All of us at some point have resorted to shouting at someone out of frustration and anger, rather than attempting to diffuse a situation rationally. Shouting is an emotional response and therefore overrides rationality.
Bruno Humbeeck, an educational psychologist at the University of Mons, says that while shouting may sometimes be necessary, it does not always lead to the desired effect and is also mentally taxing. It can also lead to feeling of guilt once the red mist has subsided.
In his research, Humbeeck outlines three examples of when shouting can be counterproductive; when you shout in response to behaviour, when you shout to provoke an emotion, and when you shout to exhibit aggression.
In the first case, when shouting as a reaction to behaviour, the person being shouted at – for instance a child – may at first be shocked but if this continues as a pattern, they will soon get used to it and any impact will be lost. The result is that the person shouting becomes exhausted by this and no solution is achieved.
Shouting to illicit a response or emotion in the other person can also eventually fail. Only if the shouting is backed up by a stronger response, such as a punishment, will it make any sense.
Shouting as a way of showing aggression is a response used to great effect in the animal kingdom to show authority and issue threats. However, with humans, Humbeeck says, shouting aggressively is a sign of a wavering authority.
Humbeeck says that it is necessary to assert authority, especially with a child, but instead of shouting, it is advisable to let the child express themselves first, before saying: "Now I have to say something important. I ask you to shut up and listen to me," he told RTBF.
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If you do lose control and shout, Humbeeck says that it is not helpful to then blame yourself. Apologising leads to a form of repentance that could make the child understand that they are in a position of superiority.
On the other hand, for the educational psychologist, "to say sorry, is not to apologise at all, it is a natural reaction for which I am not responsible: 'I am sorry to have scared you,'" he added.