3 Behavior Styles Associated with Anger & Aggression

Learn about the three behavior styles associated with anger and aggression from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


I'm Ryan Fuller. I'm a clinical psychologist and I have a practice in New York City. I'm going to talk to you about three behavioral styles that are often associated with anger and aggression. So the first is a passive style. And so, this typically looks like someone who avoids conflict. And what we know is, unfortunately, when clients take on a passive style, they have a tendency to ruminate and continue to think about the problem. That, in fact, might continue to maintain their level of anger for longer periods of time. And we know that that can have a deleterious effect on their physical health. So we don't want clients to be very passive, ignoring problems, distracting themselves for long periods of time. Even though there might be times initially before they have the skills where light distraction are removing themselves from the presence of the trigger is a good strategy, it's not a very good long term strategy. So we want to do away with that passive style. That doesn't mean however that we want to take the opposite act, which is aggression.

So aggression involves physical behavior, and that can be verbal depending on the definition. Aggression involves...it can involve verbal behavior, but it's certainly physical behavior as well, where there's an intention, in fact, to do harm to the other person. So unlike the passive style, this has an approach action, where I am actually going towards the trigger and I'm doing something, in fact, to harm them. Now, this ultimately does not usually work out well for the perpetrator. And there's lots of evidence, whether it's financial or interpersonal, that aggressive styles over time, in fact, lead to very poor outcomes for people. So we don't want a passive style, we also don't want an aggressive style. What we're really aiming for is an assertive style. So an assertive style is active. It does involve approaching the trigger. So it's an interpersonal conflict, it does mean we're going to, in fact, going to engage with that person, but we're going to pick the right time and place and we're going to do it in the effective manner.

Assertiveness really involves communicating clearly in ways that do not elicit provocative responses. What is going on for my perspective? What it is I want as an outcome with a very specific concrete request? It also involves being able to negotiate well. And finally, it involves accepting the fact that the other person may not agree with us and he may not go along with what we proposed. But again, there's active engagement. And what seems to be the case clinically is we have people behave assertively, not only do they sometimes solve the problem and actually reach an agreement. Even when they don't, they tend to report ruminating less. So they end up decreasing the anger that might be maintained if, in fact, they were very passive. So again, we have passive style, assertive, and aggressive styles. And an anger management should know what we're really looking to do is to teach people to adopt an assertive of approaching anger issues.

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