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          Trained in   Collaborative Divorce sm  model                







Discussions of sensitive issues and even arguments can be productive, if they donít get out of control. When a discussion begins to get out of control, especially if there is a history of violence, it becomes important to try to introduce control back into the situation. Below are some suggestions that have proven effective for people living with a potentially violent person.

  • Be Prepared. When things are calm, discuss your concerns with your partner and plan for how you both can avoid violent exchanges in the future. Pack a bag so one of you can leave overnight if you need to. Include basic things like a change of clothes, extra keys, money and toilet articles.
  • Keep control of your temper. Violent episodes often involve two or more people losing control of their temper at the same time.
  • Stop trying to resolve the issues youíre arguing about. This can be done later when cooler heads prevail. Complex issues usually require many conversations to resolve.
  • Use defusion techniques.

1.  Ventilation. Allow the angry person to ventilate and discharge the anger. Do not offer advice, try to correct what is being said, offer explanations, or verbally defend yourself.

    Use only noncommittal responses such as "I see", "I understand", "Yup", and try to appear as though you are listening. Do not agree with anything you donít agree with.




2.  Active listening. After a brief period of ventilation, most people begin to calm down. When this begins to happen, use these active listening techniques:

  1. VALIDATION. Let the angry person know you understand he/she is upset with statements such as, "Youíre really angry because you think Iíve been unfair." let the person know that the relationship is valuable.   let the person know that they are valuable.
  2. VERIFICATION. Let the person know you understand what he/she feels with statements such as, "Youíre really feeling angry, arenít you?" Let the angry person know you understand what he/she is thinking with statements such as, "You really think Iíve been unfair, donít you?"
  3. REFLECTIVE QUESTIONING.  How, what, when, where and why.  carefully, slowly and be attentive.
  4. Then repeat the above.



Anger has several basic characteristics that make it a complex emotion. Effective use and management of our anger requires that we be aware of these characteristics and that we take steps to address them.

Among the major characteristics of anger are:

  1. It is always provoked. When people are angry, they have been provoked. It is the way we interpret events that provokes us, not the events themselves.
  2. Anger is contagious. When we get angry, we are defending ourselves against what we believe is a provocation. This defensiveness is often seen by others as threatening and a provocation and they are likely to become angry also. Their anger will be seen as a threat and a provocation by us and the argument will escalate.
  3. Anger is physical. Anger involves both sensations (feelings) and changes in our bodies. These physical changes include increases in our levels of adrenaline, heart rate, breathing and muscle tension. Physical changes often come on slower and last longer than our feelings, so it may seem as though we are not angry when we actually are.
  4. Anger can accumulate. The physical part of anger can build up over long periods of time. When we have a lot of "stored up" anger, it can take as long as two weeks for us to get over it and we can carry it into one situation after another. This is why we sometimes seem to "blow up" over a relatively minor event.
  5. Anger is variable. Anger can occur at varying degrees of intensity, including irritation, annoyance, frustration, resentment, hostility and rage. We do not always react to the same event with the same amount of anger. How strongly we react will depend on how much anger we have accumulated, what kind of a mood we are in and how effectively we believe we are handling things.
  6. Anger affects our judgment. When we get angry, our ability to reason and engage in effective problem solving is affected. When we get angry, we focus on specific things, often taken out of context. This is called "tunnel vision". Our view of things usually changes after our anger has passed and we are generally better able to figure out what needs to be done to resolve a problem.


    Developed by the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse

Sometimes the big and little problems of everyday life may make you feel that youíre going to lose your patience. When you feel like lashing out Ė STOP. Take time out. Try any or all of these simple alternatives Ė whatever works for you.

  • Stop in your tracks. Step back. Sit down.
  • Take five deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Slowly. Slowly.
  • Count to 10. Better yet 20. Or say the alphabet out loud.
  • Phone a friend. A relative. Even the weather.
  • Still mad? Walk outside, Punch a pillow. Or munch an apple.
  • Thumb through a magazine, book, newspaper, photo album.
  • Do some sit-ups, run, walk, exercise.
  • Pick up a pencil and write down your thoughts,
  • journal your thoughts.
  • Take a hot bath. Or a cold shower.
  • Lie down on the floor, or just put your feet up.
  • Put on your favorite music.
  • Water your plants
  • Meditate, pray, think , contemplate.


Speak kindly. Listen well. 

Look your child in the eyes when you speak to him. Bend or sit down, becoming the childís size. Gently touch your child before you talk. Say his name.

Practice talking to your child as you would talk to your adult friends. Instead of saying "Why canít you ever act right?" try "I am sure that you can Ö"

Speak in a calm and quiet voice, whispering sometimes so your child has to listen. Turn off the TV or the radio.

Practice talking. Talk with your child about what you see at the store or on TV. Talk about school and friends with your child.

Practice listening. Give your child your complete attention when she wants to talk to you. Donít read, watch TV, fall asleep, or make yourself busy with other tasks.

Teach your child to listen. Have him tell you what he heard when you said something. Model this behavior Ė tell the child what you heard when he said something to you.

Describe, donít evaluate or judge your child. Instead of saying "You clumsy kid, you fell off the swing again," say "You lost your balance; we need to work on learning balance."

Describe rather than vaguely praise your child. Instead of just saying "Youíre fantastic," say "You have totally organized your room Ė look, the books are on the shelf, the Legos are in the bucket Ė youíre fantastic."

Use "openers" to invite your child to talk more about an incident or a feeling. Say "Tell me more" or "Say that again. I want to be sure I understand."

Say "I love you" to your child often. Write it on a note every once in a while Ė put it in her lunchbox or on her pillow.


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Last modified: September 10, 2009 
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