Visit my Facebook page

I post on this blog about twice a month. I post on my facebook page several times a week with tips, appropriate quotes and ways to support your increased assertive behavior. Please visit my facebook page (and please "like" it, if you do)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Anger Expressed Aggressively Pulls for the Responder to Use Anger as Well

In our country right now, the two parties in Congress are powerfully split, with the current losing party as well as a group called the Tea Party saying angry and aggressive things in public about the Healthcare bill.  Healthcare is such a powerful issue that if the shoe were on the other foot, it might be happening in reverse.

On the View the other day, Whoopie Goldberg and her guests pointed out the aggressive behavior of a well-known political figure who, unhappy about healthcare, had suggested it was time to “reload.”  This politician had published on Facebook a map peppered with people named as targets with cross-hairs on their names.  Her point was to get these people out of Congress because they had voted for the Healthcare bill.  However, using targets and suggesting "reloading" depicted her wishes in an aggressive fashion, implying anger and violence.

The participants on the View were outraged (the politician was aggressive and as they talked about it, the View participants expressed themselves in anger.)  Even as the participants on the View agreed with each other that this was badly handled, they were aggressive with each other!  Two who are usually on opposite sides of the fence, jabbed at each other, even as they agreed that they were on the same side this time.  This blatantly showed how even from afar, the aggression of the aforementioned politician pulled for anger back from the View co-hosts.

Participants on the show also spoke about the 60s and how in those time race riots were incited by aggressive statements and acts between groups.  One participant said, “Violence begets violence” and wondered what the other side would do in response to this level of aggression.

Children on the playground are masterful at matching aggression with aggression.  One little boy says to the other, “You’re a big tattle tale.”  The other responds, “You are a bigger one.” 

In the current culture there’s a whole genre of insults traded about one’s mother. The first insult, “Your momma is so fat that she can’t get in the car,” pulls for the insulted person to say, “Your momma is so stupid that she …..” and so on and so on.

Once with another psychologist, I taught a workshop for Emory employees about assertive communication.  Dr. L. and I were role-playing for the participants.  My role was angrily to return a book to the bookstore, while demonstrating absolutely no respect for the sales clerk.  Dr. L. was the sales clerk.

I stormed into the room and slammed the book on the table in front of the “clerk.”  In a raised voice I said, “This is the worst excuse for a book that I have ever read.  I want you to take it back at once or I must speak to your manager.” 

Without hesitating, Dr. L. looked me in the eye and said, “You just spit in my face.” 

In the process of shouting at him, I probably did.  I was humiliated and felt the color rise in my face.  Here we demonstrated what always happens:  Aggression pulls for aggression from the other person.

Aggression is not assertive – aggression is characterized by lack of respect for the other person.  Nothing will be resolved well if there is no respect in the interaction.

There are ways to express your anger assertively rather than aggressively.  Here are three ways to try:

1.  A basic assertive statement:

“I am angry”
“I feel really frustrated right now.”
“I feel furious.”

2.    A behavioral statement:

“When you do xxxxxxxxxx,  I feel frustrated.” 
This is a carefully constructed sentence:  the first half is a specific behavior described:
For example:  “When you leave your clothes all over the living room furniture, I feel so angry.”

This is done instead of blaming the other person.  You don’t say, “You make me feel frustrated.”  Nor do you say, “You are just a slob.”  Instead you tag a behavior and indicate your feeling in response to the behavior.

3.    An observer/reporter statement:

The reporter acts as a fly on the wall, describing what he/she sees without judgment.  This invites dialogue rather than aggression in response.

“I noticed that you just rolled your eyes when I made my last comment.  Usually when that happens we end up fighting.”

Like all aspects of assertive communication, it isn't easy to change your way of communicating.  However, practice makes perfect so I encourage you to try speaking your anger more assertively than aggressively.

No comments: