In my work, certain topics seem to come up time and time again (with different people). Anger seems to be an issue that touches all of us in one way or another – we experience the anger of others, we become angry with others or most of us probably fit into both groups at times!
One of the first things we need to realise is that there are some things we can control and there are some things we cannot control. Getting angry over things we can’t help (like sitting in heavy traffic) interferes with our ability to solve problems and think clearly. How many of us sitting there seething think about how the other motorists must be feeling at that time? Does getting irate move the traffic any faster?
The things I can control are my words, my actions, my ideas, my behaviour, my responses to what’s going on in my life. The things that are outside my control include other people’s words, other people’s actions, other people’s ideas, other people’s behaviour and other people’s responses to what’s going on in their lives.
I’d like to look very briefly at how we might deal with the anger of other people, whether that person is a family member, work colleague, neighbour, customer or even another motorist. When a person is angry, their fight/flight response has been triggered and they want a fight. This can trigger that same response in us, however, we need to remind ourselves that having two angry people only makes a tense situation much worse. First and foremost, if you feel unsafe at any time, remove yourself from the person immediately.
The best way to stop ourselves from responding in anger is to take several slow, deep breaths and try to relax our bodies, particularly around the shoulders, hands and jaw area. Choosing to stay calm and in control of your emotions may help defuse the situation sooner. If the other person shouts at you, keeping silent or speaking softly helps you. Avoid getting into a discussion of who did what or why. Trying to defend your view at that point isn’t helpful as it’s impossible to negotiate with an angry person. Angry people generally want to vent their anger and need time to calm down before they can think clearly. Listen to what they have to say. Once they’ve calmed down, if you have wronged them, take responsibility for that and apologize. If you haven’t, try acknowledging that the situation has upset them. Try to imagine the situation from their point of view. Validate their concerns. Ask if they have a solution in mind. Remember too that the real cause of their anger may not be obvious. There may be a lot going on beneath the surface of their life. Avoid taking what they say personally – I know, that’s easier said than done.
If somebody in your life is angry all the time, you might need to learn a few other techniques to help you handle them. Next week, we’ll look at how we might identify the sources of anger in our lives.
(If you have a topic that you’d like more information about and think might interest other parents, please don’t hesitate to email me with suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks.)