Lesson 11 – Managing Anger
Too many people are angry at work. Workplace violence is an extreme example. Even short of violence, every day you see managers and co-workers who are mad at each other, their co-workers, their employees, their bosses, their customers, the company, and the world itself. Anger interferes with teamwork and productivity. It also creates an environment that is negative, hostile, and frightening. Companies face legal pressures to prevent this type of environment and from employees’ points of view, anger takes the fun out of work. Because anger is a natural emotion, it would be unrealistic to ask people not to feel it. Instead, the goal is to help – and sometimes, require – that people deal with their anger less aggressively and more appropriately.
Problems don’t come from anger. Problems come from the negative ways people express anger. How can we manage our own anger? Some possible answers may include:
- Express feelings appropriately and skillfully
- Release your physical tension
- Analyse what’s going on
- Address your fear
- Put yourself in charge of you
- Use your emotions effectively
- Approach the situation logically
- Don’t accuse others of making you angry
- Don’t preach at others when you are angry
- Don’t bring up past grievances when you are trying to fight fair
Before yelling at someone, try these alternatives.
- Go for a solitary walk in the woods and yell. Sometimes it clears the way for more constructive thinking.
- Write an angry letter that you’re never going to send. It gets the hostility out of your system so you can later address the individual in person without emotion.
- Write a second, more carefully reasoned letter and deliver it. Say, “Would you read this, and then we’ll talk about it?” The act of writing the letter enables you to carefully choose the words you are using.
Dealing with Other People’s Anger
- Use positive self talk.
- Check your body language.
- Acknowledge the other person’s feelings.
- Share your own feelings and fears.
- Show that you are listening.
- Make a conciliatory gesture.
- Express your own needs and wants calmly and persistently (like a broken record).
- When trying to work with hostile colleagues, keep in mind that their self-esteem may be in the dumps. Compliment them whenever possible. Avoid arguing with them, even though that’s often what they want. Sometimes the challenge is preventing an exchange from escalating into anger.
Guidelines for Assertive Anger
- For example: “I want to let you know how I am feeling because I believe that it will clear the air between us.”
- You could share an appreciation, but make sure it is sincere. “Over the past year, I have really enjoyed working with you, but lately…”
- Use the first person and say, “I’m feeling irritated/annoyed/angry.”
- Don’t distance yourself from your feelings with impersonal, third-person statements and generalisations such as, “When people…” or, “It can be annoying when…”
Specify the Degree of Anger
- This can vary from, “I’ve been getting slightly irritated,” to, “My fury is reaching the boiling point.”
- Giving this information often helps the other person listen more carefully.
- If you just say, “I am angry with you,” you may unnecessarily freeze the other person with fright or prompt them into aggressive defensive behaviour.
Don’t Accuse Others of Making You Angry
- Remember that your irritation might be my pleasure!
- No one has the power to make us feel anything. So instead of saying, “You make me feel angry,” say, “I get angry when you…”
Share Your Feelings of Threat and Fear
- For example: “I’m frightened of saying this to you because you may think I am being very petty or you may reject me/sack me/ hit me, but…”
- This will help you to feel more in control of your feelings and may get you some welcome and helpful reassurance. (For example, they may respond with, “No, I promise that I will try and listen to what you have to say without walking away or punishing you.”)
Acknowledge Your Responsibility
- “I appreciate that I should have said something earlier.”
- “I am the kind of person who has very high standards.”
- “I may be over-reacting because I am under a lot of stress.”
Avoid Self-Put Downs or Invitations to Criticism or Retaliatory Anger
- Don’t say, for example, “I know that I’m a bit of a nag/I’m over-sensitive/I’m too soft …” or, “You’ll probably scream at me/want to kill me when I tell you…”
- You could be putting unhelpful and inflammatory ideas into otherwise quite amenable heads!
Self-Protective Techniques to Block Criticism
Criticism is one of the chief weapons of an angry person. Often it is used indiscriminately and is well off target. However, you can learn to cope with this behaviour. In order to protect yourself, stop the flow, and keep criticism from escalating, use these techniques.
- The broken record: You keep repeating more or less the same statement over and over again, in a calm, controlled voice.
- Fogging: Agree that there may be some truth in what the person is saying.
- Negative Assertion: Simply, calmly agree with your critic using a serious, matter of fact tone of voice, without adding any put downs or unnecessary justifications.
Some Lessons from the Works of Others
- Talk about what others are interested in
- Genuinely like people
- Put yourself in their shoes
- Make them feel important
- Remember names
- Don’t criticise
- Tell them what’s in it for me
- Develop rapport with others
- Find ways to make connections and build bridges
Some Other Great People
- “I have known a great many troubles and most of them never happened.” Mark Twain
- “Nobody can make me feel inferior without my permission.” Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States