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 Anger Management 101:

 Rules for Civil Discussion  or Productive Disagreement


By Ernest J. Bordini, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist    All rights reserved.

Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida     CPANCF.COM  

 Providing Quality Psychological Consultation, Assessment and Treatment to the North Central Florida Community


   Gainesville - Ocala (352) 336-2888 


                        Nonverbal rules:


Absolutely no angry physical contact and no physical aggression.  In fact - avoid physical contact

altogether when arguing or disagreeing.  In the heat of argument words can be misunderstood. 

Touch, even if well intended, is even more easily misunderstood.


Do not try to resolve conflicts or confront another individual when under the influence of

alcohol, other the influence of other drugs, or when you have had too much caffeine. 


Keep tone of voice civil, watch rate and volume of speech.  If this cannot be maintained,

then acknowledge you are too angry to discuss, and put off the discussion until later. 


If not in authority, follow directives regardless if discussion or decisions have been finalized.


Be aware and control facial and other gestures such as rolling eyes, tense face, crossed arms,

clenched fist, sarcastic expressions or mimicking.


Keep a reasonable distance and try to keep arms and hands relaxed.


Try to end on a positive note.



Verbal rules:



No physical threats or name calling.


Focus on behavior – rather than other’s personalities.


Take turns.  Allow others to finish what they are saying.


The better parts of communication are:


1. Listening, and


2. understanding what people are hearing, feeling, and seeing when you speak.


Avoid sarcasm.


Don’t make fun of the other person.


Employ active listening skills – Rephrase and summarizing what the other person is saying before

responding (i.e. I understand you are concerned about the …, and that you feel it is important that ..).


Try not to speak out of anger.  You will make others less defensive and less likely to escalate if you

indicate you have been hurt as opposed to you have been made angry.


Understand it is a responsibility to not get overly angry in a discussion.  While this may mean

the discussion may need to occur later, if repeated unacceptable anger is displayed, it usually

will mean more rules and control as opposed to more respect.


It helps if you rephrase or summarize your understanding of the other’s point of view or feeling is. 

It shows you have listened and can see the other’s perspective. 


Avoid telling others how they feel or what they think.  Instead, use active listening and rephrase

what they have told you they feel (i.e. “I understand you are telling me you are very upset

about the meeting last week).


Speak for how you feel, what you think, how you perceive.


When criticizing, focus on behaviors you like, or have improved, before stating which behaviors

need improving or are unacceptable.


Establish some time limit for discussion and accept that sometimes temporarily, and sometimes

longer, all can be done for the moment is to agree that there is disagreement.


Attitudes in Discussions


Respect for authority means following commands and directives before trying to verbally resolve issues. 


Try to find win – win situations


It is often wise to accept things may be unfair or imperfect until some resolution is resolved.


Understand there may be consequences for not terminating discussion when it has become unproductive.


The difference between a request and a demand is that with a request, the other has the option to say no. 


Individuals in authority may demand.  Be aware when you are requesting versus demanding. 


There are usually consequences when demands made by authority are not met and usually conflict when demands are made by those who are not.


Taking reasonable risks is a means of establishing trust.  If someone has failed repeatedly or broken

that trust, taking risks becomes increasingly unreasonable.


While taking reasonable risks to build trust is important, promises in exchange for privileges are a

 poor substitute for earning a privilege.  Furthermore, demanding privileges that are unearned after a failure reflects a sense of entitlement, not one of responsibility.


When people are defensive, humor can be mistaken for sarcasm.  Generally avoid it when in an

argument or conflict.


Maintaining a true sense of humor means keeping perspective and being able to laugh at ones foibles. 


Keep a good sense of humor about yourself.


If conflicts with others are frequent, if anger outbursts are common, or others frequently complain about your anger, own up to the problem and do something about it.  Many people can learn skills to better manage anger.  Seek consultation with a licensed psychologist.



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