When someone says, writes or publishes something that is wrong, tainted, stupid, exaggerated, or an outright lie and you directly are involved in the team, topic or task – it can make you so angry you lose focus on the work you should be doing.
You can become obsessed with wanting the world to know how outrageous it is. I know – it has happened to me.
Don’t let your emotions hijack your good sense – focus on actions you can control
The dogs of your anger are lunging like crazy, barking, whining, dying to sink their teeth into their target, but you must keep them leashed. Like the powerful beasts they are, your hands will be raw from restraining them, but do not focus on them. You know that’s not right (You wouldn’t knowingly let your pet savage another person or animal, would you?). Hold firm, and steer your anger in a different direction for now. Smile with clenched teeth and beat a tactical retreat. Focus on actions you can control.
Stick to the facts
This is vital – it may be the only way you’ll win this one. Be methodical in logging all events that led up the eruption of hostilities. We should use anger as fuel for our journey. Use yours to get every bit of information that you need. It’s a campaign, and this may take a while so don’t leave things to chance, hope, convex mirrors that reflect bad luck at the offending party or any other superstitious device. Come on Sherlock, you can do this.
This involves fact-checking
The beauty of sinking into fact-checking when building your case against the stupid remarks or unfair criticism is that it gives your emotions a chance to cool off a little. You will be busy seeking all the relevant information and this will mean preparedness to acknowledge any weaknesses in your own case.
Ensure mistakes are corrected
Yes, you must do this. Account for what you did (not to the enemy) and think about how their allegations (both now and future ones) should be countered.
Consult with wise people
These include your friends, sure, but it’s even better to speak with people who are removed from you emotionally but whose opinion you respect, who have the right expertise. They may give you the benefit of some tough medicine, but so much the better for going forward (or not) with your planned course of action. They may have deeper knowledge or excellent contacts that provide clues and insights you wouldn’t otherwise have. Another good reason for not reacting too soon! Be receptive and listen to all that you hear. Note it down, watch and wait.
What can you do to change the situation?
Maybe nothing for the time being, at least. Timing is everything in these situations. Keep your ear to the ground, however, and more to the point, keep your principles. Refer to standards! For example, company policy, company values and standards. Or if something has been published by a journalist, go back to the industry principles or standards.
The Australian Press Council Statement of Principles requires the following:
- Accuracy and clarity
- fairness and balance
- privacy and avoidance of harm
- integrity and transparency
Don’t get consumed with this and lose focus on your own work
For your emotional health and physical wellbeing, give this source of fury and angst a rest. That may be hard, but find something to do that physically tires you. Exercise or exert yourself in some way and force this anger through the pores of your skin until you’re exhausted. Cleanse your heart with some quiet music or sitting somewhere peaceful and green (or whatever helps to recharge you). Be with people who care for you, and remember to laugh. Isolating yourself from the source of your grievance sharpens your chances of mastering this situation even if sometimes, you may end up having to walk away.
Develop some essential detachment by following the above and your moment could very well present itself sooner than you think.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.