As Conflict Management trainers we are frequently asked if it is very frustrating for our partners if they are trying to have a row with us. The angry blowout does seem to be a part of family life for many people so we thought it was worth writing about it.
In its simplest form the angry blowout is an attempt to tell the other person that you are unhappy – using a MEGAPHONE! An angry blowout in families or from customers rarely arrives from nowhere. It happens over time and in phases from experiencing frustrations, leading to feelings of anger and on to demonstrations of anger. It’s true to say that if our feelings of frustration are not dealt with the chance of an angry blowout increases.
Anger arises when our needs are not met but establishing what our needs are can be a challenge. Rowing with someone about not keeping the place tidy can be about our need to have our contribution appreciated. Arguments about money usually arise from our need for security and the reduction of anxiety, yet often we communicate our anger rather than our need. If you are arguing about a family member spending too much time at work it’s really better to express your need rather than your anger. The words “I would like to spend some time with you” can be ‘heard’ and understood easier than criticism about over-working.
An angry blowout is an attempt to get the other person to listen, which comes from the need to be listened to and understood – one of the most important needs we have after food, water and shelter. If we are not being listened to we tend to shout louder but we all know that being shouted at will only escalate the situation. So if we are not being listened to try stopping and talking about your need (the need to be listened to and understood) and then go back to the subject in question. We suggest talking about your need, not shouting about it! You might still receive a negative reaction but other people are more inclined to listen when we express our needs rather than our anger. In a home situation take some time to work out what needs you want met. Usually there are a number of ways to meet different needs but ‘forcing’ others to meet them rarely works.
As I mentioned above, the build-up to aggression is usually phased; so how can we reduce the first phase in a work or family situation? At work we can look at what is causing the frustration. For example, having to queue, instructions not being clear, services not being delivered, nonsensical rules and procedures, etc. Frustrations create negative feelings so work on eliminating the things that frustrate the customer.
Lastly, in addition to taking time to understand our needs more clearly try communicating and sorting frustrations at a time when your adrenaline isn’t activated. Almost all family issues would benefit from a minute, hour or a day to cool off. When we keep our angry emotions out of the conversation we are much easier to listen to – ask my wife!