Screaming at a co-worker? Throwing a cell phone? Some people are hot heads, and the people around them are walking on egg shells not knowing when the next blow up will be. What can you do?
Professional anger-management trainers say that in most cases anger isn’t an illness but a normal human emotion that causes problems when it flares too hot, too often. They believe people can learn to manage their anger with practical skills. Most anger-management programs stress “emotional intelligence”—the idea that understanding why you are frustrated or annoyed or upset, and finding calm, constructive means to get your way, is far more effective than losing your temper.
George Anderson, founder of Anderson & Anderson, says some people who get angry in the workplace are perfectionists who expect perfection from others, while some are subconsciously masking feelings of vulnerability. His firm offers dozens of customized anger-management programs for different professions, including physicians who’ve lost hospital privileges due to patient or staff complaints.
Most of us don’t need an anger- management program but would benefit from some techniques borrowed from cognitive-behavioral therapy to help deal with anger. Here are some strategies to help keep negative emotions in check.
- Reframe the situation. Instead of seeing every inconvenience or frustration as a personal affront, imagine a benign explanation.
- Find a constructive solution to the issue at hand. “Ask yourself: what do I need to be okay right now?” That shifts the focus from how the other person needs to be punished to how I need to respond in a healthy way.
- Keep an “anger log” to monitor what makes you angry. Learn to identify and avoid your triggers.
- Be aware that anger tends to rise in increments. Learn to evaluate yours from 1 (frustration) to 10 (rage). If you can catch yourself at 3 or 4, you can think more rationally about the situation.
- If you feel a blowup coming on, give yourself a time-out before acting on it. Wait 15 minutes before you say something, or an hour before you send an email. If it’s not going to be important in an hour, then let it go. It’s not worth getting angry about.
- Get a health checkup. Medical problems such as diabetes, chronic pain, low testosterone and low estrogen, can make people very irritable.
- Be aware of how you talk to yourself. If you keep saying how awful this is and making yourself feel like a victim, you will get more angry.
- Get physical, without fists. When your primitive brain senses a threat, it sets off the “fight or flight” cascade of hormones. Opt for flight instead of fight and burn off the extra adrenaline and cortisol with exercise. Even a brisk walk will help calm you down.
The ultimate lesson: Pay more attention to the important things in life and recognize that most frustrations, inconveniences and indignities are trivial and temporary. You may have more control than you think!
Are angry outbursts a pattern in your life or at your workplace? Have any questions about Emotional Intelligence and what to do next? Feel free to email me or post a comment.