How to express anger clearly

Anger serves a purpose. It can be a healthy emotion: it enables us to establish boundaries to shield ourselves from harm.


Why can it be difficult to express anger?

Anger is a physical sensation that arises in your body in response to perceived threats, injustice, or frustration. Anger is something you physically feel in your body even though you may not feel it is justified. Because it is a physical sensation, you cannot control how you feel. What you can control, however, is how you manage your response, including choosing not to act on it.

This isn’t always easy, and some people find it difficult to manage their response to this physical sensation and safely express their anger. There are many reasons for this, including the factors below.

Upbringing and social conditioning

Some people are raised in environments where expressing anger is discouraged or seen as inappropriate. They might have learned to suppress their anger as a coping mechanism.

Fear of consequences

People might fear the consequences of expressing their anger, such as damaging relationships, retaliation, or rejection. This fear can prevent them from speaking up about their feelings.

Low self-esteem

Individuals with low self-esteem might not feel worthy of expressing their emotions, including anger. They may believe their feelings and opinions don't matter, leading to suppression.

Lack of emotional regulation skills

Expressing anger in a healthy way requires emotional regulation skills. If someone hasn't learned how to manage their emotions effectively, they might struggle to express anger constructively.

Past trauma

Individuals who have experienced past trauma, abuse, or violence might associate expressing anger with dangerous situations. This association can make it challenging to express anger openly.

Cultural or gender expectations

Cultural or gender norms can influence how emotions, including anger, are perceived and expressed. Some cultures or genders might have specific expectations regarding emotional expression, leading individuals to suppress their anger.

Unresolved issues

Sometimes, unresolved issues from the past can make it difficult to express anger in the present. Lingering unresolved anger or resentment can interfere with the ability to express current frustrations.

Communication skills

Lack of effective communication skills, including assertiveness, can hinder the ability to express anger clearly. Without the right words and strategies, it's challenging to convey emotions effectively.

11 tips to express anger clearly

It’s not healthy to suppress anger. At the extreme, this can lead to physical as well as mental health problems. Here are some tips on how to express anger clearly:

1. Recognise and accept your anger

Acknowledge and accept that you are feeling angry. It's a natural emotion, and it's okay to feel this way.

2. Stay calm

Try to stay as calm as possible. Take a few deep breaths and give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts before responding.

3. Use "I" statements

Express your feelings using "I" statements to take responsibility for and own your emotions. For example, say, "I feel frustrated when..." instead of "You always make me..."

4. Be precise and factual

Clearly state the behaviour or situation that is making you angry. Be precise and factual about what is bothering you, so the other person understands your perspective.

5. Avoid blame and accusations

Focus on the behaviour or actions that upset you, rather than attacking the person. Avoid blaming language, which can make the other person defensive.

6. Be assertive, not aggressive

Assertiveness means expressing your feelings and needs while respecting the feelings and needs of others. Avoid shouting, name-calling, or using threatening gestures. Be firm but respectful.

7. Use body language

Maintain eye contact and use a steady tone of voice. Your body language should convey confidence and assertiveness without being intimidating.

8. Set boundaries

Clearly define your boundaries and let others know what behaviour is unacceptable to you. Be assertive in enforcing these boundaries.

9. Listen

Give the other person a chance to respond. Listen actively to their perspective, even if you disagree. Effective communication is a two-way street.

10. Seek resolution

After expressing your anger, work towards finding a solution or compromise. Be open to discussion and negotiation.

11. Consider timing and place

Choose an appropriate time and place to discuss your feelings. Avoid addressing sensitive issues in public or during highly emotional moments.

Remember, it's essential to find a balance between expressing your anger and maintaining relationships. Clear communication can help resolve conflicts and improve understanding between you and the other person involved.

It isn’t necessarily easy to find this balance if you’ve been suppressing your anger for years. If you find it hard to express your anger and it's affecting your well-being or relationships, consider seeking support from a mental health professional or a counsellor. They can help you explore the underlying reasons for your difficulty in expressing anger and work with you to develop healthy coping mechanisms and communication skills.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14
Written by Karen Baker, MBACP | Disordered Eating, Bereavement and Loss Counselling
Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14

Written by Karen Baker, MBACP | Disordered Eating, Bereavement and Loss Counselling

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