October 27, 2011

Anger Management Using Active Listening Techniques

Communication is the greatest tool we have as human beings to deal with any situation

Anger – one letter short of Danger

Everyone has been angry and knows what anger is. We get angry when our expectations are not met – whether those expectations are about themselves, or about others. When our expectations are unmet, we revert to illusions of control, “unrealistically expecting all people to behave and all situations to turn out as we think they should”. Anger often leads us to blame others and shift aggression towards them.

Aggression is sometimes the appropriate response to anger, as it allows us to protect ourselves and things that are important for us from harm. However, in case of overreacting, our anger can get out of control and become destructive and damaging. In this state of rage, the individual can become a danger to themselves or to others. Even the nicest people who do not see themselves as violent and would never anticipate hurting others are capable of the most awful acts if they allow themselves to become overwhelmed with rage. In fact, this is obviously what is meant by the term "losing control of one's self."

Your anger is a natural response to certain threats. If you would like learn how to control your anger, you need to learn what triggers it in you and how anger affects you. There are many techniques to help you to handle your anger once you learn to recognize it and catch it early on.

Please check yourself:

□  Do you ever find yourself in a highly intense argument or an extremely tense situation with another person when your uncontrolled anger leads you to become extremely aggressive and even violent, to the point of no logic or reason? 
□  Do you often find yourself jumping to conclusions or to be overly critical during a heated argument? 
□  Do you control your anger or does your anger control you when you start angrily defending yourself, interrupting the other person instead listening to the other person’s side? 
If you answered Yes at least once, we suggest you to learn and practice Active Listening Skills as an Anger Management Technique to help you manage your anger through improving your communication skills.
Communication doesn’t always have to mean being able to talk about one’s feelings openly – it also means being able to listen intently to others. And listening is of great importance when trying to keep your anger at bay.

Active listening is a two-way process that involves listening and responding in an empathic way, combined with the right questioning and summarizing techniques. It involves the receiver (the listener) with the sender (the speaker). The receiver in active listening process is as active as the sender.

Active listening techniques will help you to understand the message the other person is trying to convey, including the unspoken message, meanings and feelings. Using active listening skills, you will avoid jumping to conclusions and overreacting, so you will be able to handle and control your own possible anger. 

Building Active Listening Skills

Step 1: Understanding what is not Active Listening

Remember 5 Don’ts of Listening that can cause the anger reaction during communication:
A      Silent listening
N     Interruptions and not allowing the speaker to complete his or her thought
G     Critical response and teaching – a response that expresses a form of  criticism resulting from a natural tendency to judge, approve, or disapprove of a message received
E     Advising. It should be given when requested.
      Before offering advice , make sure:
  • that other person really wants to hear your suggestions
  • the other person is ready to accept it
  • your advice is correct
  • that receiver won’t blame you if advice doesn’t work
R    Changing the subject or moving in a new direction during conversation

Step 2: Understanding Questioning during Active Listening

During active listening we ask for additional information to get a clear understanding before responding.

Questioning in active listening skills is more about the quality of the question.

Only one question should be asked at a time and, if necessary, unclear responses should be played back to check understanding. If there is something you do not understand, then ask your partner to rephrase, restate, or repeat the statement.
The two main approaches are to use open and probe questions.
Open questions are general not specific. They provide room for people to decide how they should be answered and encourage them to talk freely.
Open questions help to create an atmosphere of calm, for example:
● What do you feel about that?
● Tell me, why do you think that happened?
● Tell me, how did you handle that situation? 
Probe questions seek specific information on what has happened and why. They can:
● show interest and encouragement: “I see, and then what?”
● seek further information by asking “Why?” or “Why not?” or “ What do you mean?”
● reflect views: “Have I got the right impression, do you feel that..?”

Combine your questioning skills with body language because it will communicate an interest towards your partner. Make good eye contact. Face your partner and show the person you are their primary concern.

Step 3: Understanding Summarizing Technique

Summarizing involves rephrasing what the person has said in your own words.

The secret here is “in your own words” and without adding any justification or interpretation. 

Summarizing is a great technique because it develops a connection and builds intimacy in your relationship. The other person hears your summary of what he or she said and knows you understand or will then restate what you do misunderstand.
Here are some examples:
Paraphrase back what the other person has said with phrases such as:
● ” What I hear you saying is...” OR You can use a phrase like the following:
"I'm going to repeat in my own words what I just heard you say to make sure that I understand what you're saying. Please correct me if I misinterpret anything you've said."
● When someone criticizes you, refrain from reacting defensively using the next steps:
1. Hear them out, wait until she or he finish, look for a core of truth in what they’re saying
2. Agree with that using summarizing technique: “It is true that I leave my clothes on the floor.”
3. If you do not agree with another’s person’s point of view, acknowledge nojudgmentally that your view is different from theirs: “But I disagree with you when you say...”

When someone is speaking, wait until she or he finished before you begin to speak

Step 4: Empathizing (empathic listening and empathic response)

Empathizing identifies with speaker’s emotions and opinions. Through empathic listening the listener lets the speaker know,

“I understand your problem and how you feel about it, I am interested in what you are saying and I am not judging you.”

The listener conveys this message through words and non-verbal behaviours, including body language. The listener encourages the speaker to fully express herself or himself free of interruption, criticism or being told what to do. Empathic listening requires an actual acceptance of the speaker’s feelings, no matter how different they may be from the listener’s. 

Acceptance does not mean agreement; it does not mean the listener has to agree. It simply means showing personal acceptance and concern for the speaker’s point of view:
“I understand you and I am interested in being a resource to help you resolve this problem.”
Here is some examples of empathic responses:
● Use of brief responses like “ I see”, “Wow”, “OUCH”, “My Goodness”
● “ I can see that really hurts”
● “I know how important that was to you”
● “ I think I’ve felt that way too”
Responses like the following are not empathic responses:
“Don’t worry about it”
“It’s nothing to get so upset about”
“That is a silly way to feel”

Step 5: Practice with your partner!

Active listening does not come naturally – it is a learned skill. 

It is an active process that must be practiced and practiced. Mastering the art of active listening is similar to mastering the art of driving a car. In the beginning you learned the necessary skills, but you still really have to concentrate on every aspect of doing it, and continuing practice, driving becomes your second nature.
1. Find a subject on which you and your partner seem to disagree – a moral issue, philosophical or personal task 
2. A makes a statement, B paraphrases the idea and feedback to A (only what B has heard without adding any interpretation or justification) 
3. A responds to B whether the response was accurate or what change needs to be done 
4. B then summarised the revised statement or uses right questions for clarifying information, again check till B and A understands correctly 
5. B and A can reverse role and repeat the process 
How do A and B feel? Is there A greater understanding? Do they feel better? How such techniques can be helpful in life?
We would like to finish this article with the quote by David Roush, National Juveline Detention Association, which states that active listening may not just clarify thinking and provide a necessary emotional release, but facilitates problem - solving :

"When in doubt about what to do, use active listening."

Controlling Anger: Tips, Techniques, and Resources , http://www.squidoo.com/anger-management-resources#module46941432
Consequences Of Anger, by Swami Sivananda
Rage and Its Consequences, by Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
Guidelines for Empathic Listening by Richard Salem
Manage your Anger by Learning to Communicate Better, http://www.angermanagementstrategies.com/Learning-Better-Communication-Techniques.html
Roush, D.W. (1996) Desktop guide to good juvenile detention practice. National Juvenile Detention Association. pp.133-134


  1. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, but it’s unhealthy when it flares up all the time or spirals out of control. Chronic, explosive anger can have serious consequences for your relationships, your health, and your state of mind.

  2. What a practical set of strategies to manage (D)anger. I'm a believer in such methods, as well as using mindfulness meditation exercises before an angry episode, sort of as a precursor to being able to apply any management techniques.

  3. Managing one’s anger is not that easy. We all have experience to be angry and it sure does take over our right sense but this should not be the case. It is always good to say or do things the right way so that we will not step on others’ feelings, too. These tips you have shared will really help out individuals to learn how to control anger. Thank you for sharing his post.

  4. Important problem is that people do not think before speak, especially, in anger situation relationships, may be disturbed. It is a better choice to adopt better options such as mediation, yoga and other consulting options etc. During guidance sessions, we try to make no mistake which we normally do’s, in an angry situation.