How do you best deal with your anger in the midst of an argument?

Anger is one of the most powerful emotions of which we know. Anger can overtake even the most emotionally intelligent and grounded person.

Anger is frequently a secondary emotion. This means anger often appears on the heels of another emotion, such as embarrassment or hurt. These vulnerable emotions are typically swallowed up by anger in a split second. The feeling of anger is going to come at times. There is no stopping it. It is normal. So how do you best deal with anger, particularly in a relationship?

Name it.

Studies have shown that simply putting an emotional label on what you are feeling serves to reduce the intensity of that feeling. Even if you’re not quite sure what you’re feeling, simply being curious about what it is you ARE feeling helps to slow the emotional reaction. The reason is that this simple act of labelling activates the prefrontal cortex (where rational thought tends to take place) and it deactivates the limbic system (where emotions arise).

Identify what is underneath.

Ask yourself, “What am I feeling beneath the anger?” Often, there is an emotion preceding your anger. I’ve found that 90% of the time, hurt feelings underlie my anger. Now when I begin to get frustrated, the first question I ask myself is, “Did someone just hurt my feelings?” Typically the answer is yes. When I get that ”yes” response, it is easier to come at the conversation with a more compassionate, kinder response. For example, underneath her anger, Sierra feels as if she is insignificant and the relationship is unimportant after her spouse was late (again) for their dinner date.

The primary emotion is feeling hurt, “less than.” As soon as Sierra is aware of this, she can share this with her spouse. A good way to begin such a conversation is with a soft start, “Is this a good time to talk?” This provides a much higher chance of successful resolution:

By using “I statements” and focusing on the softer feelings beneath the anger, you stand a much better chance of your spouse hearing you and responding positively. This is preferable to leading with anger and starting a disagreement. Instead, you are opening a conversation respectfully about how you are feeling.

Be appropriately assertive.

Assertiveness lies midway on the scale between doormat and aggressive. Assertiveness requires that you know what you need (e.g., being spoken to with respect, alone time, etc.). The second part is speaking up and asking for what you need in a way the other person can hear.

The happiest and most successful couples learn how to quickly identify which emotions lie just below the surface of anger. They are skilled at moving to the primary emotion.. After they identify that, they speak to their needs. This results in a calmer, slower start up to the conversation and a better chance of successful resolution.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. John Schinnerer holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from U.C. Berkeley. Dr. John is the Founder of, a company that focuses on coaching individuals to turn down the volume on anger using the latest in advanced psychology using online video classes. He wrote the award-winning book “Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion.” Dr. John hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a prime time radio show, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. John’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to anger management, to high performance habits. Dr. John has been featured in SELF Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Readers Digest,, and Business Ethics. He has given numerous presentations, radio shows and seminars to tens of thousands of people. Dr. John was as expert consultant for the Academy Award-winning movie, Inside Out. He was also featured in a documentary entitled Skewed.