Anger is a natural consequence of not getting what we want and need. It is a response to an injustice, real or imagined. It is a way of telling someone that we have been hurt.
There are many ways we express our anger and some of them are harmful. We have all been on the receiving end of an angry voice. Sadly, some of us have been the recipients of physical harm too. I call this loud anger. It is the anger that raises its voice and hand in a way that destroys the receiver’s right to be respected. Loud anger is intense, powerful, and threatening and often seems to arise with little obvious warning. Few workplaces tolerate loud anger and healthy relationships say “NO” to this form of communicating. However knowing the expectations of what is acceptable and what the consequences are if we err from them, often allows us to curb our reactive response to shout, yell and punch.
Sometimes however we slip into subtler forms of anger that I call quiet anger.
Unlike loud anger, quiet anger runs at a slow burn and for this reason it can last for years and generations. It can become our habitual way of expressing what we are dissatisfied with. It shows itself as contempt, sarcasm, and criticism. Because of the mixed messages it contains, it is the anger that confuses us most. A smile can deflect a threat and a cruel statement can be disguised in humour. Quiet anger can be the deliberate delay in getting back to someone, or the use of silence and avoidance when connection is expected. It is the planned inaction of withholding praise, resources, feedback and encouragement when you know how valued these are to someone.
Quiet anger is usually delivered in a disciplined and strategic way. It may include the cc’ing in of your boss without clear reason, or the use of CAPITALS to deliver a message. It is commonly called a passive aggressive approach to communicating feelings, where barbed actions are sugar coated and opportunities to connect and discuss the issue are not taken up.
Loud anger and quiet anger both seek to punish, however quiet anger allows the aggressor with a place to hide from their actions. Such hiding places are statements such as “you are too sensitive, you didn’t understand me and how could you think this of me?”
Communicating our feelings is fraught with difficulty and some of our most utilised ways are ineffective, conflict enhancing and downright unfair. The good news is, communication styles can be changed. With some guidance and a whole lot of practice, we can take back control of our loud anger reactions and step out of the quiet anger victim role. The first step is to recognise in what way you communicate your anger and who you might be hurting as you express it.