Many years ago I learned two things about anger that have impacted my relationships ever since.
The first was a working definition of anger: Anger is an expectation that hasn't been met.
More specifically, your anger stems from an expectation that someone else has not met. They surprise you by their words or actions. Maybe they say something negative about you in front of others. Or promised to do something for you but forgot. Whatever occurred, you're now unhappy about the outcome and you're somewhere between irritated and ready to explode.
But before you say something you might regret and escalate the situation into a crisis, think about this second insight. Typically one of two emotions is at the root of anger: fear or hurt - or both. When you feel yourself getting angry, step back and explore what's going on below the surface. This is not easy. It requires brutal self-honesty if your goal is to identify the real feelings you're having.
In our society it's hard to admit we're afraid or hurt. With the "tough guy" image touted as an example of strength, we don't like the idea of appearing weak or vulnerable. But the truth is, angry outbursts push people away. Admitting your feelings draws people to you because they sense that you're being genuine and real.
You feel fear when you're afraid you'll lose something or someone important to you. Hurt stems from disappointment, usually with another person's behavior. They've said or done something that cuts you to the core. One response is to withdraw, but another is to lash out. Neither of these responses is productive.
When you own your feelings and admit them to yourself and the other person, you open the door for real dialogue. You're able to hear each other and talk through the situation. That kind of conversation isn't possible when one or both parties uses anger.
Next time you're feeling anger well up inside you, ask yourself these questions: Why am I feeling this way? What am I afraid of? What am I disappointed about? And then find a time and place to talk honestly with the person you're upset with. It will make a huge difference during the conversation itself and in your relationship in the long run.