Couple yelling at each other
Have you ever yelled at someone you cared about, then later regretted it?
Most people have.
Would you like to stop?
Most people do.
I’m going to tell you why we yell and how to stop saying hurtful things when you’re angry.
That way you can avoid the pain that both you and your loved ones feel when someone speaks without compassion.
Before I can answer that question though, I need to tell you my story about yelling.
One evening many years ago our friends Anne and Steve were over. Morty and I were downstairs in our bedroom and Anne overheard me yelling at him. She marched downstairs and said something that knocked me off my feet.
“Who said that you can talk to your beloved that way?”
You see, I grew up in a loving family that would do anything for each other. We laughed a lot and had a wonderful time together.
But we yelled.
If I lost something my dad would yell “If your head wasn’t tied on you’d lose that too.”
If my mom spilled something dad would yell “Ugh (loud groan), you’re just not careful.”
If I answered back he’d yell “You’re just fresh.”
Then the upset was over and we would go back to being happy.
It never occurred to me that it was not OK to yell at someone, especially someone you loved.
In fact, if I thought about it, I would never yell at anyone I didn’t love … even though that didn’t make sense.
It’s an assault on someones being. It’s certainly not the best way to resolve something or get what you want and it could leave the other person feeling diminished.
So why did I yell?
I had a belief that people who love each other yell. That it’s ok. While this was not the source of my anger, it’s what kept me from finding a better way to express my feelings.
So why do people yell at their loved ones?
The same reason I yelled at my husband.
John, used to yell at his wife all the time.
He had beliefs such as …
“The way to have power is to control and dominate”
“The way to dominate is to yell.”
John’s relationship improved so much after he eliminated these beliefs that one day his wife sent me a note that said
“Thank you giving me the husband I always wanted.”
Terry said that his anger was keeping him from becoming a leader at work.
His beliefs were …
“I’m not important”, which had him get angry when people didn’t listen to him,
“I’m powerless”, which caused his general anger,
“The way to get what you want is to yell,”
“When people don’t do as I ask, they don’t respect me.”
After eliminating these beliefs he became more forgiving and understanding towards his direct reports (while still holding to standards) as well as in his other relationships.
He also feels so much more in control of his life.
His boss recently called me to tell me what a difference he saw in Terry.
He said, “Terry is much friendlier, smiles more and is a lot more patient. I’ll be referring others to you as soon as the need arises.”
And lastly …
Lacy called me saying that she yelled at her kids and wanted to stop. Like many parents when in a store with her children she could be heard snarling things like “Don’t touch that!” and “Stop running around!”
She told me that she wanted to find a better way to communicate with her kids were in the store but that she just couldn’t help her knee-jerk reactions.
Her beliefs were …
“Kids should obey their parents,”
“The way to get kids to do what you want is to yell,”
“If children respect you they will listen,”
“What makes me good enough is having others think well of me” which makes many parents overreact to their kids behavior in public.
Like Terry, she also believed “I’m not important.” So when her children didn’t listen the interpreted that as “They think I’m not important” which made her angry.
Now Lacy says she feels so blessed that she did this work because her relationship with her kids is so much better now.
So now you know that beliefs have a hand in why we get angry and yell.
And of course, you can get rid of the beliefs with one of our facilitators, but what can you do to help yourself in case you aren’t able to do sessions right now?
The answer lies in an additional insight about how we get angry that my late husband Morty discovered.
This insight is important because it gives you another way to change your feelings.
Morty would say that our beliefs contribute to our anger and yelling because they cause us to give negative meanings to events.
The kid leaving her toys on the floor means he or she is being “careless” or is “disrespecting me.”
The spouse who forgets the milk “didn’t care enough about me to remember.”
The driver who cut me off is really just “a jerk.”
So you have a belief such as “People that don’t follow rules are disrespectful.”
Then a person such as your child doesn’t follow a rule.
Your mind gives the event the meaning “She’s disrespecting me.”
You then feel an emotion: anger.
As a result, your belief caused you to give meaning to an event and produce a feeling.
You can interrupt this process by dissolving the meaning with an approach Morty created called The Lefkoe Freedom Process.
For instance, if your child doesn’t follow a rule, then you get angry stop and ask yourself
“What just happened?
Answer: My child broke one of the rules. (Example: The don’t stand on the furniture rule)
“What meaning did I give it?”
Answer: My child is disrespecting me.
“What else could it mean?”
Answers: She stood on the couch because she thought it was fun, not to be disrespectful.
She isn’t in touch with the possible danger of falling off the couch.
She doesn’t yet understand how standing on the couch could eventually ruin it.
“What does it really mean that she broke the rule?”
If you answer “nothing” then you’ve dissolved the meaning. If not, try coming up with more alternative interpretations.
But please keep in mind: This doesn’t mean that you won’t talk to your child about the dangers of standing on furniture or what could happen if they do, you just don’t do it out of anger.
When you dissolve the meaning, the anger will disappear which makes it easier to communicate calmly and clearly … which also makes it easier for them to take in the message.
And of course this applies to situations in which our wife or husband does something you don’t like (or fails to do something you really want.)
It applies to your parents, your siblings, your friends, your boss.
You can use this in any situation in which your emotions might prevent you from getting your point across in a way that others can hear it.
But How Can I Communicate That Something Happened That I Don’t Like And Don’t Want To Happen Again?
1. Acknowledge that the other person’s behavior may come from their own feelings and that their behavior is still not OK with you.
Recently my four year old grandson was sick and he was being very difficult. His mom was trying to help him do something and he hit her.
She said firmly, “Loki, I know you’re sick and don’t feel well but it’s not OK to hit me.” She didn’t give it any meaning, she just told him what she wanted.
I used to say to my kids “I hear how angry you are, and I really get it. It is OK to tell me how angry you are with me, but it is not OK to call me names or curse at me.”
2. Express difficult feelings using “I” messages.
“I get so angry when you ….”
or “I really would like you to …”
This way no one is a victim and there is no shame or blame involved. You model taking responsibility for your feelings as well as your needs and wants.
The opposite type, “you” messages, create blame and shame.
And those feelings elicit defensiveness rather than cooperation.
My dad used to say “You just don’t think.” And then I would feel like I was stupid and did something wrong.
If he would have said “I wish you would be more thoughtful before you do that next time,” there is nothing to defend. It is simply a request. I wouldn’t have felt belittled.
Imagine someone saying to you “You never put your dishes in the sink. Do you think I’m your slave?”
Doesn’t feel good, right?
Now imagine them saying “Honey, I would so appreciate it if you would put your dishes in the sink. It would give me less to do.”
Which one would have you want to do what they’re asking?
Which engenders less defensiveness?
In my experience people are much more willing to do things for you when you express your feelings using “I” messages and then make a positive request rather than a demand.
My Final Thoughts …
Remember above all to treat your love ones as if they are just that – your beloveds.
After Anne showed me the error of my ways when she asked “Who said you could speak to you beloved that way?” I looked for my beliefs, eliminated them and changed how I behaved.
Before that my relationship with Morty was wonderful in many ways.
But it got even better after I changed.
Because you’re reading this, I know you care enough to do the same for those you love whether what gets in the way is yelling or some other behavior.
Due to this and other changes I had made, when I lost Morty two years ago, I had far fewer incidents of anger and hurt to feel regretful over and many more moments of kindness and love about which to feel grateful.
I wish nothing less for you and those you love.
Please take a moment to commit to changing one behavior that keeps your loved ones from feeling loved.
And let me know in the comments what you will do with what you’ve learned from this post. I’d be so happy to hear from you.