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Part VI: Listen to Other People’s Anger > 20 Additional Behaviors That Create R...

Chapter 20. 20 Additional Behaviors That Create Relationship Anger

  1. The Need to Be Right

    The need to always be right and prove it can cause many angry moments in relationships. This is often acted out by someone who has to demonstrate superiority or it can be based on a simple insecurity and desire for approval. Either way, it can create adversaries instead of partners. It is one of the main reasons family members bicker.

    Partner #1: “I told you about that.”

    Partner #2: “No, you never did.”

    Partner #1: “I did. You weren’t listening.”

    In some cases, the issue can be far more serious than the above exchange. It can create lasting resentment and additional communication problems for weeks and even months to come.


    Do you need to be right too often? Yes___ No___

  2. Negative Criticism

    We can grow from positive, constructive criticism. We can learn from comments that are helpful. But it is very easy to criticize, in a negative way, our family for their mistakes, habits, beliefs and everyday behavior.

    We are often not aware of how hurtful we are, and it becomes a habit to blurt out negative comments.

    • “You did it wrong again. You’ll never get it right.”

    • “You just aren’t any good at that sort of work.”

    • “You say the stupidest things when you get around other people.”

    Statements like these don’t lead to any positive change and cause hurt, anger and self-esteem problems. Constructive requests or comments would be better and less hurtful.


    Do you criticize your family in a negative way without even thinking about what you’re saying? Yes___ No___

  3. Passing Judgment

    You will not always approve of what your family members do, but chronic disapproval and judging can damage any relationship. It is also unrealistic to approve of everything all the time.

    Request a change of habit in a constructive way, and discuss the changes and the reasons without destructive impact.

    Negative: “I don’t like the way you always yell at the children.”

    Positive: “Could we discuss a way of correcting the children without yelling?”


    Are you consistently evaluating and disapproving of your family’s actions and behavior? Yes __ No

  4. Threats

    Threatening is a sure way to escalate an anger situation in any relationship, and families find this very insulting. The threat of causing pain to someone you love is aggressive and hurtful, and it’s not easily forgotten.

    Threats linger on long after the heat of the argument is over. They are rarely made in a calm, rational tone and they offer little value in resolving the conflict.

    • “I won’t take this. I’ll take the children and leave.”

    • “Do that again and you’ll never get another dime from me.”

    • “Your mother would love to know how you’re acting. I think I’ll call her.”

    • “Wait until your father gets home.”

    You can state your feelings without any underlying or blatant threat. Expression is assertive and reasonable; threats are not.


    Do you often threaten in a family argument? Yes __ No

  5. Emotional Outbursts

    Negative drama makes your family members feel helpless, manipulated and drained. Outbursts can be frightening and they escalate anger thoughts. Tearful pleading and drama create a breakdown in total communication. Expression of feelings (even negative ones) is healthy, but there is nothing beneficial about negative dramatics.

    Stop yourself and think of what you’re doing. If necessary, take a time-out and come back to the discussion at a later time.

    Those with a temper should be cautious in any anger situation and practice relaxation techniques on a regular basis.


    Do you display negative dramatic behavior when in conflict with your relatives? Yes___ No___

  6. Interrogating

    Questions, questions, questions—they can be exhausting. They tell your partner or family member that you don’t trust them or believe them, or that you must control them. This can be destructive to any relationship and create anger moments that will escalate into full-blown arguments. No one likes to be cross-examined. You don’t like it done to you, so be aware of when you do it to loved ones.

    Show respect for the privacy of family members. Just because they are your family doesn’t mean that you have to know everything they do.

    Wrong Choice: “Where were you?”

    Better Choice: “Are you okay? Did you get hung up at the office?”

    This may take practice, especially if you are the suspicious type. But with a little effort, you’ll find it produces more open communication with your spouse and children.


    Do you interrogate partner or children? Yes___ No___

  7. Labeling

    We discussed labeling as part of our belief system, but now we’re talking about the psychological terms you use against your partner or even your children. This is probably in the top ten of all offenses that we commit in relationships.

    • “You’re so stupid.”

    • “You need help; you’re crazy.”

    • “You’re nothing but a child.”

    • “It’s not my fault you’re insecure. I can’t help you.”

    • “Stop asking so many questions; you’re paranoid.”

    Using negative labels like these can only hurt the people you love and create anger that will be stored up for another incident. Sometimes the labels are even more aggressive with complete evaluations attached to the label.

    “You’re abnormal. No one acts the way you do. It’s probably due to your fear of rejection.”

    Don’t play psychologist with your mate or child. It will not help the situation.


    Are you aware of labeling members of your family? Yes __ No__

  8. Indifference

    There probably aren’t too many of us who haven’t experienced indifference in a relationship. We can and often do take partners or family members for granted. We get used to their presence and we can even lose interest in what they say or do. This damages relationships at the time of the incident, but it can also drive your family to seek attention and communication elsewhere.

    We are being inattentive when we don’t respond verbally, walk away when the other party is talking, ignore something of importance or change the subject when the other person is still talking.

    Attentiveness is important to any loving relationship and to a happy social life.


    Do you often ignore family members when they are seeking your attention? Yes __ No___

  9. Lying

    Lying in a loving relationship weakens even the strongest ties. It undermines the trust and respect the two of you should maintain. It is better to say nothing than to lie. “I’d prefer not to talk about it is far better than an out-and-out lie. If you get in the habit of telling lies to avoid conflict, the relationship will be even more damaged than if you face the consequences of your actions.

    Be aware of when you lie and why. Out of love and respect for your relationship, make a commitment to never lie.


    Do you lie to your partner or family members to avoid conflict or the consequences for your actions? Yes__ No__


    Before we go any further, take a moment to assess what you’ve learned about yourself and your intimate relationships. Please complete the sentence below. Express any thoughts you have that could help you have greater satisfaction in your current relationship.

    I’ve discovered that I could have better family relationships if I… ______


  10. Jealousy

    Jealousy is a negative emotion that contains its own set of anger thoughts. This anger is usually the result of insecurity, the fear of loss and possessiveness. Jealousy is usually a reaction to beliefs and perceived harm rather than factual information. But, perceived or real, creating an emotional scene or displaying anger will not do any good for your relationship.

    If you react emotionally instead of rationally, you are certain to damage an already shaky relationship. Learn to trust, and work on building your own self-esteem. If your suspicions prove to be real, you must then decide about the future of the involvement you have with your partner.


    Are you jealous without cause? Yes__ No__

  11. Using Negative Language

    Negative emotional language can be hurtful and cause anger resentment. When you express yourself emotionally in a positive situation, you enhance your relationships, but negative language can cause long-term damage.

    Describing your feelings without dramatic display is your best choice in any anger incident.

    Negative emotional language can be very damaging to your children.

    A statement like “Your father just left and walked out on us” can inflict emotional scars that last for years. Be careful of your language in an anger situation with a family member. The effort will be well worth it for those you love.


    Do you use negative emotional language with or about your family? Yes __ No__

  12. Complaining

    We often use relationships to air complaints about life. It seems to be a safe avenue for venting our feelings about work, emotions in general or just world events. Complaining can cause your partner to feel guilty about not siding with you or to feel sorry for you when they can’t or don’t know how to help. This can build resentment and anger if it turns into habit or even a way to manipulate.

    It is true that we can’t always report the good about our day, but you can discuss events without the anger that accompanies complaints.

    The entire tone of your evening can be set by the way you communicate your feelings.

    1. State the situation as it happened, good or bad.

    2. Request advice or assistance from your partner with a problem.

    3. Remember: your partner didn’t participate or create your problem.


    Do you complain too much, too often? Yes __ No__

  13. Pessimistic Outlook

    We can easily destroy the enthusiasm of others with a pessimistic outlook. Without thinking, we may put down ideas or hope when they are expressed by our family members.

    • “I don’t know why you planted those seeds. They’ll never grow.”

    • “Why have you started that project? You know you’ll never finish.”

    • “That won’t work.”

    • “It’ll just rain.”

    Have you heard statements such as these? If you have, you know how harmful they can be to your relationship. Negative people can become very angry and often have some past anger that has not been worked out.


    Are you a pessimist? Yes__ No__

  14. Comparisons

    Comparing your loved ones to others in an unfavorable way is sure to fuel anger situations.

    • “You’re just like your father.”

    • “You never see Jim talk to his wife like this.”

    • “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

    This type of statement is particularly destructive when anger situations have already been started over another negative behavior. Remember that no one is perfect, and comparing will not change the behavior or solve the problem.


    Do you compare your family members to others or in an unfavorable way? Yes__ No__

  15. Blaming

    Blaming never benefits anyone. Here’s a blaming statement: “I shouldn’t have listened to you. It’s your fault we’re lost.” This is just as harmful as blaming yourself. Remember that you’re responsible for your own feelings and your own actions. When you blame your family for things that are your responsibility, you are really looking for a scapegoat.

  16. Attacking

    Attacking is unpleasant under any conditions. When you attack things that others say or do, you are attacking their sense of self-esteem. Most people will stay away from the source of an attack. This is a sure way to drive your family members away and shut down communication.


    Do you attack members of your family? Yes __ No

  17. Mind-Reading

    We all try to mind-read with our partners and family at one time or another—we make interpretations about family members’ thinking without asking them what they think is going on. This creates problems in relationships.

    Do you really know what someone else is thinking? Don’t guess. You’ll save many angry moments by asking a few questions before you assume anything.


    Do you mind-read? Yes __ No__

  18. Giving Commands Sometimes we forget to ask our family members to do something. Barking out orders is difficult for anyone to live with for long.

    • “Get the door.”

    • “Pick up your clothes.”

    • “Don’t do that.”

    • “Shut up.”

    They can get worse when we go into detail.

    • “I told you never to act that way in front of my friends.”

    • “How many times do I have to tell you to shut the gate?”

    A request works much better. A simple “please” and “thank you” can go a long way.


    Do you give orders instead of make requests? Yes __ No__

  19. Pretending

    Pretending to like something or to be happy, or pretending you’re not upset when you are doesn’t help to build a solid relationship. The truth usually comes out sooner or later. Be honest without being cruel. You’ll save yourself frustration and resentment down the road.


    Do you pretend in order to avoid problems? Yes__ No__

  20. Punishing

    When we punish our family because they haven’t lived up to our expectations, we are breaking down the lines of constructive communication. Rather than discussing the problem and looking for a solution, we punish by refusing to do something, by sulking or even by causing such guilt that our partner can’t enjoy the day. Find a solution that works for both of you.


    Do you punish when you talk? Yes__ No__

Relationships take work. Family relationships are sensitive to all behaviors that are anger-provoking. Destructive habits can easily be corrected if both you and you partner make an effort. Stop and think before you act. Be aware of the message you are sending and what you are doing. You and your family will be happier and healthier for the effort.



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