A lot of us believe that anger is a bad emotion. In fact, it’s neither good or bad and, like any emotion, anger conveys a message. Are we ready to listen?
Anger is one of those emotions that is not a good or a bad emotion. To quote Aristotle “Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time for the right reason and in the right way, this is not easy”. The way in which we express our feelings and the behavior we use to express ourselves will define our ability to stay in control, or totally lose control. Like everything in life, how we react and respond to situations is always in our control. We make choices on a daily basis as to how we allow something to affect us. Out of control anger hurts our physical and mental health, as well as our relationships with others. Make a choice to control how you react and respond, because you can.
Way back when, as we developed our communication skills, we learned how to communicate from our experiences. How others around us communicated when we were young and developing, influenced our learned behavior to communicate. Therefore, most of us tend to communicate in a way that worked in the environment we grew up in – but find that way can be very problematic in our lives today.
Communicating effectively is not particularly easy. It is something we all need to practice to express our thoughts in a harmless way. When we are angry, we typically resort to harmful methods of communicating. Sometimes we communicate through avoidance; stonewalling or giving the silent treatment where we cut ourselves off emotionally form the person we have a conflict with. Other times, we find ourselves being overly critical by attacking someone’s personality as opposed to the one specific action that made us angry in the first place. When we communicate in an indirect way, we are communicating passively. Unlike getting in someone else’s face which is to communicate aggressively. Assertive communication (neither passive nor aggressive) provides us the path to conflict resolution. Assertive communication encourages open dialogue, expression of thoughts and comes with an attitude of “let’s solve this”.
Before we actually express our anger verbally (or non-verbally), our bodies provide signals to us that we are about to blow. Understanding what these signals are, and more importantly what your very own signals are, is the first step to controlling how you respond. Tense muscles, tight fists, racing heartbeat, breathing quickly, and feeling flushed or feeling shaky are all warning signs that our body provides us with to listen to. And, while it may seem counter intuitive to focus on our physical sensations of anger, when we do tune in to how we are feeling first, it can often times lessen the intensity of our anger. Now that you can feel your anger, there are things that you can do such as taking some deep breaths, counting to ten, hitting your “pause” button and asking yourself, “how important is this issue and is it really worth getting angry over”? Does my level of anger match the severity of what you are angry about? Am I directing my anger to an innocent person? Are you taking something too personally? This is how we control our emotions. Feel the warning signs, and then take action.
What happens when we are dealing with an angry person? We may be in a great mood and someone comes to us raging. What do we do? First, listen. And, listen with the intention of understanding and not for the purpose to provide a solution. When we acknowledge that we understand why someone is angry it calms the angry person and allows for sensible dialogue and the opportunity to offer solutions. Remember to keep yourself calm, don’t take anything personally, listen with the intent to understand and try to come up with solutions together.
When a conflict situation arises, think before you speak. When we do this, we are less likely to say something that we may regret later. Sometimes, it is okay to have a thought and not express it. Especially as we take that time to gain self-control over our emotions. A key to communicating in a conflict situation is to use “I” statements instead of “You” statements. For example; “I feel angry that you are always coming home late for dinner”. If we were to say, “You are always coming home late for dinner” this personalizes the statement and will definitely put the other person on the defensive as it feels like they are being attacked.
Conflict is part of life. It can also be positive depending on how you choose to deal with it. Effective statements such as, “we have a problem” brings the conflict into a mutual ownership position. Mutual agreement of a conflict, “it sounds like you and I agree on the problem” is a great way to eliminate finger pointing and assigning blame and allows both people to move toward a present and future oriented position.
GutwiZdom: Top 10 Anger Management & Conflict Resolution Wizdoms!
- Make a choice to communicate calmly. If you give yourself permission to blow up, you will.
- Adopt an attitude of developing the self-control methods that work best for you. The more you flex your self-control muscle, the bigger it gets!
- Learn to listen to understand and not to respond.
- Never share negative emotions on the phone or in emails. What can feel like a bomb on paper could actually feel like a feather when communicated effectively in-person.
- Recognize those warning signals when you are getting angry.
- Ask yourself, “how important is this and will it be important in a year from now, or even next week”.
- Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
- Appreciate that people are different and that different perspectives do not imply that one person is right and the other person is wrong.
- Practice the “pause” button!
- Be assertive, not passive or aggressive!