On the last track, we discussed Alternatives to Anger. Three alternatives to anger are analyzing accusations, acknowledging imperfections, and teaching others.
On this track, we will discuss Positive Responses to Anger. I will describe two types of responses. They are active and questioning response. As we discuss these responses, think about how you might introduce them to the anger management client you are currently treating.
Two Types of Positive Responses to Anger
#1 Active Response
The first type of positive response can be an active response. The type of active response used depends on the situation. As I mentioned in Track 4, anger can be based on unmet needs. As you know, stating needs is healthy for a client. For example, a specific need can be expressed by a client stating, “What’s bothering me is your lack of attention. What I think I need is acknowledgement.”
As you know, anger management clients, like Allen, are more aggressive when their needs are unmet. Allen, age 42, was openly aggressive toward his family. Allen stated, “I am always exhausted and pissed off after work! My wife Sue and I have four children. She’s not much help, so I have to jump right in as soon as I get home from work. I don’t get any damn rest, so I’m always yelling. I feel like I have to yell at my kids and scream at my damn wife to get any peace!”
I explained to Allen that an Active Response can be used to negotiate. I stated, “With negotiation responses, the goal is to involve the other person in solving the problem. If Sue becomes upset when you yell at the kids for not doing their homework, you might try asking her, ‘What would you suggest to help us solve this problem?’” I find that if a client practices these active responses, he or she can better express feelings and needs when they feel angry. Are you treating an Allen who could benefit from a negotiation response?
Technique: Response Choice
Before an active response is used, clients can develop a fallback position. The fallback position is the minimum change the client can accept to meet his or her needs. On a sheet of paper, I first asked Allen to write his needs and his fallback position. Second, Allen devised a specific need response and a negotiation response. Using active response, Allen told his wife Sue, “I feel frustrated and exhausted. I know you need my help, but I need some time to relax when I get home.”
Allen’s fallback position was chosen as half an hour of down time. Sue agreed that Allen needed down time after work, and suggested that he take an hour after work every day to relax. If this response had been met with resistance, then Allen could have used his negotiation response. For example, had Allen’s wife Sue not addressed his needs when he stated them, Allen may have said, “I know you need my help, but I am so stressed that I’m taking it out on the kids. How do you think we can solve this problem?” As you can see, this gave Sue an opportunity to accept responsibility in working toward a solution.
#2 Questioning Response
In addition to active response, another type of Positive Response to anger is a questioning response. As you know, a questioning response focuses on uncovering the other person’s needs. For example, a questioning response to uncover a need can be expressed by asking, “What concerns you in this situation? What do you need?” Questioning Response can also be used to withdraw from an anger situation. If the anger management client feels the conflict is escalating, he or she can state, “It feels like we’re getting upset. I want to stop and cool off."
Carol, age 27, was a nurse at a busy city hospital. Sarah, one of Carol’s co-workers in the hospital, criticized her repeatedly for various forms of inefficiency. Carol stated, “She gets me so worked up. It didn’t really bother me at first, but after the third or fourth time I started getting so damn mad! I don’t know what her problem is, but she needs to figure it out. She pissed me off so bad the other day that I told a patient to go to hell!” Carol knew her behavior was unacceptable and could cost her a job.
Technique: Response Choice
I worked with Carol to choose a questioning response. First, Carol practiced questioning responses she could use in our sessions and at home. Second, Carol and I role played the situation. Once Carol felt comfortable using questioning responses, I suggested she try using them at work with Sarah. Here’s how Carol used the questioning response and the role information, Carol stated, “Sarah criticized me for being slow the other day.
I told her, ‘I understand you are upset, but could you tell me what bothers you about my slowness?’ Sarah said my being slow bothered her because she wound up with extra work. I think now I understand why she was on my case.” By using a questioning response, Carol uncovered Sarah’s concern and was able to gain empathy. The conversation between Carol and Sarah was productive. Of course, had the conversation escalated Carol could have used her withdrawal response to control her anger.
On this track, we discussed Positive Responses to Anger. I described two types of responses. They are active response and questioning response.
What are two types of positive responses to anger?
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