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April 18, 2012 at 9:18 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

What's Your Anger Style?

By Brad Plaggemars More Blogs by This Author

Anger: Everyone experiences it, but who knew that there were distinct styles of anger? What's yours?

There are four specific styles of anger: reactive, passive-agressive, avoidant, and direct.


People who have a reactive style of anger will respond immediately to a supposed insult or injustice. For example, they may yell, throw things, or slam doors. Simon Rego, PsyD, explains why people do this:

Many people act this way because it tends to get results. People who explode also experience a lot of guilt. Later, they may feel ashamed because they didn't control themselves or they know they hurt the other person.

Responding this way might have immediate satisfaction, but, in the long-term, people could view the person as volatile or as a bully who needs to get his/her way. Taking this approach can also take a toll on one's health. Lashing out this way increases stress on the heart and, in turn, elevates the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

What should be done instead:

  • Think: Think through your feelings and practice self-control.
  • Breathe: When the urge to lose it begins to stir, take 10 deep breaths, enough that your belly extends out when you exhale. This circulates extra oxygen and brings about the flow of hormones like serotonin.
  • State your feelings: State your feelings, but state them in a way that will not judge or label the person, because this could potentially spark an argument.


Passive-aggressive is basically attacking another person indirectly by sabotaging, gossiping, withholding praise, making digs, or using the "silent treatment." One problem with this tactic is that it is easy to recognize, which can lead to further confrontation.

What should be done instead:

  • Own it: Those who are passive-aggressive don't usually feel entitled to strong emotions. However, accepting that someone has upset you is step number one.
  • Check yourself: Ask yourself how you would feel if someone else acted this way toward you. If your answer was negative, then stop acting that way.
  • Talk in the mirror: If you have difficulties taking a head-on approach, practice what you want to say in the mirror.
  • Voice your needs: Start by stating something mutual such as preserving a relationship or clearing the air, then advance into talking about how you are feeling. 


This style of anger is one that consists of pretending that nothing is wrong when something certainly is. Jair Soares, MD, says:

Internalizing damages your self-esteem, because you feel weak and unable to assert your own needs. That can contribute to depression. Bottling up anger causes a rush of negative stress hormones in the body, taxing the cardiovascular system.

Which can lead to more serious health risks like heart issues and digestive problems.

What should be done instead:

  • Learn to recognize your rage: Those with this style of anger have a difficult time recognizing when they're irritated. If you find yourself avoiding people and becoming stressed, examine your most recent interaction with people for a potential trigger.
  • Face your fears: Avoidance is something that arises from silent worry over past experiences, like ending a relationship by voicing your feelings.
  • Practice: Challenge yourself to be firm and assertive with a different person once a day. After doing this a number of times it will be easier to do in other situations.


This style of anger speaks for itself. People with this style don't find it difficult to admit when they are angry. Unlike those with the reactive style, people who respond in a direct way construct a rational, effective, respectful approach before speaking. Dr. Rego believes this tactic is the most ideal style. According to Dr. Rosenthal, it is "the most effective way to get through anger to a positive, swift resolution. It shows you're respectful of others' needs and feelings, but you take your own emotions into account too."

What should be done instead:

  • Pick your battles: You don't have to respond to every situation. Sometimes the best approach is to just let it go.
  • Continue to sharpen your communication skills: There is always room for improvement. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Which style do you possess?


Photo Credit:


Luis Beltrán

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