Most of my work looks at how we can understand and manage our own experiences with anger. However, there’s another side to this, since we all have to talk to, or work with, angry people all the time. Those interactions can be challenging—so here are 5 ways to deal with angry people.
In a previous post, I wrote about why people get angry. There’s a fairly predictable pattern based on your mood, the provocation, and your interpretation of that provocation (which is influenced by your mood). What follows all that is the anger response which can look a lot of different ways (anything from suppression to appropriate assertion to violence).
Anger gets a bit of a bad rap. People talk about anger as though we should never feel it and we certainly should never act on it. Neither of those are true. There are times when it’s not only reasonable to feel angry, it’s right to feel angry. If you’ve been wronged, treated unfairly, or provoked, you should get angry. In fact, would worry more about someone who didn’t feel angry in those circumstances.
That said, we all know that anger can get out of hand. How you handle it is different from whether or not you feel it. Again, it’s ok to act on anger too. It’s just that, usually, it’s best to be polite, assertive rather than aggressive, and calm when you act on it.
I wanted to drop you all a quick note to say congratulations on your upcoming graduation. A few of you asked that I do something for you like the Mean Girls goodbye I wrote to last year’s graduates. I was like, “yeah, that’s not a thing, and you’re not the boss of me.” Instead, I just want to say goodbye in my own way and not feel pressured to try and include a bunch of quotes about flying Mexican food or whether or not synchronized lady dancing to a Mariah Carey chart-topper is lame (it’s not by the way).
The truth is, this is a tough group to say goodbye to. It makes me sad. I don’t know if that is a good feeling or an incorrect feeling (Feelings are hard. Sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, ‘Mmm, better not.’). I just know that lately, when it comes to saying goodbye, I wanna do something else (we could re-live my parents’ divorce?) It will be ok, though. I am a survivor, but I have to pull back because I am limited.
We did a lot of great things this year: Psychology March Madness, the Smile Squad, February Psych Challenge, when we wrestled crocodiles and dingoes simultaneously (just to name a few). One of the best things we did this year, though, was the NAMIwalk. You may think we just show up and walk for something like that but, nope, the presidents of PHD and Psi Chi made it very clear, “We will practice, and I trust you will add your own cardio.” I was like, “Yeah, no. Don’t put me down for cardio” but that didn’t stop them. It was a great walk and we all had a great time, until I realized I parked in a lot where they do not validate. Plus, if I’m being honest, I realized a couple minutes in that I should have taken that cardio tip more seriously. Maybe some horizontal running?
I got to have most of you in class too, which was a joy. I’m impressed by how smart, talented, funny, and curious you all are. Granted, it wasn’t always pretty. Like that time I had to tell a student, “That’s not a real word, but keep trying. You will get there” or the time I had to write on a student’s exam, “not a good enough reason to use the word penetrate.” I’m sorry if I was too rough on you, but I am my father’s son and he always says ‘if at first you don’t succeed’…’pack your bags’.
Plus, it’s not like you were always nice to me. At least one of you wrote “Is it me, or did we just take a left turn into snooze-ville?” on my course evaluations. That hurt. Someone tried to take it out of the evals but I said, “Leave it. It fuels my hate fire.” So you know, I’m not a total nerd. I also happen to be super-into close-up magic. Plus, I’m good at modern dance, olden dance, and mermaid dancing (it’s a lot of floor work). That said, if I could sing a lick, I would. But I can’t. And I hate myself everyday because of it.
But enough about me. This week is about you. So in closing, let me say this. I’ll miss you. I’m serious… Dixie Chicks serious. It’s been an incredible experience working with you all and I’m thankful you chose to study psychology at UWGB. I don’t like saying goodbye, but like I’ve told you… endings are the best part.
Chair of Psychology-UW-Green Bay
Lead Singer- The Minstrel Cycles
PS. I’m sorry for the name of my singing group. That’s an unfortunate name.
When we’re in situations that make us angry, we often want to respond by doing things like yelling, throwing something, or hurting someone. It’s not unusual for those things happen, but does anger always lead to aggression?
Although anger and aggression are terms that are often used interchangeably, they’re not actually the same thing. In fact, the two can operate independently; people can be aggressive without being angry, and angry without being aggressive. Reidy and colleagues (2010) provide evidence this when they investigated the relationship between narcissism and aggression. They found that the higher people scored in narcissism, the more likely they were to aggress toward people without provocation. In other words, when narcissistic people sense an ego threat, they may respond with aggression as a way to protect themselves from being seen in an unfavorable manner, rather than aggressing as an expression of anger.
Perhaps more common than unprovoked aggression, though, is anger not accompanied by aggression. Research indicates that a major predictor of whether anger will lead to aggression is the individual’s ability to control his or her emotional expression. A study by Roberton and colleagues (2015) found that people who have more control over their behaviors are less likely to respond with aggression. Such people don’t necessarily feel less angry, but have better control over how that anger is expressed. One way to help control aggressive behavior is to practice controlling the anger itself, which allows the situation to be dealt with in a less reactive manner. As is explained by Lohr et al. (2007), anger can be reduced in a number of ways, such as relaxation, reappraisal, and distraction.
Considering these studies together, what we find is that while anger and aggression often go hand-in-hand, anger does not always lead to aggression.
By Allie Nelson
Allie is a senior with majors in Psychology and Human Development. She graduates in May of 2015.
Lohr, J. M., Olatunji, B. O., Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2007). The psychology of anger venting and empirically supported alternatives that do no harm. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 5(1), 53-64.
Reidy, D. E., Foster, J. D., & Zeichner, A. (2010). Narcissism and unprovoked aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 36, 414-422. doi: 10.1002/ab.20356
Roberton, T., Daffern, M., & Bucks, R. S. (2015). Beyond anger control: Difficulty attending to emotions also predicts aggression in offenders. Psychology of Violence, 5(1), 74-83. doi: 10.1037/a00037214
Can being “hangry” (hungry and angry) have an effect on intimate relationships? In a recent study done by Bushman and colleagues (2014), researchers looked at glucose levels and aggression levels. Their research suggests that glucose levels affect aggressive impulses and behaviors. Over the course of 21 days, 107 couples took part in a four part experiment. Initially participants took a 10 item questionnaire. Then for 21 consecutive days, the couples measured the glucose levels before breakfast and before bed. The participants were also given a voodoo doll that represented their spouse along with 51 pins. After the 21 days the couples returned to the lab to compete against their spouse, actually a computer; in this competition the winner got to blast their spouse with loud uncomfortable noises, in which they controlled the intensity and duration.
Their findings: lower levels of glucose predicted and increase in aggressive impulses (i.e., more voodoo doll pins and louder and longer uncomfortable noise). Ultimately, this has to do with self-control, the ability to resist an urge or desire. Self-control is a limited resource that depletes over time when you have to resist or override aggressive impulses. One way to prevent depletion of this self-control tank is to keep your glucose levels up.
By Katie Bright
Katie is majoring in Psychology and Human Development. A senior, she plans on graduating in Spring of 2015 and taking some time off school before returning to earn a Masters degree.
My three honors students, Kayla Hucke, Olyvia Kuchta, and Sarah Londo, presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago last week (April 30th and May 1). They did brilliantly.
Here’s a sample of their work:
One of the worst things that can happen when someone gets angry is for them to say something they regret. It happens all the time. They become overwhelmed with anger and their desire for revenge overtakes everything else. Boom, they say something cruel or hurtful that can’t be taken back.
It’s a difficult thing to do but people need to find a way to stop, think through how they are feeling and how the other person is feeling, and then decide if and how they want to respond. Learning to do that can be the difference between letting your anger get the best of you and using your anger in a positive way.
Anger is everywhere. It influences our behavior in ways we can’t possible imagine. Here are five examples.
1. People Really Do Associate Anger with the Color Red
According to a 2013 study published in Emotion (Young et al., 2013), the expression “seeing red” isn’t just a metaphor.