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.
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.”