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Me: I understand, I'm just saying that I had plans but cancelled them because you said you were gonna show.

Him: Well if I knew you were going to be such a baby about it, I would have told you I wasn't going to make it.

Me: Well @#$% you then.

I once sent that text to a long time buddy of mine who had a habit of ruining my plans by cancelling on me at the last minute or showing up significantly late. I'm omitting all of the dialogue that lead me to reach that level of anger but my point is that the response that followed, albeit days later, was a genuine apology. I think that my consistency in avoiding anger-fueled communication made this particular emotionally-charged text convey to him that I was sincerely, well, pissed.

With that said, social norms in America discourage responses driven by anger. But is expressing non-violent, non-personal (e.g. not name calling) anger always the wrong decision?

Directly relating to and inspiring this question is a current dilemma with another long time friend. She treats us (our group of friends) with constant suspicion, only calls when she's drunk, and will occasionally be outright insulting. She has many redeeming qualities and we care about her so we'd like to preserve our friendship. Thus far, simply talking about it doesn't work and the last time I tried, she ignored me for a few weeks and randomly came back into my life by sending me a meme, pretending like nothing had happened.

She's a more aggressive individual so I wonder if a response expressing a more aggressive emotion (anger, not pain) would get through to her, as I've noticed it has with some people who simply don't react to calm, heartfelt communication. Again- non-insulting, non-violent, non-personal. Something like,

You don't get to just @#$%ing walk back into peoples' lives whenever you feel like it.

So, is expressing anger in this way always the wrong decision?

closed as too broad by Anne Daunted, 1006a, michi, A J, Rand al'Thor Jan 11 '18 at 11:51

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    @CrazyCucumber For the sake of source material and expression, as opposed to insulting a fellow member, is that rule always true? – 8protons Jan 8 '18 at 21:07
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    I would argue that both of your examples of swearing classify as violent and personal, perhaps you could clarify in your question exactly why you say they aren't – Jesse Jan 9 '18 at 0:55
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    I disagree with other people here; I feel like the actual swear word is important to know here, although it's obvious what it is. – Azor Ahai Jan 9 '18 at 1:20
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    @Tycho'sNose This SE site is very opinion-based. It comes with the nature of being highly reliant on personal experience and beliefs as opposed to objective facts. You dont think your top question, "How can I politely tell a family who invited me for dinner that I'm still hungry?" is not subject to being highly opinionated? :) I thought it was a fascinating question with some highly differing opinions. Got my upvote! – 8protons Jan 9 '18 at 16:45
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    I don't think your title question matches the body question; to me, a "verbal response that directly expresses anger" is something like I am extremely angry at you. In the full text of your question, however, you seem to be asking whether using profanity is a good way to express your anger. Consider editing one or the other to make your question clearer. – 1006a Jan 9 '18 at 16:53

11 Answers 11

69

Always? No. There are times and places for these kinds of reactions.

Do I recommend such responses? Not often. But, as I said, there is a time and place where you may need to resort to these reactions for various reasons.

Let me give you an example.

In school, I was a young woman who always laughed, smiled, joked things off, and discussed things without yelling or getting angry when I needed to solve something.

Did I occasionally have such an angry outburst? Yes. When? When nothing else worked. Did people listen when I resorted to these methods? Most often, yes. When a normally happy, quiet, or calm person starts cursing you, or (as in my middle school years) even just yelling, but with no profanity... Well, people know things are way out of control.

Another example? In high school, another student was sexually harassing me. The teacher hadn't noticed, because it was incredibly mild. Now, this was a teacher that never yelled or got angry, and a student that strived to do the same. I finally got upset enough to, in the middle of class, yell at the other student about this instance, and inform him that if he did it again, I would take it to the principal. He started to argue, before the teacher, realizing what he had missed, also yelled at him. Everyone realized just how out of hand the situation had gotten, with two normally calm folks reacting so aggressively.

So, yes, there is a time and place for these aggressive outbursts. Only you can decide, however, if it is right in this case, and if it would have any effect. If you're a normally polite and calm person, it will at least catch attention. Keep in mind, though, that the attention might not all be positive or accomplish what you want. (Also remember that profanity isn't necessarily required, and can even detract from the point you make.)

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    Thank you for the examples. What I extrapolated is that the setting and steps taken thus far determine the appropriate response. Which to me, judging by your examples and overall answer, anger can be the appropriate emotion to convey when all other options have failed and this is [likely] a final attempt to communicate with someone(s). – 8protons Jan 8 '18 at 21:24
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    @8protons Pretty much. Otherwise, you just come off as an angry, irrational person. :) But you make it sound like you aren't normally this kind of person and have taken other steps... So it will make a statement after being sure you've exhausted other avenues. – Kendra Jan 8 '18 at 21:25
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No, but make sure you think before you speak.

I think a huge factor in the appropriateness and effectiveness of such a response comes from how and when you express it. Context is key, and should shape the form of your words. Likewise, what you hope to gain by such a response is also important to think about. Because my answer is not a simple yes or no, I want to give you a list of bullet points to consider:

  • Do you want to communicate something specific to the other person? If so, you want to make sure that every bit of what you say is focused on doing so. Even if you're angry, you need to be clear and not say anything distracting. For instance, if someone is talking angrily and says to me "$%^@ you!" in the middle, I might be hurt more by the profanity and ignore what else they're saying. This will of course vary from person to person.
  • Do you want to emphasize that you're angry? It's possible that the other person doesn't realize how much you've been hurt, or doesn't realize the magnitude of certain actions. In some cases, shouting and harsh language can help get this across, although I would be cautious about doing so. The other person may think you're simply too angry to have a reasoned discussion with. All that said, there are ways to get across that you're angry (for instance, simple saying "I'm really angry about [X]") without acting angrily.
  • How do you normally speak? Going back to the example of profanity, your words may sink in more deeply if they deviate from your normal mode of speech. I'm a meek person; if I'm ever angry, people know it's something serious. On the other hand, if (and I'm not assuming so) you're prone to getting mad a lot, having such a harsh response may not do much.
  • Are you escalating things? In the examples you gave, it seems like the other party is already angry. If things were different, and the other person was calm, then you run the risk of escalating the argument, and you risk looking irrational. Again, that's not the desired outcome. You're allowed to be angry, and the other person should know that; being overly angry can be problematic, especially if it escalates things.
  • What will the consequences be? One of my greatest fears is saying or doing something I can't undo. Such an explicit response has the potential to hurt the other person to the extent of harming a relationship. Be careful and aware of what you say; in your rush to be angry, think of the consequences.

There is no correct answer here, and it will vary from person to person. It can be really, really hard to think about this in the heat of an argument. But try to remember these points.

7

You rarely see absolutes in social settings. Thus, it's easy to say that "expressing anger is the wrong decision" is an incorrect statement. I think the other answers have good reasons why, but I wanted to offer what I consider to be a very succinct rationale which explains why anger is usually not the best approach, but also suggests at situations where you would want to express it.

The key to anger is that is very effective at encouraging change, but very poor at controlling what change actually happens. Socially, anger is a very effective tool for demonstrating a certain kind of frustration. If people are aware you are holding onto that kind of frustration, they react. If they are rational, they'll act in their best interests.

However, it is not always obvious whether or not their best interests are in coherence with your interests. Consider an extreme case where you express anger at a violent gang member. Their reaction? They pull a gun out and shoot you. Game over.

In a less extreme example, you don't know whether someone is going to offer an apology later, or write you off as a friend all together. Or perhaps your penchant for anger becomes public knowledge, and your friends start excluding you for it. You just don't know what sort of change you are going to cause with anger. All you know is that you are seeking to cause change.

So when considering directly communicating anger, question whether you want to deal with the unintended side effects of such anger. Typically the answer is "no," but the fact that we still have support for anger at the biological level suggests it does indeed have its place.

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    Do you possibly mean "penchant" rather than "perchance"? ("perchance" means "perhaps"...) – psmears Jan 9 '18 at 11:29
  • @psmears Fixed! (and something new about my native language learned! Well, maybe learned. Probably going to mess that one up again!) – Cort Ammon Jan 9 '18 at 16:16
4

You ask "Is an explicit, verbal response that directly expresses anger always the wrong choice?" but your first example really isn't expressing directly what prompted your anger. Your buddy messed up your plans and it was inconsiderate and unacceptable, and if continues you won't make plans with that buddy. Articulating that would be the more direct way of expressing the anger. That being said, buddies often have a relationship where they tell each other to F off, so the phrase becomes not so offensive.

What would be wrong with initiating a discussion with this female friend and say exactly what you said here? She only calls when drunk and is aggressive and hurtful to others and you care about her because of her redeeming qualities. But it seems that your patience is wearing thin and this has to change. Why not just say that before your frustration level reaches that boiling point?

3

No. However. There's a phrase I've come across: "he didn't even need to swear". Implying the words used were so harsh and unforgiving that adding swearing for emphasis wouldn't be necessary. Let's consider your example:

"You don't get to just @#$%ing walk back into peoples' lives whenever you feel like it."

Instead, what about:

"Really? Why are you pretending nothing has happened? I need you to at least acknowledge that I'm really annoyed that you keep insulting me, treating me with suspicion, and only seem to want to be a true friend when you're drunk. I do not treat you with such disrespect!"

So it's possible that you didn't even need to swear. But sometimes in the heat of the moment you might just say something which expresses that sentiment a little more... concisely. Which is fine as a last resort, so long as you at least clarify in the same breath why you're so fed up. As sometimes angry swearing, surprising as it may be, isn't as clear as you might intend.

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    Note that your clean version is literally three times as much text. If you're pretty sure they're not going to change anyway, the profanities mean less of your life wasted. :P – cHao Jan 9 '18 at 13:55
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    Isn't "You don't get to just walk back into peoples' lives whenever you feel like it." saying the same message without swearing? – Lord Farquaad Jan 9 '18 at 22:21
  • But what's the big deal about profanities? When well placed, they make the message stronger. – LinuxBlanket Jan 10 '18 at 0:01
  • @LinuxBlanket, because they achieve that strength by disrespecting the listener. That's the entire point of using it. Maybe not quite as much in this case, but in the OP's description, s/he wasn't just "directly" expressing anger. That wasn't the problem. The problem is the way s/he directly expressed that anger: by disrespecting the person. – David Jan 12 '18 at 1:18
2

There may be situations where an expression of anger is helpful, but this doesn't appear to be one.

I suggest you seek out your friend, connect in a way that strengthens your relationship, and let her know that you're unhappy with the pattern that you and she seem to be stuck in. There is no need to raise your voice or your tone.

You might not reach any resolution in this first conversation.

If necessary, over time, you may need to distance yourself from this person. She may decide to make some changes; but she might not. Prepare yourself for that possible outcome.

2

The only time I think they're the correct choice is if the only message you're trying to send is that you're extremely angry.

In my experience, if you give someone a response like the ones in your question, the only message they'll take away is that you're extremely angry at them; it doesn't really matter what context you put around it. Sometimes though, that's the message you're trying to send. If someone simply doesn't understand that what they're doing is upsetting you (or, more frustratingly, is stubbornly refusing to understand), then there are times where a "verbal response that directly expresses anger" is actually the best choice.

However, it's important to note that such a response means you're no longer trying to express your original point anymore.

When your friend says:

Well if I knew you were going to be such a baby about it, I would have told you I wasn't going to make it.

You have two choices. One is to continue to try and show them why this isn't a helpful response, and try to explain again how they put you in a bad situation. The other is to give a response like yours. What's important to realize is you can't do both.

There is pretty much no way to be aggressive and persuasive, so an angry verbal response should be reserved for when you've given up on persuasion.

Your response:

Well @#$% you then.

Isn't going to make them say "oh yeah, that's a good point. I should've let OP know." It will, however, (hopefully) make them say "oh. I've really upset OP. Maybe what I've been doing is out of line." The goal is for them to realize this, and reevaluate the way they were looking at the problem (or at the very least, realize this is important to you and change regardless of their opinion on the matter).

Note though, that most people really don't like having that revelation. Even worse, being told they're being upsetting causes lots of people to entrench themselves further in their position. As such, I really advise only giving response like these when you've completely given up on other means.

Telling a friend you're really angry at them can seriously damage your relationship, so I think you should only do this if the issue at hand is already significant enough to put the relationship at risk. Otherwise, go yell in a pillow and write something a little nicer.

  • In my opinion, it is not telling someone that you are angry at them that would damage your relationship, but them constantly making you angry in the first place. Letting them know how you feel in a way that they are going to understand and take you serious is how such situations should be resolved. However, we're all different and while "Well @#$% you then" will work for some people, others will get the point if you politely explain them the issue, whereas there are people who would pick up a fight after being told to @#$%, in which case the original issue would not be solved. – Milos Jan 11 '18 at 13:19
  • @Milos I'm not suggesting you hide your feelings, just that you try your polite options before your angrier ones. You can even say something like "It's upsetting to me that you don't seem to care or understand why I'm angry about this" which expresses anger, but not so aggressively. Of course, I agree that the @#$% response works better for some people, but it's a lot easier to go from calm to angry responses than the other way around. – Lord Farquaad Jan 11 '18 at 13:36
1

We all speak to communicate ideas. By insulting someone you previously cared about you are perhaps trying to show them that you are upset by what they just said or did. Maybe you're hoping that they will back down or see your point of view. But chances are you'll just lose them as a friend.

If a conversation ends with "&£$% YOU!" there really isn't much anyone can come back with, except for maybe more of the same. You might feel justified in saying it, but there's no escaping the consequences of such an outburst, and you can't really know for certain what the consequences will be until you've said it and it is possibly too late. This kind of response really 'closes doors' in that it signifies the end of the conversation, perhaps even the end of a friendship.

If something like this comes as an 'outburst' face to face, you may have an opportunity to take a deep breath, apologise, and fix things quickly. But you don't really have an excuse in text/email form. Once you've sent it, the person can look at it again and again, relive the hurt, knowing that you thought about what you were saying as you typed each letter and hit send.

I would say that anger IS the wrong choice, always. There's probably a whole load of psychology that suggests you should vent anger in some 'healthy' way, or that bottling up anger is bad for you. Not everybody agrees. "Violence begets violence", meaning violent behaviour (including violent or aggressive language) just promotes the same kinds of response. Anger is bad for you, full stop. I believe it is possible to become less angry, you just need to make a conscious effort to think over a few situations rationally and see a calmer, more reasonable approach work for you and improve your relationships, then you'll have the confidence that this is the best way forward in future.

  • I think "$@%# YOU!" is a bit more harsh then a text that ends with, "Well $@%# you then." :) But I understand your point. – 8protons Jan 9 '18 at 16:38
0

she ignored me for a few weeks and randomly came back into my life by sending me a meme, pretending like nothing had happened.

Should you respond with? :

You don't get to just @#$%ing walk back into peoples' lives whenever you feel like it.

I don't think this will work. You don't know the reasons why she acts like she does. I get a sense she is insecure about something. Maybe she had a bad childhood or grew into an insecure attachment style. If you respond angrily she might break off the friendship. In general it is better to discuss the problem YOU are having.

I really honor our friendship. But I feel like you don't value our friendship as much as I do. [or whatever the problem is]

Then there are three options:

  1. "I'd like our friendship to become more trusty. This and that needs to happen."

=> You both work together to find the problems and improve friendship through mutual effort.

  1. "I don't want to see you anymore if you behave like that."

=> She reflects on her behavior and the friendship improves through her effort.

  1. She shows no interest whatsoever.

=> You choose to end or maintain friendship.

Additionally, it would be better to speak to her in person, and not digitally. Conveying an earnest message is better in real-life because the information is often much richer. Facial micro-expressions, sounds, smells, and the sharing of personal space can all contribute to a more intimate climate.

In general it is better not to use angry words. Even more so when you're responding digitally. Besides risking the friendship, you're also inducing negative thoughts which lead to stress which are detrimental to your and perhaps her health. Find a balance between rationality and intuition. Take your time thinking about what you think is the best way. There is no perfect solution.

0

I feel like the answers provided already are either focused on the surface aspects of your question, or delve all the way into the specific relationship with this newer friend. I want to examine the psychological side of it a bit more while keeping it general enough to apply in more than this one specific case.

Is it okay to be angry?

Yes. Anger is a legitimate emotion and shouldn't necessarily be buried. It's okay to get angry about something that impacts you deeply. You also shouldn't need to be embarrassed about expressing it somehow. Denying it is only going to burn you on the inside.

So is it okay to express anger?

Absolutely. In general, honesty is what builds trust, and trust is the foundation of relationships. So don't be dishonest, with yourself or others. That will lead to unstable friendships where one side or the other is losing out.

Great, so I'm on the right track.

Wrong. What's arguably more important than being honest, is communicating effectively. The interactions you're describing are only expressing your anger, they're not dealing with it constructively, nor are they examples of good communication. Saying "$^% you" to your friend didn't change his mind, it didn't clearly express your opinion, and it was not very productive. All it did was express your anger. He came around because he trusts and respects you, and considers your relationship valuable. That would almost certainly have happened regardless of your outburst. You don't appear to have this same level of commitment from your newer friend.

Everyone will receive that kind of expression differently. There's no telling exactly how this girl would react to what you proposed, but I would certainly advise more caution than you used previously. There are a lot of different personality types out there; some will take criticism and confrontation well, and other will not. In order to effectively get your point across and see change, you need to determine what type of personality you're dealing with and then frame your desires and emotions with respect to their social style. Anger is fine, but rarely will you be able to verbally lash someone without consequences.

tl;dr

There's no single rule to govern this. Anger is a legitimate emotion and shouldn't necessarily be hidden. However it won't change anyone's mind by itself, and could do more harm than good in some situations. Of course this is naturally a complicated subject that has book after book written about it, but what is boils down to is this: Justifying your anger accomplishes nothing. To get results, you need to more effectively communicate the problems you see, and what you think might help solve them.

-2

Is an explicit, verbal response that directly expresses anger always the wrong choice?

Not always. It can occasionally be the right choice for dealing with very problematic people who seriously violate proper boundaries in ways that are potentially very harmful -- assuming you have no desire for any kind of relationship with that person, ever. But even then, if you feel you must use profanity, keep it low-key. Be a gentleman. Even if the culprit is a scoundrel, don't stoop to their level. Just be firm and express your thoughts clearly, so there is no chance of misunderstanding.

In other words, if the relationship is expendable and you are reacting to a truly grievous affront, then by all means: telling them off with choice words may help re-establish proper boundaries. It might get their attention and give them something serious to think about.

However, it isn't at all wise to use the language illustrated in your examples, for dealing with problems with people about whom you care very much. I stress this, despite the fact that I'm well aware how many people are generally in the habit of talking to one another in that manner. It's quite common, really. And it isn't as harmless as it appears on the surface.

Treat everyone with respect at all times, if possible. But that goes doubly for the friends and family you can't bear to lose. If you stop to think about it, saying:

Well @#$% you then.

...is equivalent to saying, "Die! I hate you!" Verbal abuse is as hurtful as physical blows. Such statements wound the heart. And they end up harming all involved, even the speaker / writer of such sentiments.

This too, is an inappropriate way to treat someone whose friendship you value:

You don't get to just @#$%ing walk back into peoples' lives whenever you feel like it.

...is equivalent to saying, "My feelings are more important than yours."

If you value someone's friendship, regardless of how annoying they can be, you must accept them as they are, and deal with it somehow.

You did the right thing the first time, when you attempted to talk to her about how her emotional problems affect you. But try to understand that she may have emotional issues that she isn't ready to talk about just yet. That's why she pretended nothing happened.

When you confront her in a caring, respectful fashion, and she reacts by withdrawing (ignoring you), just think of that as her giving you some vacation time away from her problems.

She later returned, when after thinking it over she realized you really were trying to build rather than tear down your friendship. So at that point you should observe her behavior to see how much effort she is putting into being a better friend. You may find you need to discuss things with her less frequently, as time goes on.

Apparently emotional problems are the reasons for her heavy drinking and inability to trust people, in the first place. So you need to understand that using profanity on her, as if her feelings aren't very important to you, will only hurt and cause her to withdraw, drink, and distrust even more.

You should try a different approach this time: Be a gentleman, and let her know that you have a heart, and that you see that she is unhappy about something that she may not care to talk about.

Tell her that you respect her privacy, and that you understand some of her behaviors (be specific if necessary, in other words if she asks for examples) are possible indications of depression or some other problems which you might not be able to help her with. And while you respect personal boundaries, you wish to remain friends.

That means you will have to be very tolerant of her faults, and she may test your patience. You have to ask yourself periodically: is our friendship worth the trouble? If it is, be a gentleman about the way you treat and talk to her -- regardless.

If it is not, then it's time to move on. Just consider the fact that when ending friendships, there rarely is any turning back. If you're very diplomatic, you might be able to stay on speaking terms, at least. But you probably will never be friends again.

And if being a gentleman and graduating into maturity alienates your friends, guess what? You'll either find better friends, or they will someday wake up and recognize you for the trail-blazing leader you've become.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – HDE 226868 Jan 9 '18 at 16:27

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