Expressing Anger Well

Don’t discuss conflict if you are in a state of:


Some useful phrases to move off an argument

  • “I can see we are not getting on. Do you want to talk about it, because I would like to when you are ready?
  • ”I’m aware that we have a few issues we need to deal with. Can we take time to talk about them, either now or later?”
  • “I can hear you are angry and upset as you are. Take as much time as you need to express it”

Expressing your feelings (instead of an outburst)

I Feel I feel angry with you
Because I’ve asked you several times to put out the rubbish and you haven’t
When When I was a child my parents had arguments on this & I felt really scared and confused
What I want is What I want is for you to do what we’ve agreed to do
What I am willing to own What I am willing to own is that I often do not follow through on commitments, either


Sharon and Gordon Bower 1975

Refer – state directly the issue that is upsetting ‘James the TV is turned up too loud’
Exchange – use I statements for feelings I’ve spoken about this several times and I’m frustrating you are not listening
Action – be specific about the action you want Turn down the TV volume immediately
Conditions – If appropriate indicate stipulations This is the last time I’m going to speak to you about it
Thanks Thank you, I appreciate that

Be Assertive not Aggressive

Why we might not be assertive: (Helen Kennerley, Overcoming Childhood Trauma)

  1. We might want to people please: “People won’t like me”, or “I will be rejected “
  2. “I’ll have to cope with a guilt trip”
  3. “I’ll be compared as unfavourable”
  4. “I shouldn’t express my needs; I don’t deserve it”

Being assertive

 (Richard Pettinger, Management)

Language Clear simple, direct; easy to understand, words aren’t ambiguous. Request and demands are made clear and precise with sound reasons
Aims & Objectives Precise and clear; considered in advance, recognizing the effect that the message is likely to have on the recipient
Delivery Clear, steady tone of voice, well presented and easy to read. Voice even (not too soft, or loud / shouting)
Persistence & Determination Sender sticks to their message, aims and objectives; not side-tracked; answers problems that are raised without diverting from the main point
Positive and negative The general thrust of the message is clear and transparent; this doesn’t vary, whether the tone is positive or negative
Faces & Eyes The head is held up. Plenty of eye contact and steady gaze. Delivery reinforced with positive movement
Body Is held upright. Hand and arms are open – not threatening, no fidgeting or shuffling.

Aggression Assertion Submission

Our reaction to others can be aggressive, assertive or submissive. When we can be assertive, it is more likely that our needs get met, and it reduces the risk that others will feel threatened or walk all over you

Aggressive doesn’t just mean being loud mouthed; it can be a quiet (passive) response with aggression shown elsewhere. When dealing with a passive-aggressive person they may be the only one who sees the others’ hostility and manipulation, because to everyone else, the passive-aggressive person is kind and bubbly and smiling all the time. If I am a passive communicator, then I will lie because I am afraid of what you will do if you find out that I have needs. I’m afraid of being punished for telling the truth. I’m afraid of communicating what’s going on with me, because I’m afraid you’ll think I’m a bad person, or that I’m selfish. Somehow, I believe that it is noble to hide myself from the relationship. (Danny Silk, Keep your Love on)

  Assertive Aggressive Submissive
  • Discuss Calmly
  • Listen
  • Make brief statements
  • Ask open questions to seek information
  • Stand up for your rights while respecting the other’s rights
  • State your views
  • Show you understand the other’s views
  • No blame; seek solution
  • Polite and courteous
  • Use Threats
  • Interrupt
  • Use ‘I’ a lot
  • Ignore what the other wants
  • Stand up for your rights but violate the other’s rights
  • Demand acceptance of your views
  • Show you are not interested in the other’s views
  • Blame others
  • Can be scary
  • Be humble and apologetic
  • Say nothing
  • Ramble and waffle
  • Simply accept what the other wants
  • Give in and don’t stand up for your own rights
  • Fail to state your views
  • Shows an interest in the other’s views but hides your own
  • Blame yourself
  • Quiet and unsure
Voice Sincere, stead pace, calm Harsh, loud, shouting Quiet, flat. dull
Speech Fluent. emphasises key words or points Fluent, abrupt, interrupting emphasises blame. Sarcasm Hesitant, struggles to find the right words
Eye contact Steady Stares Shifting or little direct contact
Facial expression Open, steady, genuine smile Rigid, chin out, scowling, eyebrows raised in disbelief, frowning, no smile or fake smile False smile
Other body language Head up, hands open Moving around unnecessarily, thumping fists, pointing fingers Head down, hands fiddling with things