Ever find yourself exploding in anger? While powerful, such outbursts can have negative effects on your work, relationships and health. Wouldn’t it be better if you could choose how you respond rather than simply reacting?
Psychologists tell us that anger can be a mask for other emotions. So if you struggle with explosive anger, becoming more aware of your emotions before you explode is the key to gaining control of yourself. This takes conscious effort and practice.
How do you learn to control your anger?
- If you’re already steamed, pause before reacting. Count to 10 (or further if you’re still not calm). “Be careful with your words. Once they are said they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.” With this in mind, don’t respond until you have control of yourself. When you do respond, control your voice, your mannerisms and your words. Communicate your anger without ranting. Telling someone you’re angry is important, but can be accomplished without being out of control.
- Prepare for the future by becoming more aware of your feelings on a daily basis. Periodically pause to check your emotional state, suggests Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W for pscyhologytoday.com. Consider your mood. What are you feeling? Are you irritated, anxious, ignored, angry, worried, happy, enthusiastic, appreciated? What caused these feelings? Being more conscious of what you’re feeling enables you to stay in control. Learn to notice when you’re starting to feel annoyed and know how to step away to regain control of your emotions.
- When you begin to notice an increase in your negative emotions, do something before your feelings escalate. It’s easier to address concerns before they turn to rage. And taking early positive action helps you feel more in control.
A colleague appears to dismiss your concerns regarding a new project. You’re certain there’s trouble ahead. You begin to feel frustrated and stressed because you know you’ll be the one picking up the pieces when things fall apart. But the co-worker waves off your worries as unfounded.
- If you feel your anger rising in a situation like this, take a moment to assess your concerns objectively. “Is this particular situation truly a big deal? Or is it simply the last straw? If the colleague doesn’t know your feelings have been festering for weeks (or longer), any outburst by you will seem like an extreme reaction to them.
- Ask yourself some questions as you assess. Is the colleague truly ignoring your warnings or is he simply trying to ease your worries? What are some steps you could take to address your concerns on the front end?
- Write down the facts and organize your thoughts
- Talk with the colleague calmly or email them in a factual, non-confrontational way. Keep your tone neutral. Make no assumptions about the other person’s motives. Speak in a positive, genuine, complimentary way. “Jim, I know you’re trying to stay upbeat and keep me from worrying, and I appreciate that. Help me think this through if you have a minute. I’ve made some estimates of what we’re up against and what’s happened in the past. Maybe together we can make sure this goes as planned.”
- Force yourself to approach situations that normally anger you in a new way. (If colleagues are accustomed to you flying off the handle, it may take them a while to catch up to your new, more controlled approach. Be patient and consider apologizing for your previous behavior … to begin to turn things around.)
- Assume the best from other people
- Replace negative thinking with positive, more reasonable thoughts suggests mindtools.com. “Yes, I’m frustrated, but it’s not the end of the world.”
- Don’t take things personally
- Take responsibility for your emotions and learn to relax and calm yourself. “Your anger makes it easy to blame others for making you feel that way, and to expect them to do something to make you feel better (like do what you want),” reminds Taibbi. But your emotions are your responsibility and you need to be able to calm yourself. Meditation, focused breathing, stepping away, counting and visualizing are all techniques people use to self-soothe. Experts suggest practicing these often to make them more effective when you really need them.
Anger is a valid emotion that can’t be eliminated. Taking time to truly understand your other negative emotions helps you respond in a controlled, more effective way. Letting colleagues know of growing concerns, frustration or worry before it escalates will help keep anger from building, allowing you to stay in control.