How to Transform Anger into Connection: 10 Tips for Peaceful Words


When you vent your anger, you simply open the energy that is feeding your anger. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

a guest post by leah mcclellan of Peaceful Planet

Even the most calm and level-headed among us gets angry from time to time. It doesn’t mean we’re backsliding in our quest for happiness, and it doesn’t mean we’re bad people or that there’s something “wrong” with us. It just means we’re like everyone else.

For some, anger rears up fast and furious in loud arguments and harsh words. Others don’t like to admit they’re angry but it leaks out anyway in sarcasm, complaints, and cutting remarks. Still others become short and snappish at the end of a long, difficult day or when overloaded with any kind of stress. Anger—along with its cousins aggravation, irritation, and frustration—can be sneaky because it often hitches a ride without our permission or even knowledge. It’s only when our attitudes become uncaring and our words unkind that we realize we have company—unless we’re intentionally mindful of anger.

But what can you do to avoid angry words?

Here are some tips for keeping your words peaceful.

1. nurture compassion by living it
Consider the movies and TV shows that you watch, the things you talk about and listen to with friends and family, and your choice of attitude toward others. If your lifestyle “diet” is filled with angry things, consider eliminating or reducing some.

2. take good care of yourself
Sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and meditation or yoga reduce stress which helps you to have more patience and tolerance for others. When you feel good, it’s easier to feel good about others.

3. know your limits
Avoid over-scheduling and constant multi-tasking. Turn off the TV, the computer, the cell phone. Take breaks from work, noise, and distraction. Make your home or office a sanctuary of peace instead of a hub of frantic activity. Consider a 15-minute nap when you come home from work.

4. resolve conflicts
Initiate constructive discussions as conflicts arise. Focus on issues, alternatives, compromises, and resolutions. Express your needs and make requests rather than announcing what’s “wrong” with the other person.

5. let it go
If a conflict or difference of opinion can’t be resolved right away, let it go. Don’t dwell on unfairness and injustice, and don’t bring it up in an unrelated conversation. Consider rescheduling a talk for another time or reevaluating the issue’s importance in your life.

6. know your triggers
If certain challenging people or situations can’t or shouldn’t be avoided, then prepare for them. Decide how to handle the situation calmly and what to do if you’re unable to stay calm. If you do lose your cool, consider it a learning experience. Figure out why certain people or things make you so mad, and find different, more empathetic ways to think about them.

7. take a break
If you feel irritation and anger rising up during a discussion, tell your loved one or friend that you need a break. Go for a walk. Stretch. Breathe. Get in touch with that calm, peaceful part of yourself and remember how much you care about and love the other person.

8. make choices
Remind yourself that you are not your anger, and you are not your thoughts. You don’t have to react to your anger with more anger. Remember that you can choose kind, calm words and avoid using words that hurt. Choosing caring words can help your anger dissipate, but angry words feed the fire in yourself and in other people.

9. cultivate compassion intentionally
Instead of thinking about yourself and what you must get from someone, reflect on what you can give to other people. When we shine our light of love into other people’s lives, that light is reflected back to us.

10. reconsider venting
If you like to “vent” or complain with friends or family, think again. Asking for advice can be helpful. But angry words about the person you’re having a conflict with (or punching a pillow or kicking something) only feeds the fire. It doesn’t really get it out.

When we use angry, unkind words we not only hurt others, we also hurt ourselves by damaging our relationships with people we love and care about. And the only good thing that might come out of angry words is an apology.

But an apology can’t undo damage, and it can’t change the fact that our words have hurt someone. Accepting our anger, understanding it, and knowing we can make choices that are healthier and more compassionate for ourselves and the people we love is a wonderful step on the road to a happier life.

Leah McClellan is a freelance writer, part-time English instructor, gardener, vegetarian, and animal lover who dreams of world peace and writes about communication at Peaceful Planet.

{ 1 trackbacks }

{ 43 Comments }

  1. CherylK says:

    An excellent article! “It’s not what you say…it’s how you say it.” My wise mother used to drum that into our heads…I think remembering that has helped me over the years.
    .-= CherylK´s last blog ..Monarch Butterfly in Our Cranberry Bush =-.

  2. katie says:

    Really great advice Leah. I especially love the part about intentionally cultivating compassion. Giving love and getting it back, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Very inspiring piece of writing and it’s great to see the coming together of Goodlife Zen and Peaceful Planet. That just sounds right.
    .-= katie´s last blog ..7-Week Life Cleanse: Gathering Ease & Flow in Week 3 =-.

  3. Hi Leah,
    What a lovely post. Venting anger is so indulgent and pointless. It may feel good in the short term, but it doesn’t do anything toward healing the situation. I have found that you have to make the decision in advance about who you want to be. Do you want to be a person who gives in to anger or one who rises above it? It isn’t easy, but it is a noble effort! Thank you for your inspiring words.
    Barrie
    .-= Barrie Davenport´s last blog ..Blogging Superstars Part Two: Interview with Chris Guillebeau =-.

    • @Barrie Davenport,
      “Healing the situation” really says it, Barrie. It’s OK that we feel angry sometimes–it’s normal. We were hurt, we’ve been wounded, and anger develops. There’s also “habit energy” that Thich Nhat Hanh talks about–when we grow up with anger it just seems normal and we react that way. But it doesn’t heal things, and it’s good to “rise above it” as you say and learn new ways.
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..World peace starts with us: a mini-manifesto =-.

  4. Annie Stith (@Gr8fulAnnie) says:

    Hey, Leah!

    Anger is something I’ve had to work on a lot — and still do. I was raised in a very angry family, and if I’m not careful, I’ll find myself slipping into my mother’s habit of fuming, snapping, and denying what she’s angry about. Worse, if I’m not careful, I’ll explode into rage like my father.

    I’ve learned, tho, that a daily practice of meditating on compassion keeps me in a better starting place to begin with, making it more difficult to get to those points.

    Great article!

    Annie

  5. Jean Sarauer says:

    Leah, I love the image of the happy couple racing from the clouds. We all have the choice to race away from the temptation to speak angry words when we’re upset. The tips you provided are all effective ways of doing just that!
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..6 Things That Get Easier About Blogging if You Just Keep Going =-.

  6. Jeanne Male says:

    Fabulous and important tips, Leah! I’ve discovered that all of your advice is ‘spot-on’ and that meditation helps to identify feelings as they arise and gives us time to consciously choose how to deal with them. About a year ago I downloaded a free software called Coherence Coach (I have no affiliation) for those who don’t know how to meditate or don’t feel like it. The idea is to focus on loving kindness, slow breathing, etc. Keep bringing us new info and important reminders.

    • @Jeanne Male, I agree on how meditation “helps to identify feelings as they arise.” Sometimes we don’t even know how we feel about something, and it also gives us an opportunity to explore different sorts of reactions or ways of dealing with something, especially if we’re irritated or angry about something.

      Coherence Coach sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out–thanks!
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..World peace starts with us: a mini-manifesto =-.

  7. a wonderful article full of patience , my own experience in life , teach me that there is nothing beyond patience ! if you can you can have a self control you ll be the winner , a few minutes can be between anger & nervousness & that minutes can transfer your life to happiness if you have your own clues to open the doors only to what is happy in life
    .-= fatin khwarizmi´s last blog ..WWDC 2010: 10 Things To Watch For =-.

  8. If we accept the fact that all behaviour comes from unmet needs, when we feel anger a great question to ask ourselves is ‘what am I needing right now that I’m not getting. What’s another strategy to get my need met without being angry?’

    Be well…

    Coach C
    .-= Charley Hampton´s last blog ..Who Floats Your Boat? =-.

    • @Charley Hampton, You touch on a really important thing: yes, behavior arises from unmet needs. Specifically, we get angry when our needs aren’t met. And looking for how to meet the need without getting angry is a great way to go. At the same time, we can also choose to react or not to any anger we feel, and we can also question whether we really must have that need met. Then, when it concerns another person, sometimes that person simply can’t meet that need, no matter how much we wish he or she could….I could ramble on this!

      Good stuff.
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..World peace starts with us: a mini-manifesto =-.

      • catherine says:

        @Leah McClellan, thank you for this blog. I am faced with a relationship that seems to trigger my anger. My partner wants me to get medication for my behaviour. I will not go on meds but really want to change my behaviour. This is a very challenging situation. I am hoping that I can learn to redirect my anger into the ways you have discussed such as compassion. It was interesting that you mentioned “needs might not be being met”. It just seems that he triggers me and I get mad before I have a chance to make a healthy decision about how I want to act.

        • @catherine, Hi Catherine, I have known people who seem to push my buttons too, and it’s hard to come up with the best way to handle things when it happens so fast. It sounds like you’re on the right track with reading and trying to understand what’s going on and managing things as best as possible. Have you read through all the comments? Someone else mentioned something like this and how she handles it.
          Good luck to you!
          .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..World peace starts with us: a mini-manifesto =-.

  9. Alison Kerr says:

    I love compassion. What could be a better concept?

    I’m thankful that I realized fairly early on that some words should never be uttered during anger because they are words which can’t be retracted, they are words which ruin relationships.
    .-= Alison Kerr´s last blog ..5 Spray-Free Ways to Control Weeds =-.

    • @Alison Kerr, “Words can’t be retracted…” Yup. We can apologize but we can’t erase them. But then…a thought popped into my head. If we’re angry, maybe we don’t want the words to be retracted? If we’re angry, maybe we want to hurt someone? Punish someone? Maybe we (in general or anyone) feel justified sometimes? And that’s why cultivating compassion is good because angry words can’t come out of a place where there’s compassion.

      Good stuff to think on.
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..World peace starts with us: a mini-manifesto =-.

  10. Good article.

    I’d prefer a well-directed result-oriented anger over dull-sadistic-passiveness any day. 🙂

    • @Abubakar Jamil, I have to say, I’m with you. For me, if someone has an issue with me, I’d much rather face their anger and words, no matter what they are, directly. At least then I know what I’m dealing with. An angry–but passive–approach is more like dodging bullets and not knowing where they’re coming from or even if they are bullets, but they hurt just as bad….
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..World peace starts with us: a mini-manifesto =-.

  11. Aileen says:

    Great insight on Anger! I like how you pint out the faces of anger, it’s not always full blown anger it can take the form of “sarcasm, complaints, and cutting remarks”
    …& your tips to avoid angry words – truly great & valuable because, as you say,
    “an apology can’t undo damage.”
    .-= Aileen´s last blog ..2 Frugal Tips For Updating Your Wardrobe =-.

  12. Paramjit says:

    I love it the way you coined the word “lifestyle diet”. Very true. if garbage is going in, obviously garbage comes out. The one point that I can especially relate to is lack of sleep. It sets me off the deep end unnecessarily. And as long as I am feeling good, I tend not to get upset. Thanks for the great points.
    .-= Paramjit´s last blog ..12 Easy Ways to Lose Weight Without Exercise =-.

  13. I think letting it go is such an important point. If you can’t do anything about the thing that’s made you angry (either at the time, or at all), don’t waste valuable time and energy on it, just let it go. Life’s just too short to carry unnecessary anger around.
    .-= Claire – Gratitude Connection´s last blog ..Today I’m grateful for… =-.

  14. These are all excellent tips. It’s also important to consider that anger serves a purpose (we’ve evolved it for a reason). It lets ourselves and others know that our needs are not being met. When I do anger management work with my clients I often encourage them to identify the unmet need in a given situation and find an alternate way to get it met. I wrote a short blog post on this: http://www.paulthecounsellor.com.au/anger-management-counselling-melbourne/

  15. Sandra Lee says:

    Leah, Thank you for this wonderful step-by-step instruction for transforming anger. Anger is also not good for your health, so even from a purely selfish perspective it’s beneficial to let it go!
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..Reducing your oil use =-.

  16. Manal says:

    Hi Leah,
    Great insight into the sneaky little bugger named anger and its cousins. Your advice is spot on and makes a lot of sense.

    The part that resonated with me the most is to be mindful and to recognize that we are not our anger or our thoughts. This puts a person back in the driver seat instead of being driven by emotions.

    What I found helpful (I use this with the two people who push my buttons the most — my parents :)) is to do a mind dump. When my mother calls and pushes a button or two, I carry on the conversation politely and calmly. I then get a notebook and go crazy taking out everything out of my system on paper, take a deep breath and then shred the paper. I feel better by the time I’m done and usually have a different perspective.

    Thanks so much for the insight Leah.
    .-= Manal´s last blog ..The Art of Slow =-.

    • @Manal, Thanks Manal, for your very interesting comment. I like your technique for dealing with anger. In a way, it’s like venting, but your way is structured, with a purpose. Seems to me you’re honoring yourself by allowing yourself to feel what you feel (rather than trying to quench it or ignore it), but then you explore what you’re feeling by writing it down, and you put a limit to it and symbolically throw out the anger, but you get a fresh perspective. Nice. Thank YOU! Got me thinking about something related….future post probably 🙂
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..World peace starts with us: a mini-manifesto =-.

  17. John Sherry says:

    Excellent post on anger with a positive vibe – that’s a skill for sure Leah! It all works wonderfully flowing from one point to the next. I am particularly drawn to knowing the triggers and reconsider venting as they are linked elements to me. This whole article got me questioning how I approach my anger but also on how to keep it on my side and not out of control. In a fast, mad world this advice is simple but highly needed.
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..Find A Fine Companion =-.

  18. Berta says:

    I find that my biggest triggers are my daughter & husband, the ones I love the most in life. They know how to push my buttons and I feel like I have to ration out my time spent with them sometimes or I go into a downward spiral. First comes my defensive attitude and then it seems like they can say or do just the right thing that triggers my defensiveness into anger and then a never ending cycle of regret and guilt. My daughter is almost 30 now, very artistic and is actually a certified instructor of Yoga just recently and I had really hoped her time in training would teach her skills to want to better our own communication. We get along pretty well most of the time, but she is very critical of me and will ask me questions only to tell me why the solutions I suggest won’t work for her. It’s very exhausting and there are days I don’t want to be around anybody. I don’t know if this is appropriate for this forum, I guess I just felt compelled to write it down to releive some of the pressure.

  19. Lauren says:

    Hi Leah,

    Nice post on a very important topic.

    I especially like your first point. I’ve almost never had a TV, except for watching movies on DVD. When I visit my family and see the amount of angry violence I realize how not great that feels to my state of being. I can’t imagine exposing myself to it as a steady diet.

    Along the same lines, there’s only so much news I expose myself to. I love hearing what’s going on, but find I need to balance it. I feel so much better when I limit my exposure to the negativity and it’s something I do for myself on a regular basis.

    Your other points are good as well, yet the first is something I think many of us overlook, not realizing the impact it has upon how we feel.

    Thanks,
    Lauren
    .-= Lauren´s last blog ..The Truth Of A Lie – Part 2 =-.

  20. ABSue says:

    Anger arises from unmet needs…. or from reminders that a certain aching need is not going to be met, nyah nyah nyah!

    I am in pain from reading this article and the comments…. angry, frustrated, and crying. It points out that I am different in unacceptable ways. I am so lonely…

    • @ABSue, Hey There,
      Maybe the author of a blog post or any piece of writing shouldn’t admit to this, but I have to say…..these 800-some words are nowhere near the last words on the topic of anger 🙂 There is so much more written on the subject, including the book from which I quoted, Anger, by Thich Naht Hahn. Perhaps take some comfort in knowing this post is just one way of looking at things with many possible interpretations 🙂
      .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Cops, robbers, and traffic tickets =-.

      • ABSue says:

        It touched a trigger for me, and it’s a hair trigger.

        I’m aware that it’s someone’s opinion; that’s what blogs are for: opinions. There are a lot of people whose opinion of me is that I don’t exist, which gets hard to take at times. Probably you won’t even know what I’m talking about, but that’s okay.

  21. […] Not NVC, but an article from a Zen magazine. How to Transform Anger into Connection: 10 Tips for Peaceful Words … […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge