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The College Student Vs. Anger Management (and the ninja skills of communication)


When it comes to setbacks and stress, the toll it takes upon a student can have a wide variety of consequences.  You get a bad grade on a paper, you disagree with someone’s viewpoint, feel that you are being treated unfairly, or you are overwhelmed by responsibilities.  Some students feel the need to deflect their emotions onto other people, while others are more inclined to use critical thinking and contemplate options and otherwise look introspectively to formulate viable solutions to these setbacks. 

When students are under pressure, and life in general seems overwhelming its not uncommon to lash out on those around you.  Instead of arguing with a professor about a grade you feel is unfair, perhaps preventative measures could have been taken to avoid that situation.  Were the directions clear and concise?  Did you fully understand the material you were being tested on?  Has your attendance affected your ability to keep up with the everyday school work?  Did you ask questions if you had any? 

If the poor grade was in fact unfairly given, there is a chance that outside influence in the professor’s life was the culprit.  There’s a chance that he or she was distracted or mixed up your paper with someone else’s, or he or she was being just a tad bit nitpicky as a result from a foul mood.  When or if you decided to confront the professor and he/she in turn acts aggressively, keep in mind that perhaps they have had a bad day as well.  There are a myriad of reasons why people behave aggressively but the worst thing you could possibly do is feed the fire of discontent by showing discontent yourself.

In any situation, including the one above, acting upon your emotions is one sure fire way for you to get the opposite outcome to what you originally expect.  Even if the outcome is in your favor and you get what you want, you lose the respect of the individuals around you and are simply feeding into the negativity in other people's lives (karma, dude.  what goes around, comes around).  Just as you require and desire encouragement, your professors and the people you run in to require it as well.  The best way to approach any kind of confrontation is by doing so without any sort of emotion or anger behind it. Voice your concern tactfully and diplomatically and earn respect. 

The proper way to handle a bad situation where you want to explain your point of view to another person without coming off as abrasive is thinking before you respond.  The problem a lot of people face, not only in college, but in the working world as well is instinctual emotional response or simply the inherent need to get what you want despite who you harm in the process.  Granted, everyone has bad days, and when we feel our own emotions begin to erupt we have to remember that we aren’t the only ones who have bad days.  

In his book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, Dale Carnegie explains the concept of an individual’s need to feel important.  Keeping a few of his principles in mind will help to diffuse arguments and will pose as a helpful guideline to deal with the frustrations that we sometimes have.  Relationships in general can benefit from active empathy and the ability to communicate our feelings in such a way that does not either offend or exude aggression. 

His twelve principles that have helped me in my relationships are:

  • “Principle 1-The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  • Principle 2-Show respect for the other person’s opinions.  Never say, “You’re wrong”
  • Principle 3-If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Principle 4-Begin in a friendly way.
  • Principle 5-Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately
  • Principle 6-Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
  • Principle 7-Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  • Principle 8- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Principle 9-Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Principle 10-Appeal to the nobler motives.
  • Principle 11-Dramatize your ideas.
  • Principle 12-Throw down a challenge.” (Carnegie, 1936)

In leadership, Carnegie also goes on to explain another nine principles to abide by for “A leader’s job often includes changing your people’s attitudes and behavior.”

  • “Principle 1-Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  • Principle 2-Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
  • Principle 3-Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  • Principle 4-Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  • Principle 5-Let the other person save face.
  • Principle 6-Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement.  Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
  • Principle 7-Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  • Principle 8-Use encouragement.  Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  • Principle 9-Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.” (Carnegie, 1936)

Keeping to these principles have helped me tremendously in my relationships.  There are times when I do feel my emotions getting the better of me, but I try to keep in mind that not everyone is perfect, including myself.  Showing genuine concern for another person is more likely to get you where you need to go rather than vehemently imposing your ideals or expectations on another.  Just as you like hearing praise for your accomplishments, praise those around you for theirs.  

On another note, not only must we keep our words in check, but a lot of what our body language says can affect the outcome of a discussion which can ultimately lead to an argument.  If you approach your professor over a negative grade despite maintaining a tone of calm in the way you speak, the way you present yourself can prove to the contrary.   Another mistake that I have seen is forcing a tone of calm in your voice while speaking or exaggerating politeness.  Although your tone may sound calm or sweet to you, the apparentness that it is forced is pronounced and people can tell the difference between genuine concern and emotions being suppressed or covered up.  The best way I have found to avoid these situations is by either taking a deep breath and clearing my mind before approaching the other person, or waiting until I know exactly what I want to say and approaching the individual at a later time. 

In my previous experience, I lacked in the communication department and past disputes could have easily been diffused had I taken the time to learn how to communicate properly.   Had I years ago,  I would have significantly reduced some of the stress I had felt in my early college years.  Granted, I still struggle with letting my emotions get the better of me, I have a difficult time approaching someone if I am upset, and  there are times when I lose my temper (not proud of those moments).  During those situations, though,  I find myself dwelling upon a quote by Plato that reminds me to keep myself in check whenever I feel my temper start to rise or I start to get upset:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

I prefer to avoid arguments all-together but it gets frustrating when I feel that what I have to say is not taken into consideration or I am blatantly ignored or brushed off.  Reading up on communication helped me to understand that focusing on my own feelings and emotions blinded me from what other people were thinking and feeling.  Anything we do in college, especially the self-directed study outside of class can significantly improve the college experience for in college we have no choice but to interact with other people while we learn.  This is one of the major reasons why I opted to study communication.  Due to the nature of college life and the emphasis on diversity, we happen across people who we may not particularly agree with.  Reading up on communication and how to interact with people can help to improve those situations and perhaps open our minds to different points of view.  Proper communication enables college students to be better equipped for future disagreements that tend to crop up in the workplace.  This ultimately enables students to broaden their education for the opinions and perspectives of other individuals are just as educational and informative as the subject that is up for debate.  

There will be times though when you will run across individuals to whom you clash with, but showing respect and listening to them rather than arguing is the best way to handle those types of individuals. Sometimes, when you give it a chance, you can find common ground to work on.   Just keep in mind that its one thing to listen to someone's opinion, but it takes grace and empathy to stop and actively listen to the explanation as to why someone feels the way they do.  Listening without allowing emotions to haze honesty, brings about understanding. 



Carnegie, D. (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People. : Simon & Schuster Inc.


Another book I’d like to recommend:

“Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion” BY George J. Thompson, Ph.D., and Jerry B. Jenkins



Jay Pineda's picture

"Angers is just one letter

"Anger is just one letter short of danger" This photo is what really caught my attention that is why I read this post. I realized that this is actually true. Anger will most likely put you in Danger so it is best that we have great anger management skills.

When it comes to miscomputation of grades, it usually becomes an issue. A simple issue which usually grows bigger. Some students lose their anger control when there is a miscomputation of grades and say things they never should have said, and some they should have never did. I agree with you that arguing with a professor agrressively won't take the issue anywhere. You should be the first one to calm down and approach your professor in a respectful manner. You have to remember that you are not the only student your professor is teaching(and computing grades) that's why there is always a room for error and chances are the professor may be stressed as well. Being disrespectful will just make matters worst.

I am not familiar with the book you have mentioned but I am glad you shared to us these important principles. I know that this will possible help us as it may have helped you.

java602's picture

Although college is often

Although college is often advertised as that awkward in between place between adolescence and functioning adulthood, at this point in your life you are now considered to be an adult and with that comes the expectations of behaving like one.  If you get into a fight in college, there’s no such thing as detention or suspension; the police will get called and you will get arrested.  There will be no call to Mom or Dad to bail you out.  And even on a lesser scale, not being able to keep your anger under control will only result in a menagerie of negative social and academic repercussions.  People do not want to hang out with someone who is always throwing temper tantrums and a professor will only look down on you if you cannot keep your emotions in check in class or during a personal discussion.  The college life puts a lot of stress on individuals, but that is not an acceptable excuse for acting immature and like a child.  If you feel like you are having trouble, go to the health center at your college and speak to a counselor.  But do not let anger get in the way of your success.

iracquel's picture

First of all, I would like to

First of all, I would like to point out how much I love the title of this article...great selection there! Overall, the article has taught me so much especially the quote by Plato (on my facebook status right now, lol!!) I believe that it really does not cost anyone anything to just be polite and to treat every individual as they would like to be treated because we all demand politeness from other people even at times when we don't deserve it....Maybe its just me, but I often have felt that for any two people to communicate effectively,it is very important that the two parties give each other the needed attention and to ensure that they both understand what the other party is trying to put across. Otherwise, I think that the tips you mentioned here are very important. I, personally, have never come across such a comprehensive guide for communication in different situations ....I am even considering reading the referenced books. I really have learnt a lot from this article and I intend to use these lessons during the course of my college life and my career. Thank you very much for this article! You did a great job!



JasmineRose's picture

My way of coping with disputes

In this life, it's going to forever be hard to avoid disputes among friends, family members, lovers. I personally hate confrontation myself and sometimes I don't know how to handle it. I'm a person who will lash out on someone especially if they are lying on me or taking a situation too far. 

I definitely agree with principle 1 and 4 in the blog post because to not get overwhelmed by an argument is to obviously try to avoid it and if you can't avoid it, always try to approach the situation with kindness. Principle 6 is basically harder for me because I just can't let another person do all the talking especially if they are int he wrong. I can respect the fact of listening to them, but I have to have my turn as well to speak my thoughts. I feel that you should never suck up to someone and that principal can in a way make you gullible and you would be one of those types that someone can just run all over.

Therefore, give each other a 50/50 chance to speak and talk things over. Agree to disagree and understand each other's viewpoints without criticizing and mockery. Be mature adults and know how to talk it out and move on. 

ShadaeDillard's picture

Trying to avoid things that

Trying to avoid things that anger you isn't the easier to do because some of the things that anger you could be having to go to a class where the professor just did a 360 and now is a complete jerk or your living situtation with no where to go, some times we cannot avoid it. 

As well I have no heard of the book you've mentioned but I do agree with the points you've made. It's not so easy when working by yourself though, working with someone to better yourself and to intervention yourself to do things that don't anger yourself. I've always watched or read something funny to help me relax or a really stupid song and it's like what was I mad at?

Knowing that there are so much stuff out there that can help you to distance yourself, and do other things, exercise, play video games, go out with friends, there are a lot of things you could do to not anger yourself or to let anyone, when people anger me I just walk away, they can call me a coward, they can say whatever they want but i'm the bigger person and I'm not going to let myself get angry and most likely do something stupid. 


Hearty Marial's picture

This One is Great

Controlling anger is really hard for me. I have read a lot of articles about anger management, controlling tempers and everything but still, I can’t control my anger. I have talked to my psych doctor about that and she instructed me to do this and that, but still, there is no progress when it comes to that. I am the kind of person who doesn’t go mad or angry that easily so I guess that’s the reason why I am one hot steaming machine when I am angry. My friends know me, they would not touch or talk to me even a single word when I am angry because they know what would happen next. There only 3 instances I guess when I got really, really angry that I hurt some people physically. The first one was my ex-girlfriend. We were having an argument at my room, she insisted to go but I don’t want her to because I don’t want to end the day without fixing things between us so I pulled her, she slapped me and that is one big mistake she made, I really don’t like it when someone slaps me on the face, what I did was I pushed her and she fell on the stairs. Luckily, she didn’t get any bruise. I really apologized for what happened and she forgave and even assisted me in controlling my anger. She told me that she understood me very much because like what I have said, I don’t get angry easily but when I am, better stay away from me.

I think this one you posted would help, hopefully it would. Because it has been 3 years I guess when I started to cure myself, but still, no progress at all.

johnk146's picture

Stand Your Ground

Friendliness, diplomacy, tact, these are all fine negotiating tactics, but civility is not always the answer. Although I hesitate to  make generalizations, there are classes of people who tackle on conflict in different ways. There are people who avoid conflict, who defer and submit, and those who like to take it head on. Among the people who often look or search for conflict, there are those who have a finely attuned sense of what "type" of people others around them are. If you are a weak person, a person who does not challenge them even when they are clearly in the wrong, they will recognize this and take advantage of you. As vicious and barbaric as it may seem, there are people who either consciously or subconsciously act upon darwinian philosophy in their interactions with others. You must recognize these people and confront them head on, especially if you want to win their respect. So if you are ever angry with someone, and you know that they are like this. Then take the fight to them. Destroy them, demolish them, smother them with a flurry of insults. Make it personal if you have to. I guarantee you that they will be more careful when dealing with you in the future. 

Hearty Marial's picture

On anger management

I could still see my previous post in here where I stated that I am having a hard time controlling my anger. I have consulted my psychologist, I have read article about anger management, I have check on sites that has post on controlling anger and have eaten foods that are said to be effective in reducing the risk of anger, how? I don’t know. It’s just recently when I discovered how to control my all started last month when I felt a little tension between me and some people who seemed to be insecure or something on me. There was a week when I was like mad all the time, I talk to people rudely and I don’t treat people right. I was mad because they even stalked my twitter account just to check on my life! I was already posting harsh words on my account and all, I was really, really mad until a friend of mine talked to me about the matter. She asked me if I can still control or hold my anger and I told her that I can’t anymore. She asked me to come with me. she let me buy all the foods I wanted to eat, drinks and bring as many pack of cigarettes as I can, in short, she asked me to bring with us all the foods and drinks that would make me happy and we drove into a very quiet place, and there she taught me everything about meditation and she taught me the delight of eating the foods you really like, and the drinks you want to drink whenever you are mad or angry.

Tim Gogo's picture

Excellent advice!

This article was one of the best articles I came across on this website. I truly like the fact that he has listed principles, that work and refrenced a book. A book that I actually going to purchase when I was researching "Influence." There are ton of great tips in this article. However, I still think that this is not directly about "anger mangement." I'm not sure exact how "anger" and influence" go hand-in-hand. It seemed as though you were discussing two different topics. I do agree with "feeling overwhelemed." People who are like this often lash out their anger on others and blame everyone else for their problem instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. 

Again, I'm missing the connection between this and influence, but with influence... You can one) influence yourself. Or two) influence others. You can influence yourself to do whatever you want and you will believe you are right with everything you do. When you influence others, you can get them to do almost whatever you want. You will feel like you have control over them and you can have or do, say or act, how you wish. With it being alright and acceptable by everyone. 

Influence can be be effective if it's used properly, but if you use it in a corrupt way, you will loose respect from people and will become disliked. Once you have it, use it the right way!