Dealing With Anger
Getting cut off in traffic, a missed deadline, spilt coffee, a cranky child - it doesn’t take much to upset us these days.
A recent study by Yale School of Management professor Sigal G. Barsade and Donald Gibson of Fairfield University showed that 1 in 4 Americans feel at least somewhat angry at work. That’s a lot of grumpy people in the office. Add to that the frustration of a long commute and imagine what we’re like when we get home at night.
Anger is a normal and necessary emotion. How we deal with it makes all the difference. It’s a common philosophy that venting anger is good for you. “It’s cathartic,” we’re told. “Just get it out of your system.” But expressing anger through yelling, throwing things, or pounding our keyboards has an incredible impact on our co-workers, our families and ourselves. There are decisive steps we can take to bring anger back under our control. The next time you feel your ire rising you can take action to deal with it in a healthy way.
- Take a deep breath. Believe it or not, pausing to take a deep breath when you’re upset really does help. When you’re angry your body releases adrenalin that increases your heart-rate and blood pressure, preparing you to run or to fight. Taking a deep breath helps to bring your heart-rate back down and sends a signal to your brain that the adrenalin isn’t needed.
- Remove yourself from the situation. If you feel your anger mounting, walk away from the situation for a moment to give yourself the opportunity to regain control. Tell the other person that you need a minute and will be back. Take some deep breaths, splash water on your face, jump up and down. When you can think clearly return to the situation and deal with it.
- Communicate your frustration clearly. General statements using “you always” or “I never” rarely reflect the facts and don’t solve arguments. Give specific examples of what has happened and how you are feeling. This gives the other person the opportunity to make amends if they are in the wrong, and helps to clear up confusion.
- Use a journal. If you find that you are often angry, a journal can be a safe place to scream out your frustrations. Let your anger come out through your pen. Write down exactly who you’re mad at and why. If you want to tear it up afterwards, go right ahead. Just getting your thoughts down on paper can be cathartic, and this way no one gets hurt.
- Learn your triggers. Pay special attention to what it is that triggers your anger and then take action when you find yourself in those situations. If you know that you are more susceptible to anger when you’re tired for example, don’t have major discussions with your spouse late in the evening. Give yourself permission to say, “This really isn’t a good time for me to discuss this. Can we talk about it _____” and set a specific time to discuss it. Setting a time and sticking to it shows the other person that you are not trying to avoid the topic but are genuinely seeking to find a solution.
If anger is becoming a major part of your life get in touch with a counselor. A licensed counselor can help you find the root of your anger and give you specific strategies for dealing with it.