4 Easy Steps to Deal With Anger in 2024


By Alex Glassmann and Kylen Glassmann

1/5/20246 min read

Where does anger come from—and what should we do when it shows up?

We all know that we’re supposed to control our anger. Our parents and teachers told us to control our anger when we were children. Pretty much every philosophy and religion instructs us to do the same as adults. Yet, despite how deeply ingrained the idea of controlling our anger is within us, many of us struggle to do it in the heat of the moment.

Countless futile arguments, unnecessarily broken-off relationships, and saddest of all, physical violence and death—the fallout from unmitigated anger can be terrible. Sometimes, this leads people to repress anger and pretend that it doesn't exist. But ignoring anger can create fallout, too: think oppression of entire populations and the unhealthy sacrificing of personal needs for the sake of avoiding conflict.

So how do we avoid both kinds of fallout? How do we mitigate anger without repressing the underlying needs?

Marshall Rosenberg (1934 — 2015) was a psychologist, mediator, author, and teacher who proposed a simple four-step process toward this end. This article explains my version of his process presented through my lens as a mediation-based relationship coach. If you like this article, check out https://glassmannfamilycoaching.com for more content to help save and strengthen your relationships.


The first step, identifying the “stimulus” of anger, as Rosenberg called it, involves recognizing the bare, objective fact that sparked the anger. Consider the following example:

Imagine two people at a coffee shop trying to hold a conversation. Suddenly, one exclaims, “That’s the fourth time you’ve interrupted me! I’m trying to tell you something really impor—”

The other one cuts in, now for the fifth time, “Oh, I’m so sorry! I always do this. It’s the way I was raised, in a big family. . .”

The first person is now livid.

Someone new to this might guess, “What sparked the first person’s anger was the fact that the second person acted like a jerk, right?” Not quite. It can be natural and tempting to start making evaluations about the other person’s character, but that’s different than strictly pinpointing the factual behavior that sparked the anger. In this example, it was the simple act of interrupting that sparked the anger.


Rosenberg boiled Step 2 down into one question: “What am I thinking that implies the other person did something wrong?

Despite the simplicity of the question, answering it is hard, for at least two reasons. First, our critical thoughts and judgments happen very quickly and automatically—so we can easily miss them. And second, even once we slow things down and catch these thoughts, that part of ourselves that was generating them starts to get defensive. It’s as though a part of ourselves gets indignant about being called out as judgmental.

How do we overcome these two barriers? First, we slow down and pay attention to our thoughts enough to notice the judgments and criticisms we’re forming. And second, we consciously let go of the natural defensive reaction that arises. We think to ourselves matter-of-factly, “It’s okay—I’m not here to guilt-trip myself about being judgmental; I’m just noticing.

It can take practice (and extensive coaching) to become proficient at this, so go easy on yourself in the beginning. Start by recalling low key instances where you felt only slightly angry; it’s easier to notice smaller, benign judgments before attempting to acknowledge more serious ones.

Recall the interruption example from above:

She pauses to take a deep breath, which allows her to slow down and notice the judgments she had formed around the interruptions: “He’s rude! He’s stupid! He’s arrogant!”

As these criticisms are laid bare, part of her starts to feel indignant and guilty about having judged him, and so she mentally reassures herself, “I’m just noticing.”


Every criticism or judgment, according to Rosenberg, is just a tragically suicidal expression of an unmet need. The task in this step, therefore, is to flip the script on those criticisms and judgments noted before by discovering the unexpressed needs and feelings that fueled them.

Let’s return again to our interruption example:

She asks herself, “What unmet needs are behind the judgments: rude, stupid, and arrogant?”

She thinks for a moment. “I need respect. Equality. To feel heard. On a practical level, for this conversation to work, I need to be able to speak.”

Now that she’s identified the legitimate needs underlying the judgments, the final task of this step is to label the emotions connected to them:

Thinking through this process has calmed her anger, so now, she can perceive other, more constructive emotions tied to each of her needs. She thinks to herself, “Without respect, I feel agitation and exasperation. In the face of inequality, I get annoyed, impatient, and irritated. And when my voice isn’t heard, I feel disconnected and discouraged.”


Having clarified the objective stimulus, separated out the criticisms, and identified the needs and emotions, the final step is to communicate effectively with the other person. Start with what sparked the anger: “When you did A…” Then, describe the need-based emotions: “I felt B…” Then, articulate the needs behind the anger: “Because I have a need for C…” Finally, make a request that would meet your need, “Can we try D…?”

Let’s see how this looks in the interruption example:

As she’s internally pinpointed the spark, noticed criticisms, as well as feelings and needs, only a few seconds have passed in the coffee shop. Now, she’s ready to respond in a constructive way:

“When you interrupted me, I felt agitated and impatient because I have a need to be respected and treated equally in a conversation…and practically, I need enough space to speak if we’re going to have a dialogue. So—is it okay if we try again so that I can finish what I was trying to say?”


So, there you have it: A reliable process through which you can listen to your anger (instead of ignoring it) and deal with it usefully (rather than lashing out).

You can practice these four steps all throughout 2024. See whether or not you can increase the chances of getting your needs met.

Or, the next time you find yourself facing an angry person, if it’s safe to try, you may be able to coach them through the steps and help to them to meet their needs.

As Marshall Rosenberg used to say, there’s nothing as naturally fulfilling as helping everyone get their needs met.



  1. Pinpoint what Sparked the Anger: Identify the objective stimulus that triggered your anger. Example: Two people in a conversation; one interrupts the other multiple times.

  2. Notice Criticisms and Judgments: Ask yourself, “What am I thinking that implies the other person did something wrong?” Example: Critical thoughts like “He’s rude! He’s stupid! He’s arrogant!”

  3. Understand What You Need and How You Feel: Recognize that criticisms are expressions of unmet needs. Identify those needs and associated feelings. Example: Needs for respect, equality, and being heard; feelings like agitation and impatience.

  4. Express Your Feelings and Your Needs: Communicate thoughtfully to the other person: “When you did A, I felt B…because I have a need for C…Is it okay if we try D…?” Example: “It’s true that you interrupted me. I’m feeling agitated and impatient because I need to be respected and treated equally. Is it okay if I try to finish my thought?”

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