical go to in times of anger.  And maybe think about one or two things you could work on when it comes to communicating.

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