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Section 12
The Role of Apologies in Anger Reduction

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed we discussed Coping Through Healthy Self-Talk.  This included preparing for confrontation, coping with confrontation and coping in retrospect.

In this section, we will discuss the cognitive behavior therapy methods for Defusing Zingers. These Methods for Defusing Zingers will include: empathizing, asking questions and paraphrasing.

Chad, age 24 and Crystal, age 24, had been living together for a year and a half.  Chad stated to me, "The other day, I was teasing Crystal about something she had said.  I could sense a little bit of tension from her, but I didn’t think anything of it. I let it go. A few hours later, she said to me, ‘You’re a damn liar, Chad!’ It was like 3 hours later and she was still mad! Hell, I wasn’t even being serious about teasing, and that just came out of nowhere! I was insulted!"

I stated to Chad, "As you are experiencing, when people are very close, they know just what will hurt the other the most.  These are called zingers. Going for the jugular is the specialty of intimates who thrive on pushing the other’s buttons. However, a zinger can also be the response of a partner whose jugular has been tapped. If you’ve pushed a partner’s hot buttons (and sometimes you don’t even know you’ve done it), expect an awful zinger back. Zingers about in conflict between intimates. One harsh phrase, one hot button pushed, can wipe out months of niceness." 

Chad asked, "I feel hurt sometimes just by looks she gives me…it’s kind of crazy how you can be hurt when someone isn’t even saying anything." I stated to Chad, "These are silent zingers, and they can corrode a relationship even faster than verbal ones. There are two types of silent zingers, contempt and disgust."

I further explained to Chad, "The facial display of contempt is caused by muscles that pull the mouth to one side while you roll your eyes. The body language of contempt is shown when your partner studies her nails or picks lint from her jacket while she says she’s listening. Likewise, disgust is signaled by a sneer or curled lip, as if your partner smelled or tasted something bad. There are three ways to defuse these zingers, empathizing, asking questions and paraphrasing."

CBT: Three Effective Ways to Defuse Zingers

♦ #1 Empathizing
 First, let’s examine empathizing. I stated to Chad, "When you empathize, you’re not agreeing with the person who sent a zinger your way, you’re just acknowledging her feelings, and that shows you care. Empathy’s the number one anger-defuser because it usually starts a dialogue.  Empathizing takes your mind off of your own feelings for a moment and allows you to creep into someone else’s shoes to see how she feels."

♦ #2 Asking Questions
Second, let’s discuss asking questions.  I stated to Chad, "Asking a question does two things:  It probes for more information about your partner’s feelings, but just as importantly, it gives you time—time to cool down."
♦ #3 Paraphrasing
Third, in addition to empathizing and asking questions, let’s talk about paraphrasing. I stated to Chad, "When you paraphrase, two things happen:
a. First
, by restating what your partner said, you’re making sure you heard exactly what he meant you to hear. 
b. Second
, you’re mirroring what she had to say and that tells her you’re paying attention—a button turnoff right there. It’s simple to do—start with the word you, describe what you think she’s said, but don’t defend yourself or apologize."

Do you have clients who use zingers with each other?  Could they benefit from hearing this section?

In this section, we discussed CBT Methods for Defusing Zingers.  These included empathizing, asking questions and paraphrasing.

In the next section, we will discuss Passive responses to anger.  These will include getting information, acknowledgement and withdrawal.

- McKay, M., Ph.D., Rogers, P. D., Ph.D., & McKay, J., Ph.D. (1989).  When Anger Hurts: How to Change Painful Feelings into Positive Action. New York, NY: MJF Book.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Ariyabuddhiphongs, V. (2014). Anger concepts and anger reduction method in Theravada Buddhism. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 1(1), 56–66.

Kirchhoff, J., Wagner, U., & Strack, M. (2012). Apologies: Words of magic? The role of verbal components, anger reduction, and offence severity. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 18(2), 109–130.

McIntyre, K. M., Mogle, J. A., Scodes, J. M., Pavlicova, M., Shapiro, P. A., Gorenstein, E. E., Tager, F. A., Monk, C., Almeida, D. M., & Sloan, R. P. (2019). Anger-reduction treatment reduces negative affect reactivity to daily stressors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 87(2), 141–150.

What are three ways to defuse a zinger? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 13
Table of Contents