When dealing with anger in a relationship, I suggest the LIFE mneumonic. This was created by the Human Givens Institute3 and I find it invaluable in my own work with clients.
L - Listen. This means active listening. Avoid arguing with an angry person. Let them dump on you. Remember, in emotional arousal feelings become black and white. Reflect back to them what you have understood them to have said about you. This gives the cortex time to switch on again. If, without sarcasm,you feed back that they said, eg, you were the most thoughtless person in the world, you may get back, ‘Well, okay, not quite, but you were over this.’
I - ‘I’ statements . Don’t blame or criticize. Critical statements almost always start with ‘You’ did this, that, didn’t do this/that etc. Instead, share how you feel about the matter. My three (‘and three-quarters, Daddy’).. year old daughter is brilliant at this. If ever, in exasperation, I raise my voice with her, she’ll say: ‘If you shout I get a tummy ache.’ While there is a ‘you’ word in there, it is really a subjective statement, and very disarming, too! If she had said, ‘You shout too much,’ it would have been a criticism, and elicited a defensive or angry riposte - ‘No I don’t.’ Note here that such a sentence also implies ‘always shout too much,’ a bad choice of words as history then gets dragged in and the original problem remains unresolved. Mutual accusations tend then to be batted back and forth like a shuttlecock.
F - Freedom We need to allow the other person the freedm to own their own issue. For example: your partner comes home after a bad day at the office, upset over some exchange with a colleague. Avoid giving advice: ‘You should have done this, or, next time do that.’ Because in this context - and here is the golden equation: ADVICE=CRITICISM.
E - Everyone is a winner: A bit of a slogan! Simply meaning the importance of win-win negotiation.
The weekly review
During the week, the parties write down a record of incidents they have noticed that have contributed to arguments or harmony between them. So, it would be a good idea for each to have their own notebook, not to be snooped in by the other! They can make headings.
Setting thoughts out on paper can make a real difference because it helps clarify and understand feeling and thinking. It is equivalent to ‘experience recollected in tranquillity.’
A powerful tool, used in Mindfulness: ‘My wife is taking so long getting ready’ = ‘She wants to look her best for me.’ ‘My son is stubborn’ = ‘He knows how to stand up for himself.’ ‘My mother-in-law is always miserable’ = ‘It’s sad she seems to get no joy in life. What can I do to change that?’
If all else fails, you say something like this: ‘Okay, the alternative to us changing is carrying on as we are. Do either of us want this?’
Anger is much easier to manage than you think. Make a start today!