Most people react in anger when they’re provoked. You don’t think about it — you just react. You react instinctively and your reactions are always the same. You pout; you shout; you ridicule the person who provoked you; you lash out and hit something or someone; or, you just stomp off in a fury. In other words, you lose your cool!
Anger management is really all about mind over matter. It’s about giving yourself adequate time to respond to your feelings, asking the right questions about your anger, choosing how to respond when you get mad, and deciding if you’re willing to pay the consequences for outrageous behavior. Bottom line: Just because you have the right to be angry doesn’t mean you have to exercise that right!
1. Change Your Situation:
In most people, emotions are situational. Something in the here and now irritates you or makes you mad. The emotion itself is tied to the situation in which it originates. As long as you remain in that provocative situation, you’re likely to stay angry. If you leave the situation, the opposite is true — the emotion begins to fade as soon as you move away from the situation. Moving away from the situation prevents it from getting a grip on you. Psychologists often advise clients to get some emotional distance from whatever is bothering them. One easy way to do that is to geographically separate yourself from the source of your anger.
2. Take Immediate Action:
The first thing you should do when you feel anger coming on is to take immediate action. As the saying goes, “He who hesitates is lost” — lost as in losing your temper. Sometimes it’s as easy as counting to ten, sometimes not.
90% of people, unfortunately, don’t act as soon as they start feeling angry — and, all too often, they quickly progress from a petty annoyance stage to full-blown rage. The idea that emotions need to just run their course is a myth — and a dangerous one at that. The sooner you take control of your anger, the better off you are (and that goes doubly for those around you who may end up on the receiving end of your wrath).
3. Stay Focused:
When you start speaking out in anger, you may lose sight of the issue, problem, or circumstance that initially provoked you. Your anger heads off on a tangent, jumping from one grievance to another midstream. What starts out as “I asked you to stop at the store for me and you forgot” suddenly evolves into “You never help out around here. You don’t listen to me. You don’t care about me at all. I don’t know why I married you in the first place!”
The more intense your anger, the more likely the emotion itself will distract you from the issue at hand. Blind anger is so unfocused that after you calm down, most likely you won’t remember anything that you said or did. One way to remain in control of your anger is to stay focused on what it is you’re angry about. Keep your eye on the ball, and things are less likely to get out of control.
4. Choose to Respond Rather Than React:
Anger is your nervous system’s intuitive reaction to some perceived threat or danger. The choice has to do with what comes after you feel angry — that is, how you act and whether you continue to feel angry.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- For the rest of your life, do you want to simply react to your anger in the
same old mindless, predictable way you always have?
- Do you want to always be a victim of your emotions?
- Do you want to continue to apologize for your angry reactions by telling
those you hurt, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I promise I
won’t act that way ever again”?
- Do you want others to begin to judge you by your angry reactions (for
example, “Stay away from that guy, he’s got a bad temper!”)?
I’m betting that your answer to each of these questions is a very clear “No!” More than likely, you’re ready for a change. So, before you do anything else, you need to make the decision to respond rather than react to your anger.
Reacting to anger may be a habit you’ve formed over a lifetime, so don’t be discouraged if you have trouble when you first try to avoid the reaction and focus on the response. The difficulty you’re having may have originated from things that have happened in your past that conditioned you to be a reactive person. Or, it may reflect an impulsive temperament that you inherited at birth. Either way, it’s a habit that needs to be broken if you’re going to get control of your anger.
5. It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It:
The louder you speak, the less people hear what you have to say. Your message gets lost in your overheated dialogue. Anger can be an effective means of communication, but if you want to be heard, you have to pay attention to two aspects of your speech:
Volume: The power and fullness of your words. The angrier you are, the louder you sound. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to tell the difference between a person who is irritated versus someone who is in a full-blown rage.
Pace: The speed or velocity with which you speak. As your anger accelerates, you find yourself speaking faster and faster. There is a pressured quality to what you’re saying — as if the angry words can’t get out fast enough.
Start paying more attention to how you speak when you get angry. If you hear yourself getting too loud, talking too rapidly, and/or sounding shrill, adjust your speech accordingly. Think of this as an effort on your part to literally fine-tune how you speak out in anger.
6. Leave Out the Four-Letter Words:
Lisa would be far better off to end up assaulting her husband if she referred to him as an “empty head” — a head that apparently doesn’t think about helping around the house or sharing some intimate moments with his wife — rather than a “@#$%head.”
Four-letter words are, by definition, incendiary. They add gasoline to the fire and only heighten emotions and increase the probability of some type of physical aggression. They’re meant to hurt, not educate. And, they cause the person to whom they’re directed to defend himself — either by withdrawing (tuning out what you’re saying) or engaging in similar behavior. So now you have two people swearing at each other, which, to quote Bill Shakespeare, amounts to “sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself how you would feel if someone called you a “@#$%head” or worse. If he were angry with you, what would you want him to say instead?
7. Let the Other Person Have the Last Word:
People get irritated with things — a leaky faucet, a car that won’t start — but they get angry with people. So most anger occurs within the context of a social exchange. Somebody always has the first word — that’s the provocation, the thing that gets the ball rolling. The question is: Who stops the ball? Who has the last word? After you realize that you’re angry, you can decide to let the person who had the first word also have the last. And the sooner the better — unless you’re willing to risk things getting out of hand.
Often, people are so eager to have the last word in disagreements with other people that they totally lose sight of how out of hand things are getting. Anger management is more about process than it is about outcome. If you can improve the process by letting the other person have the last word, by all means do so.
If you insist on having the last word, you just can’t help yourself — then by all means make it a nondefensive one. My personal favorite is, “Whatever.” If someone gets mad at me and wants to launch into a tirade about what a jerk I am, I don’t argue with him (like I used to). I just say, “Whatever” — whatever you say, whatever you think — and walk away. That way, I don’t have to play his angry game.
8. Feel Guilty Before You Regret:
Guilt isn’t necessarily good or bad. It depends on whether you feel guilty before you act out your anger or after you act out your anger. If guilt keeps you from harming another person with your anger — verbally or physically — that’s a good thing. If you wait to feel guilty until after you’ve satisfied your thirst for revenge, that’s bad.
John gets angry with his wife whenever she hollers, “Look out!” when he’s driving the car. A couple of times, her nervousness has almost caused him to have an accident. He feels like yelling at her, “Dammit, don’t do that! You’re going to get us killed.” But, he doesn’t. He loves his wife — a partner for over 40 years — and he knows that yelling at her will only hurt her feelings. So, he lets it pass.
John’s brother doesn’t let anything pass. If he gets angry with his wife, she hears about it immediately and in the harshest terms. Sometimes, he just hollers; other times, he expresses his anger physically.
The next time you find yourself irritated (or just plain mad), before you act, consider the consequences of what’s in your mind. If you know for sure it’s something you’re going to want to apologize for later, don’t do it. Think of a nonhurtful way of expressing your feelings. In this kind of situation, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!
Source: Anger Management For Dummies by W. Doyle Gentry