4 Choices in Anger Expression
“Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.” –Lyman Abbott
Anger is among the most universal of human emotions, yet all too often, young people struggle to accept their feelings of anger and to know how to express this emotion in honest, direct, relationship-enhancing ways. An important part of helping kids manage their anger effectively is to let them know that they have four basic choices when it comes to expressing anger:
Aggression is one way the feeling of anger is expressed in behavior. Aggression is usually impulsive and unplanned. Aggressive behavior is destructive to relationships because it aims to hurt or damage a person or an object. Aggression can be physical (e.g. punching, kicking) or verbal (e.g. threatening, calling names)
A passive person expresses needs, wants and feelings in an indirect way. They feel that their needs are not as important as the needs of others, so they behave in ways that allow their needs to be ignored or overlooked. Passive behaviors may take the form of poor eye contact or soft speech.
Passive aggressive behavior is a hidden way of expressing feelings of anger. It involves behaviors designed to get back at another person without the person recognizing the hidden anger. Passive aggressive behaviors include procrastinating, carrying out chores or tasks the wrong way, sulking, or getting hidden revenge.
Assertiveness is a style that is used to express anger in words, in a direct and respectful way. Assertive behavior sets limits on what a person is willing or not willing to do in a situation. It is an honest form of communication in which a person expresses their wants and needs without hurting or violating the rights of others. Assertiveness includes behaviors like good eye contact, even tone of voice, and the use of I-Messages.
The above definitions of aggression, passivity, passive aggression and assertiveness are adapted
Workplaces, 2nd Ed. (pp. 9-12), by J. E. Long, N. J. Long & S. Whitson, 2009, Austin, TX: PROED.
Copyright 2009 by PRO-ED, Inc. Adapted with permission.