In my last two posts I have discussed the CHOICES open to you when you are angry or when someone is angry at you. These choices are part of the ACEing process that you need to do when you are dealing with anger. What do you choose when you are angry with each other?
When you enter a confrontation in anger
When you ASSESS (“A”) that you are angry at one another, you then need to make the CHOICE (“C”) to adhere to ground rules that will ensure safety and promote a constructive process. You need to make this agreement because you are entering into a confrontation that may or may not be healthy.
Some of the essential ground rules for a healthy confrontation include:
- no one may verbally or physically attack the other person
- each person agrees to respect the opinions and perspectives of the other person
- each person agrees to allow the other person an opportunity to speak
- each person agrees to listen carefully and to appreciate the other person’s values, needs, feelings, beliefs
- if at any point the conversation becomes hostile, both agree to stop the process until the ground rules can be respected
- if necessary, and one or both people believe it will be helpful, a third person both agree can be fair will be asked to mediate the process.
Once these ground rules are established, either party can move back and forth with the same CHOICES that have already been discussed in my last two posts, choices for managing times when you are angry or when you are the target of anger.
The impact of destructive emotions
When intense anger exists between two people the resulting emotions can have a destructive impact on their relationship, especially if their anger escalates into violence.
Further, if a full-blown amygdala hijacking happens in either person, we also should recognize that some time needs to go by before productive confrontation can occur, due to the biochemical flushes that take time to quiet (sometimes as much as 24-48 hours). When calmer, the two individuals can come together, define and agree to the above ground rules, then choose a constructive resolution.
The process may sound cumbersome, but if we are going to prevent the escalation of anger and process a healthy resolution, these ground rules and CHOICES are essential. Once these rules are in place, there is an equitable balance of power within the discussion. Then, angry confrontations can result in a productive outcome. This process will help us better understand each other, build mutual respect, and improve potential for a relationship that is emotionally healthy.
If we can work towards the ACEing process and making CHOICES in how we handle mutual anger, I believe we will see less incidences of violence, broken relationships and discord in our families and other relationships. What a great way to turn a difficult situation into an opportunity for positive relationships.
There will be more on anger in my next post.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Some information taken from Understanding Anger, 2004, Diane Wagenhals.