Relationship Fitness

S10: Anger E7: Assertive Anger Play

In “Relationship Workout for Men” Season 10 Episode 7 titled “Assertive Anger Play,” Vince delves into the constructive approach of expressing anger within relationships, emphasizing assertive communication. Assertive Anger is portrayed as the ideal way to express needs and feelings while considering the partner’s perspective, focusing on solving issues rather than winning arguments. Vince outlines the characteristics of assertive anger, such as using “I” statements, maintaining composure, and actively seeking solutions, demonstrating how this approach fosters mutual respect and understanding. Through this episode, Vince advocates for seeing the health of the relationship in the bigger picture, encouraging listeners to prioritize constructive resolution and the well-being of both partners.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 10, Episode 7: Assertive Anger Play

In the next two episodes, we explore two strong anger plays Assertive and Let Go, starting with the Assertive Anger play.

So, What is Assertive Anger?

Assertive Anger is about expressing one’s needs and feelings while still considering the needs and feelings of the other person. It’s about expressing oneself in loving ways, not in harmful and selfish ones. It’s about seeing the health of the relationship in the bigger picture, and not always worrying about getting one’s way, especially over trivial differences.

Assertive Anger occurs when — in the angry person’s best judgment — the issue is important enough to discuss. Again, raising the issue is not about crucifying the partner, but rather about clarify and resolving, so the two people can get back to having fun together.

Put another way, assertive anger is a healthy and constructive way of expressing anger. It involves communicating feelings of anger clearly and directly, but without aggression or violating others’ rights. Here are fourteen common ways in which assertive anger can be delivered:

1. Direct Communication: Clearly and calmly stating that you are angry and explaining why, without being aggressive or confrontational.

2. Maintaining Composure: Expressing anger while remaining in control of emotions, avoiding yelling, or becoming overly emotional.

3. Using “I” Statements: Framing expressions of anger in terms of one’s own feelings and experiences, such as saying “I feel frustrated when…” instead of blaming or accusing others.

4. Listening Actively: Being open to hearing others’ perspectives and responding to their points, even when angry.

5. Setting Clear Boundaries: Clearly articulating what is acceptable and what is not and standing up for oneself without infringing on others’ rights.

6. Seeking Solutions: Focusing on finding a resolution or a compromise, rather than dwelling on the problem or assigning blame.

7. Respecting Others: Recognizing and respecting the feelings and rights of the person you’re angry with, even when disagreeing.

8. Non-Verbal Communication: Using body language that is open and non-threatening, such as maintaining eye contact and adopting a relaxed posture.

9. Being Specific About Issues: Addressing the specific behavior or situation that has caused anger, rather than generalizing or bringing up unrelated issues.

10. Acknowledging the Other Person’s Feelings: Recognizing and validating the feelings of others involved in the situation, even if you don’t agree with them.

11. Requesting Change: Asking for specific changes in behavior or situation that would resolve the source of anger.

12. Expressing Consequences: If necessary, stating the consequences of the continuing unacceptable behavior in a calm and reasonable way.

13. Seeking Mutual Understanding: Aiming for a mutual understanding and acknowledgment of each other’s perspective.

14. Following Up: After the immediate situation has been addressed, following up to ensure long-term resolution and to maintain healthy relationships.

In other words, the Assertive Anger play is about maintaining a never-ending flow of deepening understanding for mutual gain between the two of you. Assertive Anger blends Strong Ownership, Communication, Kindness, and Integrity Plays together to get the issue on the table, and then resolved in a way that’s agreeable by both people. 

Unlike weak anger plays that tend to fall into continuous, seemingly never-ending cycles, strong anger plays tend to flow toward resolution. Here are eight stages describing a possible assertive anger play flow, many of these stages we’ll dive in deeper during the season on Communications:

  • Stage 1: Describe: Have the What Happened conversation by describing the situation or behavior that is bother you, while trying not to negatively label your partner. You might say something like: “When you do or say [fill in the blank]”
  • Stage 2: Feelings: Have the feelings conversation without placing blame or shame. You might say something like: “I feel [fill in the blank]”
  • Stage 3: Impact: Share the results or consequences of what is going on for you by having the identify conversation and by sharing internal triggers and wounds. You might say something like: “It affects me when [fill in the blank]”
  • Stage 4: Ownership: Accept responsibility for your part in the issue. You might say something like: “I realize my part in the issue is [fill in the blank]”
  • Stage 5: Express: Share what you want or leave the specific solution open. You might say something like: “I would prefer [fill in the blank]. What do you think?”
  • Stage 6: Listen: Be quiet and let the other person say what’s on his or her mind. You might say something like: “Tell me more” and “This is what I hear you saying.”
  • Stage 7: Appreciation: Acknowledge the other person’s willingness to listen, efforts he or she has made, and support of the relationship in general. You might say something like: “I really appreciate [fill in the blank]”
  • Stage 8: Problem solve: Jointly come up with possible solutions and together pick one that feels the most comfortable for both people. And with problem solving, the couple can take the steps to resolving the issue that’s on the table.

To help facilitate this type of assertive anger flow, here are five aspects of a situation that might spawn assertive anger to be put into play:

  1. Having an unfulfilled need that he or she feels is important enough to discuss. Trivial differences of needs are ignored. 
  2. Being intent on communicating these needs in a constructive and loving way.
  3. Recognizing that if important needs and feelings are ignored, then eventually there will be unhappiness and growing resentment in the relationship.
  4. Not insisting on one’s own inflexible agenda being met, but rather staying open to hearing the other person’s story and seeking agreeable compromise.
  5. Valuing and appreciating the ability to resolve differences in a loving and healthy way. When using Assertive Anger, the outcome is often a stronger relationship, as a better understanding of each other is achieved. In other words, resolving issues together in this loving and healthy way becomes yet another proof point of how strong two people are as partners.

In addition, you know if you’re using or experiencing Assertive Anger because:

  • You find yourself only discussing important issues, not arguing about trivial matters or issues that have been self-created.
  • The tone of voice, mannerisms and language continue to be loving, regardless of how emotionally charged the issue might be for you and your partner. In other words, both people remain considerate, empathetic, and respectful throughout the conversation.
  • You don’t find yourself feeling frustrated or exhausted by the conversation. Rather, the conversation flows easily until a workable resolution is discovered and implemented.

In summary, Assertive Anger is the way to go if the issue seems important enough to talk about, and you want to find to resolution from a place of collaborative relationship strength.

When you look deeper, Assertive Anger is about discovering and resolving the root of the conflict, regardless of who might end up needing to make some changes. This is true love (and maturity) in action! In fact, you might want to say, “I love you” during the discussion.

In other words, Assertive Anger is Really About:

  • Knowing your interests and internal landscape
  • Saying and sharing them
  • Being as specific as possible
  • Caring about your partner and behaving as if you’re on the same team
  •  Breathing, relaxing and speaking from a place of calm directness
  • Resisting any temptation to use Aggressive, Passive, Avoidance and/or Defensive Anger Plays and tactics

Put simply, assertive anger is an effective communication strategy that allows individuals to stand up for themselves and express their feelings, while also respecting and acknowledging the feelings and rights of others. It contributes to healthy, constructive interactions and relationships.

This said one thing I’ve realized being in a relationship with my wife for well over fifteen years, is that not all differences and potential issues that come up in a relationship really need to be discussed, which leads us to the final anger play: Let Go – the topic of our next episode.

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