Why Yell?

I'm Mick, and I yell.  I think this is the part where you all are supposed to say, "Hi Mick."  Why do we yell?  I started to say, "I'm a yeller", but that doesn't sound right.  And I don't scream.  Screaming to me indicates panic or total loss of personal control.  But anyone who knows me knows I have a little bit of a fuse and when you light it, I'm liable to say some things I wouldn't intentionally repeat around the God-fearin' folk.

This blog is as much about therapy as it is for education and sometimes the questions I ask are actually me asking myself the question (did that make sense?).  Why yell?  Well, I guess the simplest way to say it is that I yell when I am frustrated.  I guess in a bit of self-analysis, I should ask, who gives me the right to yell except me?  Who made me the arbiter of all things?  Does the yelling solve anything? In short, I probably don't really have a right to yell and the yelling only solves things when the recipient gets the message.

So it sounds like it's more of a communication problem.  I don't really yell when I don't get my own way.  I yell when it is apparent to me that someone isn't paying attention or I yell back when someone is yelling at me.  When someone isn't paying attention in most cases, I get angry because I feel like the other person is being selfish and acting in a manner that doesn't show consideration for others.  It's funny, because I don't nearly get as angry about someone wronging me as when I see someone wrong someone else.  And when someone is yelling at me, I guess I'm inclined to yell back because when I screw something up, I take it to heart and simmer over it for a while.  So you don't have to yell at me, I get it.  And if you don't get that I get it, I begin to yell too.

Generally, I am an empathetic man, and when I finish yelling, I wonder why I did it in the first place, and more often than not, I feel badly about it.  I don't CHOOSE to yell.  I guess that's the powerlessness coming out.  Just as a three-year-old will lash out when no one understands what they want, I guess yelling is a form of emotional immaturity that we need to choke back.  But how else then can we communicate what it is we need when the subject doesn't seem to be listening?

The problem at the heart of this truly is communication.  If all the laws of effective communications came together like they are supposed to, we wouldn't have to yell.  We tend to yell when there is a lot of noise, and by noise, I'm not just talking audible noise, but distractions – problems at home, busy schedule, not feeling well, etc. I suppose the key is to either find a way to effectively drill through the problem or to postpone the communication until a more appropriate time.

I'd just as soon never yell again, but unfortunately, I'm in a business where sometimes things go seriously wrong and people die when orders aren't understood.  If you aren't paying attention on the fireground, I'd rather yell at you then see you fall through the roof, so please bear with me.  And I have three young children at home, none of whom seem to be inclined to pick anything up when they are done with it, so as much effort as I have put into not yelling at home, it's inevitable that it will happen again.  I suppose it all really comes down to a matter of perspective.  If I don't yell at home, the result might be a dirty house.  If I don't yell at work, someone might die.

But just like commercials and other annoying things, too much completely ruins the effectiveness of it.  If I yelled all the time (other than everyone staying away from me), the intended recipients just see it as another crazy rant.  I know people who like to yell at me (a lot) and while at first it bothered me, now it is just so much background noise.  So if yelling a lot isn't working, I guess the key observation would be that you should save your yelling for when it is absolutely necessary, else it will have no impact whatsoever on your chosen yellee.

I guess this brings us full circle then.  Is yelling effective?  Why yell?  It almost seems counterintuitive to suggest that yelling will cause people to NOT listen to you, but if you do too much of it, chances are that you are headed right down that path.  So some advice- take a deep breath, put the problem into perspective, and decide if yelling is even worth it.  On occasion, it might be.  But the likely scenario is that by the time you consider all that, the problem individual has moved on already and you may have even cooled off.  So think hard before you use a shotgun to kill a housefly.  Save the yelling for the completely necessary events only.  My audiologist thanks you.


  • I guess my fear would be that my subordinates would think I wasn’t approachable and fail to communicate critical information to me. The more I study CRM (and I know you’re doing the same) the more I realize how critical effective 2-way communication is on the fireground.

    Sometimes, you have to “yell back” (that section really made me laugh). People who study NLP (not that I endorse all of their beliefs) will tell you that someone who is yelling at you needs to be met with the same level of intensity or your message will not get through.

    I’ve also noticed that a calm composed demeanor will just make them even more angry (more true with men and women than bosses and subordinates). On the other hand, the bible says a soft answer turneth away wrath, so who knows?

    It seems to me the trick (sometimes) is to capture it at high intensity and bring it back down. I’ve had to do that on numerous emergency calls where a bystander was upset or hysterical.

    Of course, you have to be careful when you try this technique on a superior! It does seem like “yelling back” and while anyone who yells at an adult should anticipate the possibility of getting yelled at in return, rank does have its privileges.


  • I usually regret it when I yell as well. The people who know and love me accept it as a part of my persona, those who don’t well either they get over it or they don’t.

    I will usually apologize when I am wrong or out of line. I hardly ever hold a grudge. Some folks (rarely) just need to be yelled at once in a while. I know I do.

    Thanks for the post

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