Do You Shout? Why That May Not be Especially Helpful in Communicating

Do you find yourself shouting at people?

The problem with shouting is that it isn’t really communicating — it’s being aggressive and intimidating. That clearly is not the best way to forge relationships. You may not think that you’re being aggressive, or acting unhealthily — but you are. And you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors with your behavior.

When we communicate, there are a couple of thinking processes going on in the background: We have a goal or task we wish to complete in the interaction.

That goal is being driven by a set of personal rules and beliefs which are running on autopilot.

The following is an example of a typical scenario: In the kitchen, John tells Karen that he wants her to pick their son up from school because he’d made plans to meet a friend for drinks after work. Trouble is, Karen also has made plans and isn’t able, or willing, to change them. The conversation might go like this:

“Sorry, John, but I can’t pick Luke up, I’ve made plans. Anyway, it’s your day to do it.”

“I know it’s my day, but I said I’d meet Frank. You can change your plans; you’re only meeting your mother anyway.”

“I’m not changing.”

“Look, I can’t pick him up. I’ve made plans. Just call your mom and tell her you need to pick him up.”

“No, John.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake. Stop being so damn stubborn and just do it, will you?!”

“Don’t shout at me.”

“Then stop being a bitch and just pick him up.”

At this point, since Karen isn’t doing what he wants, John could get angrier, louder, and more aggressive. People in Karen’s position will tend to give in and do what the shouter wants, which is exactly the reason to shout — to get one’s own way.

But what led to an angry exchange and John shouting?

The two cognitive processes mentioned above: John holds an irrational belief that Karen absolutely should change her plans. Because she doesn’t want to, she is obstructing his goal, which is to go out with Frank. His underlying belief is probably something like, “She absolutely must do what I want, and if she doesn’t, she’s just being a difficult bitch!”

Remember, if you get to the point of shouting, you’re already in unhealthy anger mode. Your irrational belief that you are right and others are wrong will only become more rigid, as unhealthy anger begins to cloud your rational thought.

So if you find you are shouting at people, stop and think about what you are demanding of them.

Are they obstructing your goal? Do you have an irrational belief that they must do what you think is right, or satisfy your goal even if it is counter to their goal? Then ask yourself if that’s reasonable of you to demand such a thing.

Above all, shouting doesn’t make your argument or request more persuasive, it just makes you seem more intimidating.