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Anger

COMMUNICATING WHEN YOU ARE ANGRY: TIPS FOR TEENAGERS

If you find yourself getting angry and irritated easily and are ready to ‘give it back’ most of the time, you are also probably quite bottled up inside. Few people seem to understand you and most brand you as an ‘angry teen’. You may have tried ‘controlling your anger’ and ‘being less angry’ but may not have succeeded to your satisfaction (and those of others). Often, what we do to manage aggression is try “not to get angry” even when we are actually angered. Think about it. It’s like mom is repeatedly saying something to you, you’re fuming within but try to “be calm” and mask your anger. No wonder then that you end up snapping or yelling at her despite not wanting to. What we actually doing here is ‘controlling’ or attempting to suppress our anger. It’s like trying to shut an overstuffed suitcase. Suppression is never healthy, it only breeds sadness, frustration and makes us feel that the people around us are unfair.

I have put down here a few tips for teenagers who are angry. I have described how we can modify angry thoughts in an earlier article. Here, we will look at how we can communicate better when in an argument. Remember though that any approach needs to begin with commitment. It would be a little tough to do these things to begin with; however, if you manage to understand them and try them out a couple of times, it’ll seem easier to implement. So, if I have your commitment towards giving this a genuine try and persisting with it, let’s get to know what these are. Some of these may be things you’ve heard of or read before. That’s because they are essential to problem solving in relationships and creating a happier atmosphere to live in. So come, let’s get to know these better…

At the outset, remember that anger is but one emotion we feel. It is but one form of expression, thought and speech. Several others exist. This is our strength. This is what we need to capitalize on. We all possess an entire repertoire or ‘collection’ of communication skills. We have multiple ways of conversing and responding to people. Doing it angrily is but one way. The trick is to try and replace angry and rude responses with relatively calmer and allowing ones, while still expressing ourselves. The idea is definitely not to suppress, but to express in other ways.

Rule no 1: LISTEN INSTEAD OF INTERRUPTING

There is a natural instinct in each of us to put our point across. Moreover, in a situation where you don’t agree with the opposite person, such a tendency is likely to exist all the more. However, this tendency is also likely to get the better of us, in that soon two people (or more) are talking at the same time ….and none is heard, none is understood. This is often the situation in most conflicts. The first step we need to take is altering this pattern. How do you feel when you’re saying something and the opposite person seems to be more interested in his view than yours? You feel invalidated and very angry. Ditto for everybody else. Even if mom or dad are complaining about you or giving negative feedback, just hear them out. That will lessen the number of times they say the same thing, which sure is a relief to both you and them. I am definitely not saying be a doormat and simply keep listening. Once you have heard them out, you can ask them certain questions to know why they think what they think. According to me, this is the most important step in resolving conflict.

The reason we argue and fight is because we have different views about something. While you may think for example, that using the cell phone helps in keeping in touch, your parents may view it as a waste of time and a health hazard. Now, if you imagine a typical scene of argument here, your parents may repeatedly mention how you are wasting time while you vehemently defend yourself and say for example, “anyway I am rarely allowed to go out and now I am not being allowed to use the phone either!” If you notice here, the whole point is lost. Neither have you understood why your parents don’t want you to use the phone, nor have they understood your need to use it. All in all, it is a communication gap. Not essentially one in emotions or values. So why not correct it at that level? Read on.

RULE NO. 2: EXPLORE MORE THAN YOU DEFEND

A lot of our energy in a conflict is typically used in defending. ‘You think it’s wrong, I think it’s right!!’ ‘Leave me alone! It’s my life!’ and other such statements are what we may say to the opposite person while in an argument. Again, while this could be tough to do initially, try and place more focus on what the opposite person thinks. You can only solve a fight if you know why it’s been caused, isn’t it? Ask the opposite person meaningful questions that explore their thoughts. For example, instead of recounting all those occasions where you didn’t use the phone despite wanting to, ask your parents, ‘what makes you so uncomfortable with my using the phone?’ That’ll probably open up some healthy discussion. Remember here, your tone while asking such questions matters…a lot. Imagine somebody asking “WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME TALKING ON THE PHONE????” angrily versus a gentler, more explorative, ‘Pa, I want to know what makes you upset when I talk on the phone. Could you tell me more about it?’ Which one would you feel like responding healthily to? Learning to adopt a firm but gentle tone always helps. The more you find out about their thoughts, the more it’ll help you see their perspective and the less angry you will be about their complaints.

RULE NO. 3 : CONVEY MORE, ACCUSE LESS

Once you have truly understood the opposite person’s perspective, put your views across. Be careful here to avoid blaming the opposite person, for example saying things like “You only want to impose, never want to let me be free!” “You just don’t understand me!!” It’s true that we all feel this way sometimes. However, what is more important is that the opposite person understands why we behave the way we do and what our needs are. You parents are upset with your behavior and not you. So explain to them why you like talking on the phone or going out or playing games. You can let your guard down and tell them frankly and honestly because it is very important that they understand you. Again here, tone matters. Be firm, but be gentle. It’ll help them hear you out. In case they interrupt you, you could gently request them to listen to you completely.

Remember, conflicts stem more out of a clash of perspectives rather than out of indifference and lack of concern. Therefore, if we try and understand people’s thoughts behind their preferences, it would provide us more clarity of the situation and automatically reduce frustration and anger.

Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan

Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she worked with adolescents and young adults at Inner Space, from 2010 to 2015. 

2 thoughts on “COMMUNICATING WHEN YOU ARE ANGRY: TIPS FOR TEENAGERS”

  1. Dear Pratibha,

    We understand your concerns about these ideas fitting in with the Indian setting. We may have been taught to deny or suppress certain emotions, especially anger – since it is so closely associated with conflict. The irony is that, holding back one’s emotions often causes individuals to feel misunderstood and builds dissatisfaction in relationships.

    Also, expressing any emotion – even anger – need not imply disrespect, when it is done in an assertive manner, without being rude or aggressive. When one expresses a feeling assertively, one takes responsibility for the same and doing so actually makes communication more effective. We have written an article about how one can communicate difficult emotions without assigning blame to the other person and instead, using ‘I’ statements. Do read our article on “You v/s I statements” and another one on feeling misunderstood.

  2. I read the tips of communicating when you are angry for a teenager. These tips are quiet useful if the parents or the teen has patience to understand the opposite person’s perspective. But in the Indian setting wherein the belief that youngsters must listen to their elders is deep rooted will the parents actually try to understand their teen’s perspective. Then how does one make the teen realise that anger intends more harm than providing a solution?

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