You can't do conflict resolution without doing anger management.
Anger is an emotion that everyone needs. Don’t wish it away. It provides resources essential to self-protection and survival. It helps us respond quickly, with high energy, to dangerous or unpleasant situations.
But that doesn't mean it's fine to rant when you're pissed.
Researchers in several fields find that expressing anger in an angry way feeds the problem.
You can talk about your anger without yielding to the impulse to be aggressive or to hurt others. Say that you are angry, say why you are angry, say what could be done to improve things - and say these things without being hurtful, hostile or rude.
If you cannot yet do this, limit communication so you don't feed anger or damage to relationships. Use the cool-down time:
When you talk, consider the conflict style of your counterpart. See my blog posts about the two-step approach and my detailed suggestions of support strategies for each style.
Regardless to conflict style, a formula that helps to frame things in a non-aggressive way is the “I message” or “Impact statement”. The idea is to avoid the accusatory tone of "You are X,Y,Z."
Instead, describe the impact of what your counterpart is doing on you and your emotions. “I feel… when you… because….” Or, “The impact of what you do on me is YYY….”
For situations where anger is intense, you are more likely to have a successful experience in conversation if you agree on a way to structure it. For example:
I've tried all the above and found them all helpful enough that I continue to use and teach them. But I've also learned there's no magic - no wording or strategies that guarantee a good outcome when feelings are deep or someone is in a hard emotional space.
Even after teaching and writing about tools for conflict resolution for several decades, I still fail to achieve constructive communication in some circumstances where I try hard for it. So will you.
One of the ambiguous gifts of age is that we come to accept that which is. We learn that ultimately we have no real control over anything or anyone other than ourselves, and not always not even that. We learn to rest when we have done what we can, even if the outcome is not what we seek. These learnings shape the character of the soul and none shapes us more profoundly than our encounters with anger.
When life brings opportunities to practice the arts of resting peacefully in that which is and cannot be changed, do not close your heart to them.
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