Why Do People Shout at Each Other When They Get Angry?

October 19, 2019 Updated: October 19, 2019

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” – Mark Twain

Shouting, in the right context, is a clear indication of anger. For some, it may feel like the only mode of expression that will get a heated point across. For others, it is stressful, frightening, and destructive.

So what really causes people to get angry these days?

Anger arises due to how we interpret a certain situation and react to it. Though everyone has their own triggers to what really makes them angry, some of the common ones include injustice, losing patience, and a feeling that your opinion is not considered or appreciated.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Dean Drobot

However, if the goodwill, sympathy, and fellowship of the past are now in short supply, we may be more tempted to exhibit anger and shout at others rather than take the time to be diplomatic.

The Distance of the Heart

To unpack the phenomenon of shouting, an allegory of the distance between two hearts provides a helpful illustration of the emotional distance that anger creates.

For two people who are angry at each other, the distance between their two hearts, both literal and figurative, is substantial. They are not in sync and are not emotionally responsive to one another. In order for their words to traverse this distance, they will have to be said loudly enough for the other person to hear. When two hearts are distant, shouting compensates.

Shouting, however, often evokes even greater anger in the recipient. As both parties shout, the distance between them also grows, and so the shouting grows louder and louder.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Africa Studio

However, for two people in love, their hearts are both literally and figuratively close together. They understand one another, thus soft speech suffices and shouting is not necessary.

People communicate their needs and feelings constantly. While facial expressions, mannerisms, and chosen words play a huge role, the tone and volume of the voice are paramount.

Two people in an intimate relationship, be it as friends, a married couple, or familiar co-workers, have traversed the need to communicate their feelings as conspicuously as they may do with a stranger. People who are close feel understood by the other person and can speak softly, knowing that they will still be heard.

In moments of anger, however, when the intimate distance between two people has temporarily dissipated, the angry parties feel less understood by one another. Frustration overrides other feelings, and the angry person feels the need to raise their voice in order to be heard.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Jacob Lund

Shouting: A Slippery Slope

The pitch, volume, and clarity of the voice combine to give the “listener” in any argument clues about the way the other person’s message needs to be interpreted. The problem with a raised voice, however, is that more often than not, it is the aggression that is conveyed instead of the message within.

This aggression can easily fall down a slippery slope toward verbal domination and even physical violence. Not to mention, the “listener’s” receptivity is compromised by all the angry shouting; at best, they are simply waiting for their own turn to lash out with angry words.

Dr. Asa Don Brown, an international author and keynote speaker, notes that: “As a species, we are emotionally driven, impulsive, confrontational, and fundamentally influenced by opposition. While we are driven by opposition,” he continues, “yelling and verbal confrontations rarely positively inspire or motivate another.”

“If we motivate through a positive, encouraging, and persuasive approach,” Brown suggests, “we are more apt to create a positively influenced environment.”

By avoiding shouting, we practice self-control, competence, and social grace. Best of all, we stand a better chance of being heard. But how do we achieve this?

Illustration – Shutterstock | Monkey Business Images

How to Avoid Raising Your Voice

Check yourself: If you notice yourself flushing with anger and starting to yell, stop yourself mid-sentence. Reframe your thinking by considering whether or not your point is clear and what is the best way to say it.

Practice a calming technique: While the temptation to launch into an angry tirade may sometimes be hard to resist, for anybody wishing to yell, deep breaths could have a calming effect. Inhale through the nostrils, retain the breath for a couple of seconds, then slowly exhale through the mouth. Counting to 10 may work equally well.

Illustration – Unsplash | Ben White

Leave the site of conflict: Tell yourself and the person you are arguing with, “I need to take a break.” Go into a different room, take a walk around the block, or stand outside where you can observe the natural surroundings.

Pay attention to the sights and sounds of your environment; the distractions might lessen the impulse to shout.

Do something physical: Rather than shouting, release any pent-up energy by running on the spot, shaking your arms, stretching your legs, or even pummelling a pillow to channel your aggression in a way that won’t hurt another person.

Don’t be afraid to apologize: A heartfelt apology for your anger will radically change the tone of the conversation and make space for a rational, respectful discussion.

Also remember that when anger is provoked, shouting need not be the only route to getting a point across. By practicing compassionate communication we can lessen the distance between our hearts exponentially.

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