Managing yourself in the face of anger
Anger can be frightening – many people liken it to a volcanic eruption – explosive and indiscriminately destructive. Many of us confuse it with aggression and closely link it in our minds to violence. Yet research suggests that only about ten per cent of incidents of anger involve aggression. So the reality is that 90 per cent of anger is expressed though words – discussion, however forthright. So the trick is to plan your tactics for an exchange of views, however full and frank!
The first step is to compose yourself so you are psychologically capable of defusing the situation and getting to a satisfactory outcome. Remember that the ‘natural’ fight-or-flight response to anger is to get angry yourself, so buy time to avoid this trap and get your rational brain working. If you remain calm and rational you are then able to listen to what they have to say and then state your own point of view.
Your initial reaction is important and the following steps will buy time to help you to avoid getting angry yourself.
- Take a deep breath to get more oxygen into your brain and enable you to think more clearly. This is the origin of the saying ‘count to ten’. Ten may not be enough, but the idea is to refuel your brain so it can work at its best.
- Take a step back. A mental step back can give you a new perspective on the incident, almost literally. Imagine yourself safe behind a toughened glass screen, looking down on events from above. That will help you stay detached from events instead of being sucked into somebody else’s emotional storm. Emotions may be infectious, but you can develop some immunity. For more good advice on managing your state of mind, visit the topic on NLP.
- Drop your shoulders. Deceptively simple, this reduces your physical tension and helps you stay or become calmer.
- Imagine the other’s having a bad time. They may be at the end of their tether through stress, illness, or exhaustion. They may have been recently bereaved. Whether that’s true or not, simply having that thought in mind can be hugely calming, because it tends to move you to sympathy rather than anger. Then you’ll tend to act more calmly and in a more calming way.
- Listen to what they say – to learn from them and clarify facts. Keep clear in your mind what is fact and what is opinion. They have every right to have a different opinion from yours – it’s only what you/they think. Basically, practise good Communications Skills.
- State your point of view clearly and calmly. This is not about appeasement. It’s about standing your corner without aggression. There is more about Assertiveness and Nonviolent Communication in the relevant topics.
If all else fails
Walk away, if all else fails. Of course, simply turning on your heel and walking away might add fuel to the fire, so before you go, tell the other person assertively that you want some space right now and you’re going to go somewhere else for a minute. It may help if you agree a time and place to renew the discussion.