“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverb 15:1
The trickiest of all human emotions, anger can be normal and healthy. Sometimes! It depends on its use. It can help us respond in threatening situations, fuel our motivation for achievement or dealing with injustice, or it can bankrupt us in a moment, leaving us empty and devastated.
So how do we manage such a tricky emotion? How do we use it for good and avoid the pitfalls?
In our realm as leaders, our environment demands an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. Anger management is crucial to longevity, productivity as well as for general health and happiness. It is highly appropriate that we learn to manage it well. Consider the following: A positive anger response helps us to react quickly and decisively to solve problems, achieve goals, and intensely focus on objectives. A negative anger response can ruin our career, damage relationships, harm our reputation and alienate us from our peers. During a negative anger response we must learn to recognize the signs that indicate a loss of control. Diffusing negative anger is never easy, but there are some concrete steps that help make it possible.
Duke University’s Redford Williams, MD, along with his wife Virginia, authored the best-selling book Anger Kills. They recommend creating a “Hostility Log” as we begin to responsibly handle our anger. The idea is that when we understand what triggers us and causes us to get angry, we are more capable of developing strategies to avoid the triggers.
Let’s look at some other positive steps.
Acknowledge That You Have a Problem – If you do have a problem, those around you see it clearly. Remember, that you will never be able to fix that which you refuse to see. A leader positively acknowledges his or her deficiencies so that they may be dealt with.
Use Your Support Network – Notice I said to use your support network and not find one. You have one already, those who love you are your best possible support. Furthermore, there are many professional avenues you can take, including your pastor or mentor. All of these services are eager to help, especially your family.
Interrupt the Anger Cycle – Pause, think, breath (deeply), tell yourself you can handle this situation, and stop the negative thoughts… Relax! This may seem ridiculous but it is not. Verbalizing your ability to handle the situation transfers what may otherwise be only a thought to a tangible, actionable affirmation.
Be Objective – Use empathy to put yourself in the shoes of the other party. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that no one is perfect, including you. Also remember that those mistakes serve to teach us how to be better people.
Find Humor in the Situation – Laugh at yourself. Think about how ridiculously you were about to act. Be proud of your ability to avoid looking foolish. Not everything in life should be taken seriously. Think about that YouTube video, the guy in the office who goes ballistic and trashes the place. It made you laugh, but at the same time you thought to yourself; “How pathetic!”
Build Trust – When we trust another we do not assume they have malicious intent in their actions toward us. By being trustworthy we release others to trust us in like manner. Angry people tend to be cynical so work on trust. If you think they are all out to get you, you will not be equipped to deal with integrity toward them.
Listen – In angry confrontations, or when someone has annoyed us, we tend to speak and not listen. We prepare our verbal comeback to their offensive statement. This often leads to a failure to actually hear what is being said, and to jump to destructive conclusions. Then, we lash out based on our faulty conclusions and escalate the situation. A wise individual listens!
Be Assertive – Assertiveness is not aggression. Assertiveness is preemptive. An assertive person will clearly define their expectations and boundaries. This empowers others to know where they may or may not go with you in their conversation or actions. The defining of personal boundaries does wonders in the realm of interpersonal success.
Forgive – Forgiveness is an amazing way to release hostility. One who forgives others shortcomings is one who brings peace, not only to others, but also to self.
Even if your anger is not to the point of being a problem, these steps are vital practices in relieving stress and avoiding the path that leads to anger issues. Know them, understand them, and if you do not need them, perhaps you can help another who does.