The way we appraise (see) our environment at any given time is important in determining how we respond emotionally. If we appraise a situation as a threat, put-down, or an insult, we are more likely to respond with anger. If we appraise a situation positively, our response will be positive. Two people can appraise the same situation differently. Our feelings are very personal and do not follow rules of logic. We can appraise the same situation differently at different times based on our moods, level of stress, and clarity of thought and consequently respond differently.
If we are hungry, angry, sad, anxious, pessimistic, optimistic or happy, our style of communication will reflect the predominate feelings which we are experiencing. If we perceive the speaker to be hostile, aggressive, demeaning or in some way negative, we will likely respond in kind. If we perceive the speaker to be compassionate, reasonable and understanding, our response will be assertive, emotionally intelligent and appropriate.
When angry, our style of communication is more likely to be aggressive, passive aggressive or passive. All of these three styles of communication are ineffective and not likely to lead to a successful resolution of whatever the conflict may be. The only style or communication which is designed to clearly express what we feel and what we need from the listener is assertive communication.
Communication is one of the four areas of focus in the Anderson & Anderson Anger Management Curriculum. The style of communication which we use at any given time is, to a great extent, determined by our mood, level of stress and how we appraise the situation in which we find ourselves.
The assertive communicator speaks in a reasonable tone, establishes eye contact with the listener, uses “I” messages, and clearly states his or her needs, feelings and requests. He invites the listener to work towards a mutually satisfactory resolution of the conflict. He consciously influences the listener by his own behavior. He demonstrates skills in emotional intelligence.
Assertive communication can be mastered by any motivated participant in an anger management course in which anger management, stress management; communication and emotional intelligence enhancement skills are taught.
George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF
Fellow, American Orthopsychiatric Association
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management