Expressing Anger Effectively: Beyond Being Passive-Aggressive

January 5, 2020

 

Anger can be a challenging emotion to cope with and manage when circumstances are not going your way or you have been slighted by another person. It is one of the reactions to situational loss that can negatively affect relationships such as between caregivers and care recipients, between spouses or affect parent/teen relations after a divorce. The intensity of anger can vary from being slightly annoyed to being in rage. At a high frequency and intensity, anger can have negative mental and physiological health effects. Anger can also be positive, providing you with a message that there needs to be a call to action to make positive change. Consequently, it is good for your well-being to self monitor with self awareness. Acknowledge the anger, Assess the impact as well as the circumstances causing the anger and Assist with healthy expression of anger  

 

It is uncomfortable to express anger when it can seriously jeopardize significant relationships such as in circumstances of marital, employer/employee or caregiver/care recipient conflict. You may be using the label passive-aggressive to describe yourself or someone close to you to describe how the anger gets handled. 

 

Passive-aggressive behavior defined by Mayo Clinic Expert, Dr. D. Hall-Flavin, MD is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. There's a disconnect between what a passive-aggressive person says and what he or she does. An example of a passive-aggressive person is a person who appears to agree — perhaps even enthusiastically — with another person's request. Rather than complying with the request, however, he or she might express anger or resentment by failing to follow through or missing deadlines.

 

In addition to deliberately doing things which irritate the other person, such as showing up late or forgetting special events, the definition of passive aggression is broadened in Zawn Villines' article  to include other behaviors such as getting quiet, sullen, or distant in response to a perceived slight.

 

It is advantageous to acknowledge and assess if you behave in a passive or aggressive manner or are passive-aggressive when you are angry. To assist, you may want to drop the label and rather acknowledge and assess better ways of expressing your anger. Learning to communicate assertively can assist in dissipating the ineffective passive-aggressive tendencies.

 

In a U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services article on Assertive Communication, "I" statements are recommended as an assertive means of expression.

 

‘I’ statements are made up of four parts:

1. “I feel ...” (taking responsibility for your own feelings)

2. “when you ...” (stating the behaviour that is a problem)

3. “because ...” (what it is about the behaviour or its consequences that you don’t like)

4. “I would really like it if ...” (offering a preferred alternative or compromise)

 

It is more effective and healthy to self monitor with self awareness and drop the label of passive-aggression. Acknowledge, Assess, Assist by practicing methods of expressing anger, such as using "I" statements, that contain better potential for positive outcomes. 

 

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Updated October 2019

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