Anger Group Workshop

Anger Management Seminars - How to Communicate When You Are In Over Your Head

by James Baker (2011/June)


Anger Management Seminars – How to Communicate When You Are In Over Your Head

All my wife ever does is argue with me. She criticizes everything I do and complains about every choice I make. Oh, yeah, and she says I have an anger program and I should get help. How could I NOT have an anger problem with this (w)itch breathing down my neck all the time? She won't listen to me, she won't do anything I say, she undermines me with the kids, so, YES I GET MAD. I have never hit her, but I do lose my temper and raise my voice and I occasionally call her names. (I always apologize afterwards, for all the good that does.) I can't say anything to her without it turning into a huge fight. Please help me.

Losing It In Long Island

Dear Losing It:

Anger Management Seminars – How to Communicate When You Are In Over Your Head

I often advise people with anger problems to immediately stop speaking whenever they feel an anger episode coming. But there are some situations where just shutting up is not an option, especially at times when your angry behavior patterns have created big problems and now you are in hot water. Shutting up and walking away at this point could even make things worse. You must now begin to say something that will help to heal the situation.

First of all, we need to make a distinction between two kinds of situations that anger addicts create with their spouse and others around them. We call them the being on thin ice and being in over your head. Neither situation is good, but being in over your head definitely calls for more drastic and immediate action. Let's look at that one now.

You know you are in over your head when your spouse or someone else with whom you have an important relationship is overtly, extremely angry with you. Their tone is harsh, their words are critical, and they rarely communicate anything to you except extreme displeasure, open hostility and maybe even serious threats of divorce. Very often, realizing you are in over your head is what finally pushes an anger addict to go to a therapist or other helping professional. He or she has finally run out of tricks, trinkets, promises and, most significantly, the ability to intimidate and control with anger. There is nothing left to do but ask for help, like you are doing now.

If this sounds familiar, then may we make a suggestion? Move these three little words to the very top of your conversation list immediately:
"You Are Right."

Anger Management Seminars – How to Communicate When You Are In Over Your Head

The vast majority of anger addicts get into discussions that lead to arguments that lead to very noisy fights that sometimes lead to trips downtown in a squad car, because they are unwilling to lose. It is just natural to defend yourself and justify your actions. An anger addict's fallback position is to send the message that he or she is right about practically everything. But, by now you ought to be learning that, while there is a God, you are not Him! This can only lead to one obvious conclusion: Sometimes – maybe a lot of the time – you are going to be at least a little bit wrong, and maybe extremely wrong. The more you attempt to dig in and defend your attitudes and actions, or even try to explain your situation, the more your spouse will become convinced you don't really care about their needs and feelings. (That would be because you are sending a clear message that you only care about yourself.) And if this goes on long enough, your spouse may decide that they don't really love you and don't trust you. If you want to nip this whole thing in the bud, just learn to lose by becoming willing to say, "You are right."

Now, on those rare occasions where you might even be completely justified in the opinion you have expressed, are we asking you to go ahead and lie? Not exactly. It's just that arguments are no good for anger addicts, because arguments ALWAYS rev up your anger response. This is a strategy to help you to cool that fire and maintain a constructive communication connection with your spouse. If you are in over your head – or sinking in that direction – it is more important to head off an argument that could get out of control.

Anger Management Seminars – How to Communicate When You Are In Over Your Head

Here is the strategy to use when you are in over your head with your spouse and it is necessary to have a conversation that could become controversial:

  1. Say the phrase, "You are right."
  2. Find some grain of truth in what your spouse is saying, and agree with that, e.g., "Your are right; I did miss that exit last time."
  3. Get your "but" out of the way. Don't say, "You are right, but …(but your stupid brother gave me the wrong set of directions.)"

Don't argue, don't defend, don't explain, don't justify, don't preach, don't utter any other words; just say "you are right." Find some way to agree with your spouse and defuse this conversation as fast as you can. You may have an opportunity to express your opinion later (much later) when you are for sure out of the cold, deep water.

Anger Management Seminars – How to Communicate When You Are In Over Your Head

Also, quit playing tug of war with your spouse. Tug-of-war games are fun at picnics and youth summer camps, but they are deadly for marriages. Trying to drag your spouse through the mud and over to your side to agree with your opinion only leads to rope burns, hurt feelings and broken trust. It HURTS. And it will get you in over your head faster than anything. If you want to beat your anger addiction and protect your relationship, LET GO OF YOUR END OF THE ROPE any time you sense a conflict may be developing. And do it as kindly and cheerfully as you can. It takes two sides to make a tug-of-war, but only one side to end it. Don't be afraid to let go of your end of the rope. It takes a lot of courage and strength to do it, but the sacrifice is worth it. Just let it go a few times and see what happens.



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