Anger Meet Management

It’s hot outside, children are home for the summer (which can be frustrating), and tempers can be high both at work and at home, so I thought I’d share some tips for how you can manage your own anger and reduce conflict in your life.

Take a breath and count to 10 before responding to someone who you are having conflict with. This gives you some time to think before you speak. We often respond (especially to emails/texts) right away and it doesn’t give us an opportunity to think about how our reply will be received. Is letting yourself say what you’re actually thinking worth escalating the conflict? This is especially true with dealing with a superior at your workplace; you don’t want to say or do something that could jeopardize your job or a promotion or raise.

If you are face to face with the person, another option is to Walk away to give yourself (or the other party) time to calm down. But make sure to tell the other person that you need a break, simply walking away may escalate the situation. It can be as simple as saying you need to use the restroom or get some water. Just give yourself the time you need to cool down before responding. Remember, however, 99.99% of the time, you do need to come back to the discussion topic; avoidance will not do you much good if you’re dealing with a family member or co-worker, as you’ll have to deal with the issue eventually and by then, both of you will likely be further entrenched in your positions. If you need more time than just a restroom break, take a walk or run around the block if you can. Physical activity can help you control your body’s physical response to anger/stress, which can help you to manage that emotion.

Think about the issue from the other person’s point of view. This is often a hard one, especially when you are emotionally invested in the situation. In law school, they teach students to look at the case from both sides. You have to look at your conflict from both sides in order to see the weaknesses in your own point of view. If you don’t try to step into their shoes, you only see the weaknesses in the other person’s case/argument, not your own.

I am not saying that you should not express your anger. I am saying you need to be thinking clearly when you express your frustration so that you can be non-confrontational (which can escalate the dispute), but assertive. You also need to Listen to the other person’s expression of frustration from their point of view. They may not be expressing themselves in the best way, but try to look behind that and get to what’s really in those words or actions.

Be respectful and use “I” statements, not “You” statements.

Present a possible solution to the issue at hand, but don’t be wed to it. In other words, it’s not my way or the highway. Be open to the other person’s ideas for resolution as well, there’s likely a compromise in there that you can both live with.

Lastly, recognize when you need help, whether it’s someone to help you deal with your anger alone (i.e. an anger management specialist or course) or a professional like a mediator to facilitate the conversation and direct the process.