Anger Management Classes: How We Teach Empathy

Through he years, I have asked our anger management class participants what they expected class to be like before they actually came. Thought I’d share some of the responses I have received:

“Anger Management Class is like traffic school.”

“Like a support group therapy for angry people.”

“Full of convicts and criminals.”

“In anger management class people sit around and vent their anger.”

Truth is, anger management class, as we teach it, is just that – a class. It is not group therapy, most of the people are there because they want to be (i.e. NOT court-ordered), and we do not encourage venting anger in the class itself.

Hardly anybody is angry in anger management class itself. Instead, most clients are angry at someone else or they are in attendance because someone else thinks they are angry and needs help. Most often that “someone” is a relationship or employer.

In Anger Coach Programs, we teach the eight tools of anger control – one tool per class. For instance, one of the more popular tools for anger management is “empathy” or the ability to feel and see things from the perspective of other people.

Teaching clients how to be more empathetic to reduce anger begins with introducing and explaining the topic from a workbook that all participants are required to purchase. Often we start with this video:

Then, we give examples of how to think about empathy and the affect increased empathy can have on our feelings of anger. Almost everyone can think of examples of how their anger would decrease if they would just stop and think of how things look from the point of view of the other person.

The Empathy Grid:

The empathy grid is an excellent tool for you to start learning how to be more empathetic.

Print it out and practice using it. You will be amazed at how it will help you see things differently.

Remember: to have empathy doesn’t mean you have to agree with the other person’s perceptions, feelings or behavior.

Instead, empathy merely conveys that you understand,see, and acknowledge their point of view.