You are churning inside – no-one realises how angry you are
You’ve exploded in a team meeting and everyone’s ducking for cover
You’ve just received a bad email and instantly responded back with rage
Being angry or caught between two very angry people is debilitating. To be angry is human, but being constantly angry or repressing anger merely serves to stunt emotional development.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
Can we be creative instead and turn anger into something special?
Here’s three steps to turning anger into good energy.
1. Develop pride in having self-control
Rather than perceiving this as a muzzling exercise, those bottled resentments could become an exercise in self-control.
- Remove yourself from the hot seat if someone or an ongoing situation is maximising tension. Excuse yourself and leave the room. Go somewhere private and breathe slowly and deeply (this is very important, as when we’re angry or stressed, our breathing becomes shallow).
- Quieten your mind and emotions as best you can. Go for a walk, or ask not to be disturbed and busy yourself with a different routine task. Do this for as long as it takes to regain equilibrium.
- Find a new way to think about your interactions. Promise yourself you will work out a prudent response later or tonight. Then be proud that you managed yourself for an eventual better outcome.
- Examine your feelings – what caused this problem? Are you feeling insecure? Do certain people continually press your hot buttons? If so, why? What’s really going on deep down inside? Only you can answer this, but it may require more honesty and thought than previously allocated to such questions!
- Ask for help and advice. If you are feeling like you are at break point, ask someone dispassionate but caring to help you calm down. Speak with a person you trust and respect, and brainstorm ways to address the problem.
- Expel the negativity. If no-one is around to help, go somewhere where you won’t be heard or seen, and (a) scream, (b) pummel an inanimate object like a bed or couch, (c) swear a lot, and (d) handwrite (don’t text or email) your angry feelings, then tear the note up. Repeat a, b, c, d until you’ve started to calm down.
- Surround yourself with layers of calm emotion. What is your true goal here? Vow to not let the other(s) press your hot buttons (that’s what they want to do!). Seek detachment. This is hard, but only then are you likely to devise a better way of handling such people.
2. Focus and fix if one or more are affected
You’ve verbally pounded each other until you’re numb. Everyone is wounded and deeply upset. Now is the time to focus and fix.
- Recommend a time-out for both/all parties. This is essential because damage has already been done and it’s not going to improve otherwise.
- Discuss and agree on communication. Say what you feel and ask what they feel, without resorting to insults or passive aggression. Get others to agree to listen so everyone has the opportunity to speak their piece, without interruption, no matter how annoyed parties feel.
- Understand where they’re coming from. Listen, lick your wounds in silence, pay attention and try to consider their position – this is a test of nerves and resolve.
- Be honest and open, not accusing. When it’s your turn, choose your phrases thoughtfully and carefully, and don’t resort to cliches. Let your pain show, without becoming bathos. Try not to glare accusingly at the others.
- Ask for feedback. When everyone has spoken, request feedback, and be open, not defensive when it comes at you. Don’t give in to the temptation to lash out again. See the feedback as a chance to rebuild.
- Give helpful specific feedback. Ensuring it is considered and constructive, encourage the others to do so likewise, with care. You’re crafting an eventual solution that you want to last.
- Take responsibility for your communication. Be aware and responsible for your feelings, needs and your reactions, while trying to be sensitive to those of others (which doesn’t mean instantly or falsely concurring with what they’re saying!). Resist the urge to be “touchy-feely”. When people are caught in a shouting match, their boundaries have been trashed. They require emotional, sometimes physical, space.
- Develop a ‘draft’ solution. Invite everyone to propose an interim solution to the impasse, and see what people are willing to adopt. Give this time and ask again, as some may wish to speak again.
- Thank others. Thank everyone for showing courage and humility and close with a mutually agreed willingness to make an effort.
3. Turn anger into creativity
How about a very special new approach to all this destructiveness, starting today, now? Anger has a way of boxing people into a corner; it traps and maims, setting up a lifetime of resentment, misery and futility.
- Something great can begin. For each anger problem or incident, become creative in an area of your life. Deliberately disrupt this rage; get a blank page and write something POSITIVE, NEW, FRESH – maybe a plan for vacation, a list of books to read, a design for a new piece of art, or jewellery.
- Clear space. Sort your photos, clear your desk, pack up unused items to give away, sell something you no longer need on eBay.
- Distract and inspire. Reach for a great movie or inspiring series to watch in the coming days.
- Reach out. Think of someone you have not seen for ages and give them a call and only focus on positives
- Write new internal scripts for yourself. Show yourself how well you can learn to handle anger:
- I am proud I can be so calm
- I can laugh at almost anything
- I seek solace in emotionally healthy choices
- I will not resort to feeling bad, nor breaking bad.
Anger is life’s way of giving you a choice. It’s yours to make. Don’t let your choice stunt you and your relationships.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.