Managing Anger in Conflict
Wendy Rubinyi, Instructional Design Specialist — Independent Contractor; Minnell L. Tralle, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency; and Heather M. Lee, Project Manager — Extension Center for Family Development
Looking for some safe, simple ways to defuse angry feelings that arise because of conflict? Here are some techniques for managing anger that don’t hurt others or damage relationships.
You probably can’t eliminate angry feelings that arise because of conflict. However, you can control how you respond in moments of conflict, as well as how you cope with lingering feelings of anger (after a confrontation is over) by trying some safe, simple techniques. They will help you manage anger in ways that don’t hurt others physically or emotionally — or damage relationships you want to preserve.
During moments of conflict or a confrontation with others happening in real time:
- Take a deep breath and count to 10. Close your eyes if the situation allows that.
- Request a break or a timeout to reduce tension for yourself and others.
- Close your eyes. Imagine the angry feelings and the person with whom you are angry in a scene that you create in your mind.
After the conflict occurs:
- Exercise. Long walks help many people defuse anger and reduce tension. Or do any kind of physical activity that relaxes or helps you work out angry feelings.
- Talk about your angry feelings and what’s causing them with someone who’s a good listener. That could be a friend or relative, such as a parent or sibling, or a professional, such as a counselor or teacher.
- Write your feelings in a journal or diary. Remember that you’re writing for yourself — no one else has to read what you write. So, strive to capture your true feelings — don’t use a journal to sugarcoat things.
- Avoid violent movies, TV shows, video games, or music with violent lyrics. At minimum, they might stir up your angry feelings. At worst, they might cause you to act in destructive ways.
- Listen to music. Listen to relaxing songs instead of loud or jarring music, especially songs with violent lyrics.
- Find a private place to scream and yell. Or, if you can’t find a private place, go to your room and beat a pillow or use it to muffle screams.
- Get your mind off it. Work on a crossword puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle, or any kind of game that gets your mind off your angry feelings. You might also think about solutions to a problem or challenge you face that’s not related to what’s causing your anger.
- Do anything that calms you down! Watch the sun set, sit by a lake, take a hot bath or a cold shower, pet your dog or cat. The last has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce feelings of stress.
Do anything you can think of that helps you release your angry feelings — as long as it doesn’t hurt yourself or others.
Damerow, D., & Syverson, S. (1999). Building family strengths: A toolkit for families (Item No. 07265). St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension Service.
Shrand, J., & Devine, L. (2013). Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.
Wells, D. L. (2009). The effects of animals on human health and well-being. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 523-543.
Controlling Your Own Anger — Learn to recognize your own anger triggers toward your child, and follow these strategies to manage your own anger.
When Does Alcohol or Drug Use Become an Abuse? — Many people turn to alcohol or drugs when they are sad.