Do you know someone who has a problem with anger? Do you?
A survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation suggests that many of us will encounter work situations where we get emotional and this can result in anger. Not all feelings of anger are negative, though. Sometimes passion for something can be construed as anger. However, angry outbursts that intimidate or others are always unacceptable.
An appropriate level of anger can spur us to take proper actions, solve problems, and handle situations constructively. However, uncontrolled anger can have many negative consequences. It can cloud our ability to make good decisions and find creative solutions to problems. It can affect relationships and it can destroy trust in your leadership.
Unexpressed anger can be as harmful as outward rage. The angry person who doesn't express his or her anger may bear grudges or see themselves as a victim. His or her colleagues may not realise that there's a problem, so they may be less likely to be able to help
Frequent anger, whether expressed or not, poses health risks, too. People who get angry regularly are more likely to suffer from heart disease. Research has highlighted that anger correlates to anxiety and depression and there is a link between anger and premature death
What is Anger?
The following description is from the Mental Health Foundation UK. “Anger is one our most powerful and vital emotions. It can be a necessary tool for survival of individuals and communities. However, anger can become problematic when it persists and begins to cause significant difficulties in our lives with our mental health which includes our thinking, feeling, behaviour and relationships.”
Anger happens on four levels:
1. External Trigger – Something triggers a reaction in us.
2. Physical – chemical and electrical activity in the brain and body (fight or flight).
3. Emotional/cognitive – how we think about the things that make us angry.
4. Behavioural – the manifestations of our thinking in observable and repeatable behaviours (shouting, stomping of feet, slamming doors and actual physical contact with others).
What makes people angry is different for everyone. Things that make me angry may not bother you at all. Yet we all regularly experience events that could make us angry. They include:
· Feeling like we have no control or power over a situation(s).
· Injustice, whether this is actually real or just perceived.
· Exhaustion from working too many hours.
· Physical pain.
· Unfair criticism.
· Harassment and bullying.
· Threats to the people, things, or ideas that we hold dear.
An interesting point is that it is not the trigger that makes us angry – it is how we rationalise it in our thoughts and how our mind and body reacts. Most of this is choice – we choose how we react to external stimulus. (More on this subject here). The fight and flight response can be brought under control (to some degree) with simple breathing techniques.
Anger and aggression are not the same thing. Anger is an emotion, while aggression is behaviour. Not everyone who feels angry is aggressive, and vice versa. Sometimes people are aggressive because they feel afraid or threatened. Not everyone who is angry shouts or is confrontational. Some people let their anger out by ignoring people or by sulking, or being overly sarcastic. These people are passive-aggressive, and they can be as difficult to deal with as those who scream and shout. How do you deal with someone who simply says ‘fine’ in a certain tone when you know that they are clearly not?
Other people are entirely passive. They show no outward signs of anger, no matter how furious they become. Suppressing emotions can be a dangerous thing to do however – there is no vent.
So here's the bit you've been waiting for. The twenty top tips. The first ten are about managing anger and the second set of ten are about assertiveness
Ten Top Tips to prevent or manage anger:
1. Learn to recognise when you become angry and what the trigger(s) are. You will know you are getting angry because your heart rate rises and you breathe faster. It's the classic fight or flight response. By being aware you can begin to deal with the source of your anger before it builds up (do not let it build up!)
2. Give yourself a time-out – it’s not just for children you know. Try to stop yourself reacting but rather respond in a calm way after a period of time using breathing techniques (see below). Remember when you were a child and you were told to count to ten to calm down? This does work in many situations.
3. Breathe deeply and slowly. Regulating your breathing helps to combat the onset of anger, calms you down, and allows you to think clearly.
4. Find some ‘you time’. Relax! Use techniques like Mindfulness to help you to relax and cope better with stress and frustration.
5. Exercise regularly. Exercise releases good chemicals into your body, which can improve your mind-set and make you less likely to become angry.
6. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, and can make angry outbursts more likely. It’s also a depressant.
7. Don’t bottle it up – let it out! Express that emotion in a positive, professional way. Talk about your feelings with a close friend or loved one.
8. Let go of the past and any angry thoughts that are hindering you. Try writing down your angry thoughts or the trigger to them. Then, crumple the paper up and throw it away (or if you don’t want to waste paper and you do want to protect the environment – do it electronically. I use Google Keep). Basically – Let it go (are you singing the song yet?) Try not to let the fact that the world is unfair get to you (sometimes things are unfair), or that everyone and everything is against you. They're not.
9. It's important to demonstrate emotional intelligence when dealing with angry people . This helps you to keep your own feelings in check, while respecting the fact that others may be struggling with theirs.
10. Be assertive. Assertiveness is not aggression.
Here are ten top tips on assertiveness
1. Be open in expressing wishes, thoughts and feelings and encourage others to do likewise.
2. Keep what you want to say clear and to the point. Avoid long explanations.
3. Listen to the views of others and responding appropriately, whether in agreement with those views or not. Speak like you are right but listen like you may be wrong.
4. Always explain your ‘why’ using facts and evidence – it should not be personal.
5. Accept responsibilities and be able to delegate to others where appropriate.
6. Regularly express appreciation of others for what they have done or are doing (see my other article on saying thanks here).
7. Admit to mistakes and apologise where appropriate (you are only human after all). However, there's no need to apologise if you feel you are in the right.
8. Maintain self-control. Stay calm and try to relax, do not become angry. Remember that we are all human.
9. Behave as an equal to others.
10. Look at the other person, stand (or sit) upright and keep a calm tone of voice. Be polite but firm.
For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson