• Sandy Reynolds

The Things That Make Us Angry

Last post I wrote about being on the receiving end of someone's anger. This week I want to talk about women and anger. We often think of anger as the domain of men. It's aggressive, violent and in your face. As women, we've been taught to be nice. We don't rage.


“I'm NOT angry” I’ve said that when everything about me betrays my words. Anger is a hard one to own. I don’t like to be on either end of an exchange of anger. I rarely yell. I grew up with a lot of yelling in my home. It was how my parents expressed their anger. Yelling could lead to other variations of anger as well. Like throwing things or beating the kids. It usually ended with someone storming out. Anger never led anywhere productive in my experience. It was a negative emotion.


And then I got married and discovered that I needed to learn how to deal with conflict and anger. We celebrated 38 years of marriage this week so although it hasn’t been perfect, we have learned how to live together even though we have very different opinions and approaches to many things. Learning not to shut down when I was angry was a huge lesson for me.


Before we were married we went for pre-marital counselling. We did a conflict assessment and I still remember being told, “You won’t fight very often but when you do - you should sell tickets. They will be monumental.” We were two people who would rather choose to avoid conflict and let it build until one of us exploded. That was the pattern in our early days. Eventually, we learned healthier ways of dealing with conflict in our relationship. (And no, Brian doesn’t always go along with what I want!)


I don’t like being angry. Who does? It usually involves confronting another person and intense conversation. It means letting go of outcomes and expressing what’s bothering me. It’s a scary thing especially for a person with a predilection for being liked.


I’ve been much more comfortable with anger turned inwards. I prefer anger’s little sister: frustration. I can hang out with frustration, journal about it, talk about it and even find sympathy for it. It’s wonderful. But it is still anger. And the truth is, it isn’t any more productive than yelling and screaming.


We get angry when our expectations aren’t met. When I expect someone to do something and they don’t: I get angry. When someone promises something and doesn’t follow through: I feel angry. (We also may feel disappointed and I wonder if that is also a more acceptable feeling for many women than anger.)


I’ve learned that anger doesn’t need to be a scary thing. It can be a gift. It is an indicator that something isn't sitting right with you. My husband wrote a book about managing expectations called, “What Do You Expect?” In his book, he suggests a process for dealing with expectations. I’ll give you the short version here.


The first two steps are internal and sometimes those are the only steps you need to do.


Realize: Become aware of exactly what you were expecting. Did you expect that person to let you merge into traffic on the highway?

Analyze: Consider and decide if your expectations were realistic. Why would that driver let you in front of them?


The next two steps involve having a conversation where you express your expectations.

Vocalize or Verbalize: Share your expectations with the person or persons involved. It isn’t always possible - unless that driver in front of you is someone you know!

Synthesize: Decide if you can come to an agreement on your expectations and can move forward.


I’ve offered training and coaching on this process to my clients in the past. It’s really helpful and in our family, we talk about expectations frequently. Last week, my husband and I took our grandchildren to a new local ice cream parlour. My seven-year-old granddaughter commented, “That place was much nicer than I expected.” I couldn’t help smiling. Clearly, her mom has talked to her about expectations!


The truth is people-pleasers often avoid conflict. What if you could look at your anger through the lens of an unmet expectation and explore where that expectation came from? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to understand those feelings and find a way to move forward that would strengthen your relationships and help you become more comfortable expressing what you need?


Next time you feel disappointed or frustrated get curious about those feelings. Maybe you are really angry. And that is okay. Ask yourself, "What did I expect to happen?"


If you are interested in getting a copy of What Do You Expect? OR coaching around anger and expectations email me. The book is on Kindle. If you would like a hard copy of it I will mail you one for the price of postage. Email for details.

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