Managing Anger

Some psychologists suggest that expressing anger is the best way of dealing with it. But there is a difference between expressing anger rationally, by calmly letting someone know how you feel, and expressing anger irrationally, by raising your voice and/or losing your temper. Usually, people express anger irrationally: Your anger overwhelms you; You have trouble communicating it and you wind up saying things you later regret.

This style of communicating anger almost always makes the situation worse. For the person on the receiving end and for you too. Let's start with you. When you lose your temper, you usually feel awkward, embarrassed, or perhaps even angrier than you were before. In fact, getting angry has the odd effect of helping you justify staying angry. Thus, losing your temper can often intensify anger and prolong it.

When you think about it, getting angry rarely gets you what you want. You think your anger is going to change another person's behavior and thus improve your situation but it rarely does. Most people you get angry with, walk away mad. So instead of solving the problem that made you angry, it just makes the situation worse.

And to further complicate matters, the person you were angry with may hold a grudge, or tell your friends what a big jerk you are, and this radiated anger may come back to haunt you. Now you have two problems to fix instead of one.

So the next time you feel like expressing anger irrationally, think twice. Venting your emotions in this way may:

  1. Make you feel worse.

  2. Make your situation worse.

  3. Cause additional problems you'll have to fix later.

There are ways of managing anger that don't involve a confrontation of any sort. First, when you are in a tense situation, try walking away. Don't let it escalate. Give yourself some time to breathe and/or cool down. Remind yourself that (for the three reasons just mentioned) it might be better not to get angry.

Another thing you can do to begin managing anger is to try talking the situation over with someone who can be objective about it. Remember the expression, it takes two to tango. In other words, you may have done something you are unaware of, that contributed to the situation. A neutral third party (like a relative, coworker, supervisor, spiritual counselor or trusted friend) can help you sort this out.

But even if you didn't do anything to provoke the situation, ask yourself the following question: Is there any situation in the past where I might have done the same thing to someone else? (Let's say you were treated in a mean way. Ask yourself: Have I ever treated someone else meanly?) Think hard, and if the answer is yes, try to remember the circumstances (I didn't intend to be mean) and perhaps this bit of insight will help you better understand your current situation and ultimately help you in managing your anger effectively.

And finally, avoid blame. Blaming others makes you feel helpless and hostile. Taking responsibility for contributing, even in some small way, to the cause of a tense situation helps you feel more in control and less angry. By honestly admitting your own role in the conflict you will immediately get a handle on what you need to do to correct the situation, should it happen again in the future.

Take a Stress Test now to determine how well you Manage Anger >

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