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Contingent Responses to Anger
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In the last section, we discussed active responses to anger. These included expressing a specific need and negotiating.
In this section, we will discuss passive responses to anger. These passive responses to anger will include: getting information, acknowledgement and withdrawal.
Three Passive Responses to Anger
♦ Response #1 Getting Information
First, let’s examine getting information. Lucinda, age 27, was a nurse. Mandy, one of Lucinda’s co-workers in the hospital, repeatedly criticized her for various forms of inefficiency. Lucinda stated to me, "This happens every time I go to work! I feel like she looks for reasons to tell me I’m doing a bad job! I can’t tell you how many times I just want to punch her in the face! It makes me hate going to work!"
I stated to Lucinda, "Many conflicts stay unresolved because one or both parties harbor unexpressed feelings or needs. If things feel stuck, something you might consider doing is to as questions to understand more about Mandy’s feelings and needs."
♦ Cognitive Behavior Therapy Technique: The Salesman
I asked Lucinda to try The Salesman Technique. This CBT technique is so-named because when a customer says no, many salesmen immediately begin a line of questions to uncover the feelings and needs that lie behind the resistance.
The CBT technique consists of three questions
1. What do you need in this situation?
2. What concerns or worries you in this situation?
3. What is hurting or bothering you in this situation?
Lucinda described her results from this technique. The next time Mandy criticized her, Lucinda said, "I understand your point, but what bothers you about my being slow?" Mandy replied, "It’s just not right, these people should have been bathed three hours ago." Lucinda persisted, "I understand, but what bothers you about that?"
Mandy retorted, "Well, whenever we get late admissions, you can’t take them. You’re too behind. And then when you have special problems, you don’t have time to solve them. The admissions and the problems often end up in my lap." I stated to Lucinda, "Mandy’s tone may have been hard-edged, but now you understand her concern. From here, you have a point from which to begin negotiating, if you choose to."
♦ Response #2 Acknowledgement
Second, let’s discuss acknowledgement. Have you found, as I have, that this is important for de-escalating conflict? Ransom, age 17, had been taking a lot of flack from his father, Martin, about his low grades in his computer science class. "I feel like he thinks I’m completely worthless because it’s not a subject that comes naturally to me."
I stated to Ransom, "People often want to know that you understand what’s bugging them. They need to feel heard. All you have to do is say in your own words what you understand their feelings or needs to be."
Ransom, also, tried The Salesman Technique. Ransom’s results were as follows. Martin said, "I’m afraid you’re not going to be able to compete. It’s a technological world. A lot of jobs will depend on knowing this stuff. You’re going to be stuck at the low end of the pay scale because you didn’t learn it while you had a chance."
Ransom replied, "What’s worrying you about my grades is that I’ll be stuck in a pretty low-level job. I won’t be able to compete." Ransom later said to me, "I almost said, ‘You think a C makes me a computer idiot.’ But then I realized that he’d think I was mocking him, and I didn’t want to make him angrier by being sarcastic."
♦ Response #3 Withdrawal
Third, in addition to getting information and acknowledgement, let’s discuss withdrawal. In this case, you might consider the Time Out Technique from Section 9.
I mentioned to Lucinda, "If things are continuing to escalate despite a series of adaptive responses, it might be a good time for damage control. You may remember that when a situations looks like it is heading towards an argument, the Time Out Technique entails saying, ‘It feels like we’re starting to get upset. I want to stop and cool off for a while.’ It can be helpful to keep repeating this statement like a broken record until you can get disengaged. The key is to physically exit the situation as soon as possible."
In this section , we discussed passive responses to anger. These included getting information, acknowledgement and withdrawal.
In the next section, we will discuss How to Make an Assertive Statement.
- Hatch, H., & Forgays, D. (fall 2001). A Comparison of Older Adolescent and Adult Females' Responses to Anger-Provoking Situations. Adolescence, 36(143).
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Cui, L., Morris, A. S., Harrist, A. W., Larzelere, R. E., Criss, M. M., & Houltberg, B. J. (2015). Adolescent RSA responses during an anger discussion task: Relations to emotion regulation and adjustment. Emotion, 15(3), 360–372.
Gerhart, J. I., Sanchez Varela, V., Burns, J. W., Hobfoll, S. E., & Fung, H. C. (2015). Anger, provider responses, and pain: Prospective analysis of stem cell transplant patients. Health Psychology, 34(3), 197–206.
Lopez, L. D., Moorman, K., Schneider, S., Baker, M. N., & Holbrook, C. (2019). Morality is relative: Anger, disgust, and aggression as contingent responses to sibling versus acquaintance harm. Emotion. Advance online publication.
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