When you feel angry, do you tend to express yourself by shouting? If so, you’ve probably noticed that this habit is ruining your relationships with others—and it probably doesn’t help you get your way or make you feel better, either. Change your communication habits when angry by first learning to diffuse your feelings in an appropriate way. Then, go back to the drawing board and state your needs calmly and rationally. Once you’ve dealt with your anger in the moment, look for ways to cope with your anger better in the long term.
Taking a Timeout
Stop mid-sentence when you notice yourself yelling. The moment you hear yourself raising your voice, pause. Don’t even finish your sentence. Think to yourself, “What am I trying to say? And what is the best way to say it?”
- Learning to stop yourself before or when you start yelling can prevent you from saying something you’ll regret or jeopardizing your relationships.
2Breathe deeply to ease your anger. Deep breathing promotes the relaxation response, so after a few breaths you’ll feel calmer and more in control. Draw in a breath through your nose for a few counts, hold it, then release it from your mouth for a few counts. Repeat until the tension fades.
3Count to 10 to calm down. Counting takes your mind away from what’s making you angry and allows you to focus on something else. Start at 1 and work your way up to 10 or even 100 so that you can regain control of your emotions.
- You can count aloud or silently to yourself, depending on your preference.
4Get some fresh air. Leave the environment for a few minutes and take a walk around the block. Being in nature can help soothe you and clear your mind so that you can deal with your anger in a more appropriate way.
- Tell the other person that you’re going to get some fresh air and that you’ll be back shortly to finish the discussion.
5Stretch to relieve tension. Use your timeout to relax your muscles. Stretch each muscle group of your body while taking deep breaths. If you are familiar with yoga, you might also do a few asanas to help ease tension in your body.
Getting Your Point Across
1Think before you speak. If you have a tendency to shout when you’re mad, you are likely an “emotional communicator.” This means that you may tend to speak or act based on feelings and instincts, rather than reasoning things out. Taking a few moments to consider what you want to say can help you evaluate your reactions and communicate more calmly.
2Apologize for yelling. Extend goodwill to the other person and apologize. Communicate that you realize you shouldn’t have yelled and would like to discuss the matter more civilly moving forward.
- You might say, “I’m sorry. I know yelling is not the way to handle this. Can we start over?”
3Speak in a whisper. Ensure your tone and volume don’t creep back into shouting territory by using a very quiet, “indoor” voice or a whisper. Speak as though you are in a library. If you are talking to your children, get in the habit of whispering or using a hushed voice when you are mad.
- Whispering has a double-purpose: it helps you keep your voice at an appropriate volume and it ensures that the other person will be fully tuned in so they can figure out what you’re saying.
4Remove absolute language. Some of the words you use while communicating can actually make you even more angry. Drop absolute terms like “always,” “never,” “should,” or “must.”
- These words spark conflict because they are judgmental, accusatory, and leave little wiggle room.
5Use “I” statements. Get your point across more effectively using statements that express your feelings without attacking the other person. These might sound like “I feel unimportant when you arrive late for our meetings.”
- “I” statements help you take ownership for what you feel instead of putting it all on the other person.
- Avoid “you” statements that place blame, like “You don’t care about me. You’re always late!”
Managing Your Anger Better
1Set a rule for yourself not to yell, ever. Yelling tends to be counterproductive in a conflict or argument, because it stresses the other person out and activates their fight or flight response. They are likely to tune out what you are actually saying and just get upset. This is especially true of kids. Make it a goal to stop yelling completely.
- It may take time for you to achieve this goal, but don’t give up. If you find yourself yelling or about to yell, remind yourself of the rule and take a moment to calm down.
2Learn to spot anger cues. Take note of the sensations happening in your body. This can help you identify when you are getting angry so you can take adaptive steps to deal with it.
- Observe your behavior for a week and jot down how you feel when you’re getting angry. Perhaps your heart beats really fast, your brow sweats, or your face starts to flush.
- Check in with yourself throughout the day to evaluate how you are feeling and reacting in the moment. You can use an app like “iCounselor: Anger,” or use an anger scale like the one here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201401/the-anger-thermostat-whats-the-temperature-your-upset.
- If you recognize that you are starting to get angry, make a deliberate effort to deal with your feelings before they get out of control.
3Address issues immediately instead of letting them pile up. If you’re the type to let things build and build until you explode, change your tactics. Set aside a set window of time to discuss problems. This should be regular and ongoing.
- For example, rather than blowing up at your spouse when they fail to complete chores for the third time in a week, address the issue during a nightly check-in.
4Do daily relaxation techniques. Make relaxation a part of your daily routine by checking in with your breath, doing mindfulness meditation, or performing progressive muscle relaxation. These strategies can help you keep stress and anger at bay, so you don’t feel the urge to yell at the people around you.
- Try doing at least 1 relaxation exercise for 10 to 15 minutes daily.
5Practice self-care to reduce your stress levels. You may be getting angry and yelling a lot because your stress levels are too high. Take your anger as a signal that something in your life needs to change. Set aside time every day to do the things you need to do for your physical and emotional health, such as:
- Eating 3 healthy and nutritious meals a day.
- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night).
- Taking at least a little time to yourself to unwind and do things you enjoy.
6Talk to someone you can trust. The listening ear of a partner, sibling, or friend might be just what you need to reduce tension or brainstorm appropriate ways of dealing with anger or solving problems. Reach out to your support system rather than bottling up your anger.
- If you don’t have anyone you can trust, consider speaking with a counselor about what’s making you angry.
7Evaluate if you need anger management or communication classes. If you’re having a really hard time with yelling and other angry behaviors, you might benefit from a class that teaches healthy coping techniques. Think about your behaviors and how others react to you. Ask your therapist or doctor to recommend an anger management program if you feel you need one. You might need a class if:
- You find yourself getting angry often.
- Other people tell you that you yell a lot.
- You feel like other people won’t understand you unless you yell at them.