How to Express Anger in a Positive and Healthy Way

by Phil Starn on February 23, 2010

We’ve all had it, that moment when we begin to see red. We can feel our blood pressure increase and the blood in our veins turn into adrenaline. Someone has just made us very angry and we’re about to express our anger in a very destructive way.

Thankfully, we can prevent the destruction and learn to express anger in a constructive way. I’ve been reading quite a bit on non-violent communication lately and I begin to understand how it can help us live happier and more honest relationships. One thing non-violent communication can also help us with is expressing anger.

The next time you’re angry and about to explode…

1. Don’t say anything

I believe the worst thing we can do when we’re angry is to react impulsively. When we’re angry, we’re not thinking clearly and we risk saying things we will regret later.

We also increase our chance of communicating in a “violent” manner. By violent, I mean saying things that will menace the emotional integrity of the other person and hurt their core beliefs. When things get too personal, we recoil in defensive mode and prepare to strike back. This leads to an avalanche of destructive communication from both us and the other party involved.

The best way to prevent this and avoid falling into this trap is just to say nothing. Instead, take a deep breath and accept that you’re angry.

2. Accept your anger

Suppressing your anger is very bad.

When we bury our anger deep within us, we are not defusing a bomb: we are burying a mine that can blow off at any time for very little reason. We risk blowing up someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Instead, accept your anger. Accept the visions of violence that pass through your mind. Don’t provoke these visions, but if they’re there, accept them. Think about how liberating it would be to throw that computer screen out of the window or how satisfying it would feel on the moment to punch that clown in the nose. Just allowing these visions to exist within us and letting them come to life in our head actually helps us let go of some steam and clear our head a little bit.

When we’re angry, it’s a signal that our most important needs have been infringed upon. Once your head has cleared a little bit, it’s time to start identifying those needs to understand better why you’re angry.

3. Identify your needs

Just like the flashing lights and sirens on emergency vehicles, anger is a powerful emotion that warns us of an emergency. It informs us that someone or something has violated our most important needs and it’s telling us to react. In order to react in a mature and non-violent manner though, you need to stop and identify those needs.

Are you angry because someone has shown a lack of respect to you or to someone you hold dear? If respect is your uttermost important value in life, you probably need the other person to have respect for you, your friends or your family. Your anger is telling you that your need for respect has not been, well, respected.

Take the time to identify which of your needs has been violated. You are preparing yourself to communicate your needs to the other person.

4. Identify your emotions

As we figure out which of our needs has not been respected, news emotions surface within us. These new emotions are the results of other needs that we have that are not satisfied.

Take note of these new emotions and needs, as they will also help you understand the source of our anger. They will help you communicate your anger to the person who made you angry in the first place.

5. Communicate

When we feel ready, we can communicate our emotions and our needs to the other person. This whole non-violent communication process will be the subject of a future article, but here’s a quick breakdown of how to express anger in a non-violent manner.

1. Observe the behavior

Start by explaining to the other person the behavior that made you angry. Describe what he or she did in an objective manner. Leave your emotions aside for now and make sure you’re not using words that will attack that person.

“When I see you walk with your dirty boots on the floor I have just cleaned …”

2. Express your emotions

Express the feelings that have surfaced when you observed this behavior. Don’t be afraid to tell them that you are angry. This will make them understand that what they did had a negative impact on you.

“… I am very angry because …”

3. Express your needs

Explain the needs that you have as an individual. This will make the other person understand why they made you angry in the first place and will prepare them to hear your request.

“… I need respect for the time I put into cleaning the house today. …”

4. Make a request

Make a request to the other person. What do you think he or she can do to help you fulfil your needs? Show that you are open by asking them what they think about what you just said.

“… Would you be willing to leave your boots on the doormat next time?”

This whole process of expressing anger doesn’t happen in a split second. It’s perfectly fine to just say, “I need some time to think about what you just said. I’ll get back to you later.” The important thing is that you do not say anything aggravating impulsively and that you take the time to communicate your needs to the other person in a clear and civilized manner.

If you can’t stop yourself and you do explode in front of the other person, don’t worry about it. Take some time to reflect on your needs and emotions and prepare your response. When you feel ready, take a moment to apologize about your outburst and explain why he or she made you angry.

Photo credit: Jer Kunz

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul February 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Phil,

Powerful stuff, a great reminder of how anger and emotional outbursts can affect your life and those around you; in a way you probably don’t want.

Five great steps to help you learn to control anger; thank you for sharing.

Regards

Paul

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Phil Starn February 23, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Hi, Paul :)

It’s true that our emotional outbursts can affect those around us in a negative way. Anger can be seen as a ‘negative’ emotion, but I think you can also use it to learn a lot about yourself if you take the time to understand it.

Thanks for your comment!

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Dismas December 13, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Hi,
It is my pleasure to meet you Mr. Phil and Paul. I am glad to read your article, Phil. I couldn’t agree more with Paul.
Those five ways are great. I am a bad-tempered man. I hope it can be my reminder to stay alert with my anger. Thank you very much, Mr. Phil.
Please share more article about human. I love reading your articles. :)

Regards

Dismas

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Ben February 24, 2010 at 8:12 am

Really nice tips here Phil. Well done.

I’m probably fortunate in the respect that I don’t explode when I get angry and tend to react later when I more calm. Unless you push my buttons then I can’t hold myself responsible ;-)

Love the points about communcating effective and accept anger for what it is.

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Phil Starn February 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Thanks, Ben.

Yeah, some people have a easier time controlling their emotions and it’s easier for them not to react on the spur of the moment. For the others… well, self-control takes a bit more work :)

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Karen March 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm

I’m going to have to bookmark this article and come back to it when I get angry. I try not to react, but it’s so hard,especially in the heat of the moment.

You’ve laid out a great framework for dealing with anger in a positive and healthy way. I do think though that it’s better to express the anger than having it bottled up. You never know when it might just explode out of you :-) I guess screaming into a pillow or something is one way of releasing it. Also, being angry can be a fantastic motivator to actually take action and change your situation.

Karen
Karen’s last blog ..Do You Need To Let Go And Forgive? My ComLuv Profile

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Phil Starn March 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Hi Karen!

I fully agree with you when you say that it’s better to express your anger instead of letting the pressure build within you. We need to find ways to release the pressure or someone risks being blown up by the bombs we bury deep within ourselves!

Thanks :)

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sarita ojha June 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Hi,
It’s a very wonderful article.Anger is a poerful emotion.Everbody gets angry,but one should learn to express anger in constructive ways.I believe with practice and cosistent reflecting upon one’s anger one can learn the technique of expressing anger in costructive ways.Once you learn to express anger in costructive ways your life becomes very peaceful and personal relationship becomes harmonious.

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Phil Starn July 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

Hi Sarita!

I think you’re absolutely right when you say that once we learn to express ourselves better, our relationships become more harmonious.

Thanks for your comment! :)

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Vivian September 6, 2010 at 11:44 am

hi,dear poul,
it is nice article,i am doing a homework that write an advice to express how to express anger as you are a psychologist。it is a good material for me。thanks!。。。 *^_^*

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Phil Starn September 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Hi Vivian!

I am glad my article could help you. Thanks for your comment!

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Nicole November 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

I’m using this website too, thanks for the great material and advice!!!!

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haley November 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

hi nicole,
i am doing the same
those are words of wisdom

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Will October 6, 2010 at 3:59 am

HI Phil,

I am going to confront my friend tomorrow and use the techniques that you put together. Thanks a lot for the help! I’m very excited to start a life not feeling guilty every time I get angry. I like that fact that NOW I can accept the fact that anger is a natural emotion. Love the advice!

-WIll-

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Phil Starn October 6, 2010 at 9:08 am

Thanks for your comment Will. I’m glad I could help! :)

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Nathalya Salvador October 14, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Im gonna try this the truth is that my anger is affecting my son and I work in the school he goes to so I will try anything to help us and him if there is anything specially for kids let me know he is being rejected by his classmates which makes me feel very sad but today I told him that he has to try and communicate differently . He cried and told me they dont want to be my friends. SOS please help. and thanks for the article. Nat Quito, Ecuador

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Phil Starn October 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

Hi Nathalya!

I wish I could help you but I have literally no experience with children! I hope you can find a solution to your problem. Thanks for stopping by.

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Imani December 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I just had a anger reaction and I dealt with it by reading these proactive steps and applying them to my situation. The one that helped me the most was step number 1. Thank you so very much for this article…

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Phil Starn December 29, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Thanks Imani! I glad to know the article helped! :)

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Affinity April 9, 2011 at 9:45 pm

tsdpfx IMHO you’ve got the right answer!

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Julia O. March 27, 2011 at 3:48 am

Thank you so much- a life saving set of guidelines.

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connie June 14, 2011 at 12:06 am

I was in a motorcycle wreck and my life changed drastically. I was in the wreck with my live-in boyfriend- (of 25 years Plus his 3 chuilden)–as a result of drunk driving. I had the best job and a perfect life. My life has changed dramatically. He went onto be a fire chief, I have no home. No money. I went back to school to earn my Masters…as he PROMISED if I got my Masters, we’d get married. Unknown to me, he hadn’t even attempted to get divorced. Now, I have a Masters, no job and a $35,000 loan to pay. Food stamps…I do have food stamps. I am lost. I have never
been this down and out. I grew up in a great family. Thoughts of suicide and revenge occupy my head. How can I remedy the situation? I want to live. I have always taken care of myself.. He had us going to s counselor…but he lied there also. He said I followed him here. We planned on being here together, From the motorcycle wreck, I sustained retrograde amnesia. I remembered certain periods of my life…but due to the nature of the accident (amnesia), I don’t know if anyone
believes me. What can I do? A number of friends back up my story. Duane has lied continuously…I guess that tells me what to d…

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Amy June 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Dear Connie
I hope you can find a way to move forward in your life, easier said than done sometimes I know. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and that’s just the way it is. Try and identify the things you love and admire about your self and go from there. It’s always easier to play from our own strengths. Unfortunately Duane hasn’t come through for you, but you can move on and heal from this painful experience and get your life how you would like it to be once more. It may take along time to understand what happened, but you can move on in the meantime. All the best to you. Amy

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sarah nazim July 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

im only 13 and i have alot of anger i dont know how to deal with it i fell suicidal at times i just dont understand how to express my anger or my feeling i get so upset i tell people around me i hate them or i start hiting them or i explodse and burst out into tears i need help i had a visiting counselour but its like they forget all about you so now i have to deal with my anger alone ive tried a diary but i constently forget to write in it so i dont know what to do:(

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diana July 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm

la verdad es que cuesta trabajo pero , si lo intento si resulta soolo es cuestion de no rendirme e intentarlo de nuevo

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Meagan Freund August 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Sarah,

Hang in there! I know how hard it is to be 13 years old and struggle with those feelings. Just remember these feelings are normal and don’t judge yourself becuase of them. Life is hard, there is no question about that, but I love your idea of using a journal. That is a very healthy way to express your anger. Some other ideas for expressing your anger are breathing exercises, calming music, meditating, and good old exercising. I would definitely talk to your parents about seeing a family doctor, medicine might help. But I strongly suggest talking with anyone,If your parents won’t listen then try a family friend or a friend’s parent, a pastor, or a teacher. If your counselor isn’t helpful, which some aren’t, find a new one if possible, also some churches will provide free counseling, you just have to ask. I wish you well, and if you ever need anything or have questions you can find me a http://www.freundmeagan.com. Meagan

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matt c. August 30, 2011 at 1:50 am

i dont like people seeing my emotions Because im afrade of what people will think of me. because of that i have a deep seeded rage that i can only bottle up more… i want to destroy everything around me, but i dont only because i know it wont help in the long run. how do i express my anger physicly without breaking the law?

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yesi September 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Just cry your heart out..is better to feel sad than hurt other peoples feeling..god always response to me that way is almost like he is telling me don’t be sad. I understand your anger an i appreciate you being a good person.

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parker October 1, 2011 at 8:43 pm

what if i am angry at myself, society or angry at my life situation? thats where most of my anger comes from, not other people.

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Safio December 29, 2011 at 10:07 am

thaks Phil this is a great article

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Mrunal February 19, 2012 at 3:02 am

Thanks….paul:-)like many others I too was surfing this website to complete my homework..and thissite helped me a lot

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Kshitish February 24, 2012 at 4:46 am

Hi Paul,

I’ve been through the same more than once. But firstly, this wrath is so much that it might kill me if I don’t express. On the other hand, I’m always worried about those around me. I owe to them. I do hesitate a lot while even thinking of hurting them. It’s always a conflict in my mind…

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Kshitish February 24, 2012 at 4:48 am

Hey man, Your name is Phil… M sorry….

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Ken March 9, 2012 at 10:21 am

Good article. Been looking around today for something like this.I get tired of blowing up at my woman every time I turn around to the point I end up being so mean. I get tired of doing that to her. I was good yesterday but woke up today in a fiery furious rage. So I did that much to start with by not saying anything at all for now to her. Thank you for articles like this & even more is the fact of how helpful this is. I am definitely bookmarking this as well.

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George September 18, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Ken, I had the same problem, and the problem was that I had so much resentments with my wife, because I worked hard for 10 years, not spending a dime, saving a lot of money and I built a dream house for her and the kids. I had to travel all week alone, and being alone for 10 years just to give them the best clothes, cars, vacations in Europe, Disney, etc. The couple then went into a dynamic of arguing and not loving each other. I felt more alone. I had an affair with a beautiful younger woman that didn´t care about the money, only to be with me as a friend or person. Later I decided to save my marriage and I learned that to save it and love my wife again, I had to stop reacting and throwing guilt to her, for leaving me alone so much time and never think in my needs. I had to learn not to react angry and say exactly the things Phil suggest, then I realized that reacting that way is for low educated, for poor and vulgar people. Slowly and steadily I am in the process of not reacting angry with her. Curiously other people has received the bombs, like a neighbour that pooped the front of our house with his dog, a guard that let a robber into our residential or a stupid builder that brought off one section of our backyard wall. In all cases I was right, but It was too intense reactions. I am still learning how to express anger in a more constructive way.

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Sam April 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Thank you Phil, nice article
just the problem is sometimes some one makes us angry which later we do not have time to express our feelings!
it have happened to me many times, like at the middle of meeting some one tells something which makes me angry, at that point of time I need to react effectively, if not it makes me depressed, I am totally agree with you about controlling of anger , it might later puts all burden on us, so any suggestion? thank you

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JO May 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I agree…………my biggest problem in life is I jump…………..my life in a nutshell………….have hurt others around me and sometimes I just giveup as I feel I have tried so many times to be understood

sigh…………..down and out

Jo

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Rushaan June 7, 2012 at 12:22 am

Hi Phil . Very interesting article . It just talks about that how to control our temper or anger but really i got to know a lot of things about anger which i didn,t understood before.Good work .Keep up the good work.Well i really loved your work.actually i,m a 13 year old child. i,m from India .thank you very much.

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ryan July 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Thank you for the anger manegement i know this might me silly but i am a 9 year old boy who has soooo much anger in him i could almost have a stroke or blow a blood vessle thank you for the advice.

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Taurus_Scorp2.8.12 August 29, 2012 at 4:31 am

This is great advice for people born under the sun sign Scorpio and even more so for those born with the moon in Scorpio. I came upon your article when I was researching how to express difficult feelings. I am a very emotional and intense person and I attract drama in every part of my life. I am finally at the point where I know I need help and your article gave me simple and easy steps to try out. Thanks again!

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Alexis September 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Im always full of anger. i would like/love to know how to release it. instead of punching things. and nother problem i have is i take my anger out on other people.

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suzanne September 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm

this wasn’t helpful. my older brother and younger sister team up to taunt me, and when i don’t say anything, they think it hilarious and go louder with the taunts. none of it worked, and now I’m left more irritated and more angry.

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Hater January 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Wow thanks for the awesome advice. I used all off these steps and not expressing my anger made me snap and i almos

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