When I was growing up, my Dad had a home office. His desk was always a mess, but you didn’t dare touch it or you’d “mess up his system!” One item from his desk, I remember very well, was a tiny sign that was always in clear view…even through the piles of paper. It read “Lose Not Thy Cooleth.”
That little sign now sits on my desk and is a constant reminder of not only my Dad, but also the fact that it’s up to me to control my anger or it will control me.
What is anger and how do you control it?
Charles Spielberger, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger says, [anger is] “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.”
Anything in life can trigger an angry response from certain people. Everyone reacts differently to similar events. Some people go on a rampage when they get cut off in traffic, while others patiently back off the accelerator and let the rude driver in.
Some people get irate if a client arrives late for a meeting while others take it in stride accepting the fact that the customer is always right.
Why do people react differently to the same trigger?
To put it simply, there are those who know how to control their anger and those who don’t. There are those who know what is worth reacting to and those who just react subconsciously.
Anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact it’s a perfectly normal emotion. We all feel angry at some point or another. It’s how you react to the situation that made you angry that is important.
The Roman poet Horace put it this way, “The one who cannot restrain their anger will wish undone, what their temper and irritation prompted them to do.” In other words, once something has been said, the damage is done and it’s impossible to take it back. Sure you can apologize, but the sting may never really go away.
The key is to learn to control your anger and not say something hurtful in the first place. You have choices and you can choose to manage your reactions to stimuli that makes you mad. It’s not always easy and it definitely takes practice.
I recently read a Mayo Clinic article on how to take an active role in controlling your anger. Here are 10 suggestions I found helpful:
1) “Think before you speak”
How often have you heard this said? But it is so true. There are several ways that you can force yourself to do this. Count to ten before responding to something that has ticked you off. Take some deep breaths as you look away from the person who provoked you. Make sure you’re thinking clearly and can speak without showing aggression before answering and suggest the other participants do the same.
2) “Once you’re calm, express your anger”
When you think you’re capable of speaking without being confrontational, discuss what is frustrating you. Be assertive not aggressive. Speak in a respectful way. It’s okay to have a differing opinion, but it’s imperative to keep the discussion on a nonthreatening level.
3) “Get some exercise”
You need to find some kind of physical activity to help you defuse your temper. It’s a known fact that exercise will reduce stress, which will help you remain in control of your emotions.
4) “Take a timeout”
If it works for kids, it can work for you. When you know you’re about to enter a stressful situation, take some time for yourself. Take a quick break and clear your head. Think about staying in charge of your emotions before you enter a potentially aggravating circumstance.
5) “Identify possible solutions”
Further your ability to stay in control by problem solving. Figure out how you can fix something that is a constant irritant. Then make some positive recommendations to your coworkers to help come up with an answer. Get them to contribute suggestions as well.
6) “Stick with ‘I’ statements”
Don’t aggravate the situation by putting someone on the defensive by using a ‘you’ statement. Avoid this by talking about your own feelings and what you would like to see happen.
7) “Don’t hold a grudge”
Forgive the person that angered you. Keep only positive thoughts in your mind and use positive self-talk. Do not allow your anger to stir up negativism.
8) “Use humor to release the tension”
Stay away from sarcasm that will only compound the problem. Try to ease workplace tension with some humor. Find the lighter side of the situation and bring it to the forefront.
9) “Practice relaxation skills”
Envision yourself in a relaxing environment. Do some deep breathing exercises. Use your self-talk to repeat phrases that calm you down. Spend time on your hobby. Discover yoga, or meditation, or anything else that might help you relax.
10) “Know when to seek help”
If you are unable to control your anger, consider seeking help before it causes you some serious consequences.
Out of control anger is serious and should be addressed immediately. People get hurt and jobs can be lost. Learn to diffuse your anger and not let it control your reactions or behavior. You will develop a much better relationship with the people and employees you interact with on a daily basis and be a far better leader. Maybe you should borrow my sign and put it on your desk.
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