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Last Updated on September 6, 2017

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.

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

Doctor of Psychology

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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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