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The Best Way to React When Someone Is Shouting at You in Anger

The Best Way to React When Someone Is Shouting at You in Anger

Yelling is a topic relevant to every person on this planet because everyone has raised their voice in anger during their lifetime. Some people yell on a regular basis, but we are all guilty of yelling at some point in life. There are ways to react to a yeller that will help diffuse them, rather than continue to escalate the situation.

Yelling is not healthy for relationships and its results do not yield long term positive results. A person may acquiesce to a yeller at the moment to get them to stop yelling, but once things get back to normal, they typically revert back, because the yelling hasn’t changed their mindset long term. For example, a Mom who yells at her kids to pick up their toys may actually result in the kids picking up their toys in that moment. However, it won’t change their mindset that they should pick up their toys consistently. Kids will learn to pick up if they have been conditioned with a reward or punishment system and they recognize the importance and value of picking up their toys.

Yelling is damaging to relationships. It is not a constructive way to deal with a difficult situation, yet every person engages in yelling. Some more than others. You should be aware of your own yelling, understand why some people are constant yellers, and also know how to deal with a yeller.

When someone is constantly yelling at you in life, they are displaying emotional tyranny over you. Their goal is to gain an upper hand in the situation and the yelling is their means of gaining control over you. It is a form of intimidation. The yelling may work temporarily. However, the long term sustainability of the results from yelling is not good, because it is a way of bullying someone into getting them to do what the yeller wants done. Yelling is not healthy for relationships, in fact it breaks down healthy communications and the closeness of relationships.

Why Do People Yell?

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” – Mark Twain

When someone is angry and they are yelling, there are a variety of reasons that they are yelling. Most reasons why they are yelling are not good reasons for yelling, so it’s important that the recipient react correctly, which is more about not being reactive. It is important to understand why someone is yelling, because most often yelling is indicative of issues in that person’s core psyche that have nothing to do with the recipient of the yelling. Their yelling is a reflection of their emotional instability, even though their yelling is intended to show strength and dominance in the situation. Below are some of the reasons a person yells when angry:

Poor coping skills

Many people yell because it is their go-to coping mechanism in difficult situations. But this coping mechanism does not have good long term results. If a person is a yeller because it is how they have learned to cope in life, they need to get some help in finding better ways in regulating their emotions. They may be using emotional outburst as their way of coping in life and this is not healthy for them or the recipients of their outbursts.

Loss of control

A person may be a yeller because they feel a loss of control over the situation. They may be overwhelmed by the thoughts, feelings, and emotions and are experiencing a loss of control over all of these things at once. It is a big jumble of confusion to them, so they yell to try to get control over what they are experiencing. They lack proper coping skills to regain feeling of control over the situation and their surroundings, so they resort to yelling in order to feel that they are in control. They may get that feeling of control, but it is most often temporary, because most problems are not solved through yelling. A person may appear compliment to the yeller, simply to calm that person down, but in reality nothing has been solved for the long term.

Feeling threatened

Bullies are often people who have a very sensitive core emotional psyche and they are trying to protect that core. Anytime they think this core is being threatened they react. Yelling is one tool that they proactively use anytime they feel threatened.

Aggressive tendencies

Some people are simply aggressive individuals. They may yell and the aggression may escalate to a physical altercation. You rarely see a physical fight that doesn’t begin with raised voices, shouting, or yelling. If someone is yelling at you and you don’t know this person well, you should be on your guard that the yelling can lead to a physical confrontation.

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It is important to avoid reacting in an aggressive manner to someone who is an aggressive yeller, because it is like pouring fuel onto the fire of their anger and things can become physical. It is likely to become physical if they have these tendencies and you mirror their yelling.

Learned behavior

Some people become yellers because they grew up in a household where their parents yelled on a regular basis. They learned that when conflicts arise, so do voices. They haven’t learned proper coping behaviors when they are faced with conflict and difficult situations. Yelling has always been their go-to reaction to situations in which they find any sort of turmoil.

Feeling neglected

Some people raise their voices and yell in anger because they feel the other person is not listening to them. They may have even repeated their message several times and finally they resort to yelling in anger because the other person had not responded to their other tone of voice. This is often the case of yelling while parenting. Parents feel their kids aren’t listening, so rather than continually repeating themselves, they yell at their kids. The problem is that this actually scares children. Yelling in anger is also very damaging to children and research shows that it can be just as harmful as physical abuse.

If you want to know how to calm your children when they are yelling, read this: The Only Effective Way to Talk With Children When They Are Acting Out

Reactions to Avoid with a Yeller

The worst possible reaction to a yeller is to mirror their behavior. Things do not go well if you yell at someone who is yelling at you. The situation escalates when both people engage in yelling. There are other reactions that can escalate the situation which should also be avoided and include: baiting the yeller, challenging what they are saying, acting defensive, and criticizing the person during the confrontation.

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There are better ways to deal with a yeller. Below are the steps you should use to handle and hopefully diffuse a yeller.

1. Stay calm and don’t feed into their anger. Remember that when a person is yelling, it is not you that has the problem, it is them. They have poor coping skills or another reason for yelling that has nothing to do with you personally. If you react they will react to your reaction and things will continue to escalate. Remain calm, even if you are seething on the inside. It is not worth feeding into their yelling, as the situation will just get worse and things are rarely resolved when two parties are yelling at one another. Problems are more likely to be solved when calm tones are being used. Be a part of the solution and not the problem by remaining calm and using a calm tone of voice.

2. Take a mental step back to assess the situation. Before taking any action in the situation, pause mentally to assess things. This will allow you to figure out whether it is worth waiting out the yeller or to leave the situation. If you are being yelled at by a casual acquaintance and you don’t care if you offend them by walking away from them, then by all means walk away. You don’t have to subject yourself to someone’s abuse and mistreatment if they are not important to your life. If it’s your boss yelling at you and you know that walking away while your boss is yelling mid sentence may cost you your job, maybe you need to think about waiting it out and address the yelling with the boss later if it is a constant occurrence and it is now disruptive to your ability to work effectively.

3. Do not agree with the yeller to diffuse them, as it encourages future yelling.  If you agree with the yeller to diffuse them and subsequently agree to do something or say something that they are asking, you are condoning their yelling. By being agreeable to someone who is yelling at you, it only encourages them to yell at you to get their way in the future. Avoid this type of diffusing method, it will come back to bite you again in the future and you will find yourself subject to their yelling more often.

4. Calmly address the yelling. In most instances when someone is yelling at you, your emotions are evoked and you feel the need to react. Reacting with yelling, criticism, or other negative responses will escalate the situation, you need to do everything in your power to reel in your thoughts and feelings so you can address the real problem, which is their yelling. Let the person know that you will not accept being yelled at, regardless of the situation or problem. Say this politely and calmly, and you are more likely to have a positive reaction, such as an apology or at least make them aware that they are in fact yelling. Some people don’t even realize they are yelling. Then your next step is to ask for a break away from this person.

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5. Ask for a break from this person. After you have calmly addressed the yelling, the next step is to request that you take a break from this person to think. You may also need the time to calm down yourself, as their yelling has caused your adrenaline to rise sky high and you don’t know how much longer you can hold it all inside. When you are asking for a break from the person, it should be more of a statement than a question, especially if it’s not your boss. If it’s a spouse, friend, or someone else, it is completely acceptable to state that you need a break and time (a few minutes, a day, or whatever YOU need) to think things through in order to respond appropriately and calmly.

6. When you feel your emotions have calmed down, and you know how to address whatever it was they were yelling about, you can now go back to talk to the person. Give yourself time to process the situation, what was said, and how you want to respond. For some situations, for example an in-law relationship, this can take a few days as emotions can take longer to de-escalate. If it’s a boss and you know you can’t sit on the issue for long because there are deadlines or your job at stake, then use some calming techniques such as deep breathing or visualization methods to process the situation more quickly, so you can get back to them sooner than later. Here’re 3 Deep Breathing Exercises recommendations for you.

Moving Forward on Better Terms

Because you have taken the time to let the person know that the yelling is not acceptable and you took time away from the person immediately following the yelling, the person is less likely to yell at you now. If they want to move forward with the subject, they will need to remain calm in order to discuss the topic with you. Not only are you standing up for yourself and showing this person you will not be emotionally abused, you are also helping them to see that their behavior is not acceptable. If more people did this when someone yelled at them, we all would be more conditioned to avoid yelling in the first place.

If the yelling is something that has been habitual and your new course of actions have not changed their behavior, it is perhaps time to ask them for a sit down to discuss their yelling. When you have the sit down let the person know how the yelling affects you.  For example, you feel deeply sad after a yelling episode and don’t want to be around them for a while. Also let them know how it affects your relationship. For example, that it creates an emotional chasm between you and them. If they respond with “that’s just who I am” let them know that its not acceptable.

Some people also don’t know how to change their behavior. Professional help (such as therapy, counseling, or anger management classes) are available for people who have issues with yelling. They need to recognize that the problem is affecting their relationship and change is needed in order to heal the relationship.

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Yelling causes damage, so don’t allow them to continue to damage you or your relationship by tolerating their yelling.

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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