Angry or assertive?

People often say nowadays “Don’t bottle up your feelings! It’s healthy to let them out.” But other people say that getting angry is rude and uncivilised, and  ‘losing it’ is just unacceptable and undignified. So who is right?

One answer is to say that neither way is best, and that the way forward is to be assertive. An assertive person doesn’t fly into a rage and shout, but they are not a doormat either. They are able to put their point across effectively and are more likely to get what they need.

So, how do you become assertive? Here are some key strategies to use when you want to challenge someone’s unacceptable behaviour (it could be an adult, a child, a teenager, a work colleague or a company that you are challenging – the skills are the same for them all):

  • Avoid using the word ‘you’ as much as possible, but use ‘I’ a lot, eg say “When I wasn’t paid for the extra hours I worked...” rather than “When you didn’t pay any overtime...”. [This helps to stop the other person getting defensive.]
  •  Spell out the direct effect their behaviour had on you, eg “When my guests were due to arrive and the house was all messy, I had to run round madly clearing up”. [This helps the other person understand exactly why you have got upset.]
  • Spell out how their behaviour affected your underlying feelings. This means thinking about the feelings lying underneath your anger. So these feelings may be embarrassment, fear, anxiety, rejection etc. Say something like “I felt so left out and alone when I didn’t get invited” instead of “I felt so angry...”. [The other person is more likely to feel sympathetic and understanding and feel sorry for how they hurt you.]

Using these three key strategies can really help if you tend to fly off the handle and let rip. And they can equally help if you tend to hold back and not tell people when you are really fed up. So you can avoid bottling up your feelings and stay calm and dignified at the same time!

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S10 2SE

Written by Virginia Sherborne

Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S10 2SE

I am a qualified counsellor and Accredited member of the BACP, seeing clients at The Practice Rooms near the centre of Sheffield. I have specialist training in bereavement, rape/sexual abuse, trauma and parenting. My clients include young people as well as adults. I can help you to: find a safe...

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