I have never been a “yeller.” I also find it hard to be around. In general, I find yelling to be an ineffective communication style. Rather, I prefer being able to state my anger and frustration rather than acting it out through yelling, or other verbally aggressive styles.
I have had many clients begin therapy to address problems of anger management. One of the most common problems they experience is the damage to personal and professional relationships as a result of losing their temper. You might think that in order to hurt relationships one’s anger has to involve physical violence, but yelling can be experienced as just as aggressive. Especially when it happens frequently.
Clients also report a loss of self-respect from consistent yelling. They feel labeled as an angry person, or a poor communicator. Neither of these labels is an ego boost.
Many people yell as a sign that their anger exceeds their ability to regulate it. People often describe escalating from 1 to 100 so quickly that it happens before they can control it. In situations like this, a lot of relationship damage can be avoided by taking a break before reacting. We communicate our anger most effectively when our anger is lower, but not gone.
Given that I work with clients who believe their yelling is detrimental and that it makes me so uncomfortable, I have come to realize I have far too black and white an opinion on the behavior. Like so many other things that are ineffective in their extreme, perhaps more moderate levels of the behavior can have neutral to positive impact.
In recent weeks, I have had conversations with several different people expressing a similar sentiment. It took the general form of “I finally yelled, and it felt SOOO good!” I have thought a lot about that.
Yelling is definitely a release. To that end, it does feel good. However, the short-term release may not be worth the long-term relationship consequences if done regularly.
Yet, these were not people who yell regularly.
The reality is that sometimes people don’t listen to calm expressions of anger. They somehow confuse attempts at effective communication with a lack of intensity behind the emotion. When that happens too often it feels awful. It can make us non-yellers feel like our anger is unimportant and invalid. It also can make us feel resentful and harm the relationships we were trying to preserve.
Sometimes, yelling is the only way to get a response. It can allow us to feel heard and can result in others taking action. I don’t want this to be true. Yet denying that truth doesn’t help. Rather, radically acknowledging that truth may lead to some occasional effective yelling.
It seems to me that we want to communicate in ways that both strengthen our relationships and self-respect. While I typically believe that to involve calm expressions of emotion, I am recognizing that to assume that is always the case moves me away from dialectical thinking.
Watch out everyone, you may hear some yelling coming from my direction…just not too often.
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