The Right Way to Get Angry (2023)

Anger is in itself neither good nor bad—it’s what you do with it that matters.

Anger is best viewed as a tool that helps us read and respond to upsetting social situations. Research overwhelmingly indicates that feeling angry increases optimism, creativity, effective performance—and research suggests that expressing anger can lead to more successful negotiations, in life or on the job.

In fact, repressing anger can actually hurt you. Dr. Ernest Harburg and his team at the University of Michigan School of Public Health spent several decades tracking the same adults in a longitudinal study of anger. They found that men and women who hid the anger they felt in response to an unjust attack subsequently found themselves more likely to get bronchitis and heart attacks, and were more likely to die earlier than peers who let their anger be known when other people were annoying.

When anger arises, we feel called upon to prevent or terminate immediate threats to our welfare, or to the well-being of those we care about. Altruism is often born from anger; when it comes to mobilizing other people and creating support for a cause, no emotion is stronger. It’s a mistake to presume that kindness, compassion, love, and fairness line up on one side of a continuum, and anger, rage, and dislike, on another side. Positivity alone is insufficient to the task of helping us navigate social interactions and relationships. A healthy society is not an anger-free society.

Caution around anger is certainly smart, as is the knowledge that it should not be overused, or used with everyone. With these reservations, the expression of authentic anger can be entirely appropriate with certain people in certain situations. The question is how you do that without letting it go too far. What is the right way to get mad?

How to manage anger

When you want to express anger, or any negative emotion, one way to do so is to start with what we call the “discomfort caveat.” Let other people know explicitly that you are experiencing intense emotions and because of this, it is more difficult than usual for you to communicate clearly. Apologize in advance, not for your emotions or your actions but for the potential lack of clarity in how you convey what you’re about to say.

The aim of the discomfort caveat is to disarm the person, to keep them from becoming defensive. When someone hears that you are uncomfortable and that the conversation is difficult for you, it increases the likelihood that they will approach what you have to say with empathy. After using this opening, you can then delve deeper into what bothers you, what you think and feel in the aftermath of whatever happened (why anger emerged instead of other feelings).

The obvious difficulty lies in figuring out how to put angry feelings to work, especially in relationships. First, we want to discourage you from making self-statements that push for trying to control or avoid anger, such as “I need to get rid of my anger,” or, “Why can’t I be less angry?”

The Right Way to Get Angry (3)Can you spot anger in another person? Take our emotional intelligence quiz!

Instead, recognize the difference between events that you can change and those that are beyond your ability to control. If you are on a trip and you lose your winter hat on the first day, there is nothing you can change, so there is no benefit in expressing anger. But if you are haggling with a shopkeeper at a flea market over the price of a hat and you’re angry that you’ve been quoted a higher price than the last customer, you possess some control. Now, in this situation, how do you appropriately communicate annoyance or anger in a way that leads to a healthy outcome? Psychologist and Anger Disorders editor Dr. Howard Kassinove mentions that the key is to use “an appropriate tone without demeaning the other person.”

Second, slow the situation down. Our initial tendency is to jump into a situation and act immediately, especially in cases where our blood is boiling. Instead, try thinking of anger as coming in both fast and slow varieties, when you want to scream versus when you want to motivate a person in a calculated way.

When you’re angry, give yourself permission to pause for a moment, even if someone is standing there awaiting a response. You can even let them know that you are intentionally slowing the situation down. Choose to make good decisions rather than fast ones. When you’re angry, pauses, deep breaths, and moments of reflection more effectively exercise power and control than rapid-fire responses. If you feel less angry when you slow down, great, but that’s not the goal. This is about giving yourself a wider range of options to choose from in an emotionally charged situation.

Think like a chess player. Before deciding on a course of action, imagine how the other person will counter and how the situation might look two moves from now. If it looks good, continue along your present path. If it looks bad, consider an alternative behavior, imagine how they will counter that, and evaluate this scenario. Keep checking in with yourself by asking, “Is my anger helping or hurting the situation?”

When you’re engaged in dialogue with someone else, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because the emotions and actions involved are constantly shifting. At one point I might want to assert my dominance by telling a story, and a few minutes later I might want to increase the feeling of connection by ignoring an incendiary remark.

Setting speed limits

Psychologist John Riskind, an expert in helping people with seemingly uncontrollable emotions, has come up with techniques for slowing down the speed of threatening events.

Riskind has found that the experience of anger is not as problematic as the belief that the sequence of events triggering that anger is accelerating, that the danger is escalating, and the available window for taking action is quickly disappearing. This sense of impending danger pushes people to do something that might stop the immediate threat but in the longer term will make the situation worse (such as punching the person who cut you off in line at the grocery checkout).

The first step is to check in with yourself frequently to assess whether your anger is increasing, decreasing, or stable in the given situation. For a scrupulous self-examination, use a number and even a few descriptive words to capture the intensity of your anger, as you’ll see in this speedometer example:

90 miles per hour and above: boiling, explosive, violent
85 miles per hour
: fuming, outraged
80 miles per hour: infuriated, enraged 

75 miles per hour: irate, exasperated
65 miles per hour
: bitter, indignant

60 miles per hour
: pissed off

55 miles per hour
: mad, angry

50 miles per hour
: agitated, perturbed

45 miles per hour
: annoyed, irritated, frustrated
40 miles per hour
: ruffled, displeased
35 miles per hour and below: calm and cool, peaceful, tranquil

If your anger is well above the speed limit, you’re going to need more time in order to retain maximum flexibility and control in dealing with the person who provoked or upset you. In this case, consider slowing the speedometer. At this high speed, you probably feel a bit out of control.

Imagine putting on the brakes so that the way you’re acting and the way others are responding goes from eighty-five miles per hour to sixty-five, and then from sixty-five to fifty-five. Create a visual image of what you would look like and how other people would appear to you. Notice how they no longer seem as physically close to you. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying, and read the underlying message in their body language. Use the lower speed to see whether the person bothering you is open to conversation or closed off, whether they’re really looking to attack or are looking for a way out of this jam.

How does it feel when you imagine things slowing down? As Riskind says about anger, “You might think there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them.” This exercise, focusing on the speed that threats are moving, gives us a little more psychological breathing room. Experiment with this tool. The overall objective here is to learn how to work with your anger.

In the end, most prejudices against negative emotional experiences arise because people conflate extreme, overwhelming, problematic emotions with their more benign cousins. Anger is not rage. Anger can be a beneficial source of emotional information that focuses attention, thinking, and behavior toward a surprising number of effective outcomes.


Which is the better way to get angry? ›

“You can learn to channel anger in a way that can be useful. Intense exercise can help shift our mood,” Bullett says, “Or, you know, there's a reason why 'rage cleaning' is a thing.” Just keep in mind, anger, like all your other feelings, is a valid emotion.

How do you express your anger answer? ›

The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive—manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others.

What are the 5 keys to controlling anger? ›

If you work with angry youth, you may want to learn these steps and integrate them into your practice.
  • Admit that you are angry, to yourself and/or to someone else.
  • Believe you can control your anger. Tell yourself that you can!
  • Calm down. ...
  • Decide how to solve the problem. ...
  • Express yourself assertively.

What are 5 things that make you angry? ›

What makes people angry?
  • being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to do anything about it.
  • feeling threatened or attacked.
  • other people not respecting your authority, feelings or property.
  • being interrupted when you are trying to achieve a goal.
  • stressful day to day things such as paying bills or rush hour traffic.
Jan 4, 2023

What is the strongest form of anger? ›

Enraged Fury: An extreme and uncontrollable form of anger that can lead to destructive behavior, such as physical violence or property damage. Blind Rage: The highest level of anger intensity, often characterized by a complete loss of self-control and the potential for dangerous and irrational actions.

What is the strongest form of angry? ›

Rage (also known as frenzy or fury) is intense, uncontrolled anger that is an increased stage of hostile response to a perceived egregious injury or injustice.

Is there a healthy way to express anger? ›

Anger is an intense emotion, and can often feel like it's bursting out of you or like it's causing energy to build up inside of you. A great way to deal with the excess energy that often comes up with anger is to move your body and tire yourself out. Try dancing around to music that makes you feel powerful.

What does healthy anger look like? ›

Healthy anger is expressed with little or no vindictiveness. It is not about being vengeful, having power or hurting another (verbally or physically). It is communicated clearly and effectively and you don't stay preoccupied with it long after the event.

How do you express anger without lashing out? ›

Recognise your anger signs
  1. Count to 10. Counting to 10 gives you time to cool down, so you can think more clearly and overcome the impulse to lash out.
  2. Breathe slowly. ...
  3. Exercise can help with anger. ...
  4. Looking after yourself may keep you calm. ...
  5. Get creative. ...
  6. Talk about how you feel. ...
  7. Anger management programmes.
Jan 4, 2023

What are the 4 A's of anger? ›

Be aware of your own response to anger and be on the lookout for early signs of anger in others. Then apply the four As: Agree/Admit to the facts of the situation, Acknowledge its impact, Apologize for the situation, and Act to correct it.

What are 4 anger cues? ›

These cues serve as warning signs that you have become angry and that your anger is continuing to escalate. They can be broken down into four cue categories: physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive (or thought) cues.

What are the 4 C's of anger management? ›

There are many components to state of mind; here are the 'Big Four' – concentration, confidence, control, and commitment.

What are 3 anger triggers? ›

Current circumstances
  • Stress. If you're dealing with a lot of other problems in your life right now, you might find yourself feeling angry more easily than usual. ...
  • Bereavement. Anger can be a part of grief. ...
  • Discrimination or injustice, such as experiences of racism, can make us feel angry. ...
  • Upsetting or worrying events.

What triggers anger the most? ›

Different events and situations trigger anger for different people. In general, most people are more easily irritated if they are already Hungry, Annoyed, Lonely, or Tired (HALT). When you are already feeling that way, it doesn't take much to trigger your anger.

What to avoid when you're angry? ›

You shouldn't eat

“When we are angry, we often make unhealthy food choices,” she says. “No one ever reaches for broccoli. We go for the high-sugar, high-fat, carbohydrate-loaded comfort foods.” In addition, a heightened state of emotions sparks the fight or flight response, where the body thinks it's in danger.

Is it good to get angry easily? ›

Your body relies on food for energy, so it's normal to feel hungry if you don't eat for a few hours. But if your stomach has a constant rumble, even after a meal, something could be going on with your health. The medical term for extreme hunger is polyphagia. If you feel hungry all the time, see your doctor.

Is there a good kind of anger? ›

Assertive anger, considered to be a constructive type of anger, can be beneficial in that it might spur people on to make positive changes in their lives. This is the anger that expresses itself with phrases like “It makes me angry when…” instead of throwing tantrums, yelling, or resorting to physical violence.

Is it healthy to get angry? ›

Sometimes anger can be good for you, if it's addressed quickly and expressed in a healthy way. In fact, anger may help some people think more rationally. However, unhealthy episodes of anger — when you hold it in for long periods of time, turn it inward, or explode in rage — can wreak havoc on your body.


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