A few weeks ago, I discovered that my landline was not working. I called the phone company and they scheduled for a technician to come out. While I waited a few days for the service call, the problem resolved, so when the technician came out, he couldn’t find anything wrong. A few days later, the same problem occurred again. So I called them again. The person I spoke to ran some tests and said that he couldn’t see anything wrong with the phone line. He offered to schedule another service call but this time I would be charged for it. When I heard that, my body instantly went into attack mode. I started sweating, my breathing quickened and I wanted to yell at the employee and demand that he fix the problem. However, I knew that I needed to control myself because getting angry wasn’t going to get my phone repaired and could have made the situation worse.

Most people have experienced situations like this, when we feel like a service provider is not willing to help, leaving us feeling angry and powerless. Our bodies go into the fight-or-flight response mode, in which we physically prepare to fight or flee from a perceived danger in order to survive. Unfortunately, fighting or running is not helpful with most of today’s problems. When our bodies are in this heightened state, we tend to communicate aggressively by yelling, cursing, getting in someone’s face, or becoming physically violent. This doesn’t resolve the problem and can cause more problems, including hurting others and damaging relationships. Fortunately, we have a choice to communicate our anger differently, to work cooperatively toward a solution.

When we feel angry, we can communicate assertively. Assertive communication is a direct way to communicate exactly how we feel in a respectful way. It includes:

  • Calm tone of voice
  • Good eye contact
  • Respect for the other person (even if you don’t respect his/her behaviors)
  • “I” statements, which state how you feel and why you feel that way, without blaming the other person for your feelings

Instead of yelling at the employee at the phone company, I decided to communicate assertively. To do this successfully, I had to take a deep breath, and remember that his actions were not personal. I used an “I” statement and said, “I feel angry that you are refusing to help me resolve this problem because I am paying for this service and expect it to work. I would appreciate it if you would schedule for another technician to come out or let me speak to a manager.” He did not schedule another service call but he was willing to calmly discuss other possible causes and offer suggestions, something I don’t think would have happened if I had lost my temper.

How do you cope with situations in which you are not getting your needs met? If you are struggling to communicate assertively, Serenity Solutions can help you develop a personalized plan to successfully manage your anger.