Isn’t it amazing how we can get out of bed in the morning looking forward to the day ahead, when suddenly and without prior warning BAM!- we are into a head on argument. Once again his or her temper has flared and you are the target. So what caused it this time? Something you said? A particular look? There could be one of several reasons.

Exhausted by anger?

Is there a best way to deal with anger? Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all solution but there are a number of approaches you can take. Probably the least successful but possibly the most common response to the uninitiated is to utter the words: “Calm down, calm down!” That’s bound to invite an unhelpful response.

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Whilst our own natural tendency is to give an equally angry response, it’s not only unlikely to do anything but fan the flames and we are creating stress in our own body. Research has shown that anger takes up a great deal of energy and if frequently repeated, has a long-lasting effect on our immune system which makes us more susceptible to infections.

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 Strategies for how to deal with anger in a relationship

Consider some of the following suggestions for dealing with angry outbursts and use them where appropriate:

First stay calm and breathe. It’s difficult for the other person to continue to rant and rave when you don’t respond in the same way. Otherwise it’s rather like a tennis match where angry comments (the ball) are slammed back and forth. One of the simplest ways of restoring calm in your own body is to consciously take a few breaths, inhaling fully and exhaling more slowly than on the intake of breath.

Acknowledge the emotion behind the words. “I can see that you are angry about…” Can be enough to move the communication forward. It also shows that you are listening.

Express your own feelings. In the technique of non-violent communication (Marshall Rosenberg) a typical response would be “when I hear you being angry it makes me feel angry too/frightened/threatened (as appropriate) and I would like you to…… (say what you would like calmly but decisively).

Use the fogging technique. There is no shorter way to halt an argument than to agree! For example the other person is angry because you have kept them waiting and they accuse you of always being late. Your response could be “You’re right, I’m late again and I’m sorry that I didn’t call to warn you. I’ll do my best let you know in advance if I’m going to be late next time”

Show willingness to make peace. This might require saying sorry if you have contributed to the cause of the anger. Offer constructive suggestions for dealing with the situation.

Be aware of the broken record technique. This is useful when the other person seems unable to accept your explanation or reason and continues to make repeated demands that you are unable or unready to fulfil.

Keep repeating your response without being drawn into further explanations for your decision or reason. For example “I know you’re angry about me declining to have the day off tomorrow but I have already made commitments at work” just repeat it calmly and assertively as many times as necessary.

Of course these suggestions won’t be enough to cause a permanent change in someone who is repeatedly very angry and aggressive. They need to be persuaded to seek help to learn techniques for anger management.

Fortunately in most relationships angry situations only arise from time to time. With the application of some of the suggestions above, anger can be dealt with effectively and respectfully. So next time anger rears its ugly head, you have a few shiny new tools in your toolbox to use.

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