It is next to impossible to live our daily lives without feeling some anger. It could be the frustration of realising you’ve left the umbrella at home and it’s about to pour or the annoyance of arriving home to realise your housemate or partner has left the bin open all day again and the kitchen smells like a garbage truck! Anger is a regular emotion like any other and, expressed in a healthy way, helps us. However, when it is raw and untamed it can be the most destructive of all our emotions.
Internal or External:
We may become angry for a variety of reasons both internal and external. Internally we may be irritated or frustrated with ourselves regarding our performance in some aspect of our lives like work, relationships or sex. Externally people, events and even past times can trigger our anger. Whilst for many these angers are expressed effectively, others struggle. It can be very insightful to pause and reflect on whether our anger is internally or externally generated (or a mixture of both).
One way of learning how to control our anger is by working on our communication style. Adopting an assertive approach when speaking with others is a healthy way of communicating. This style of communicating allows us to speak our mind directly, truthfully and respectfully. Assertive people can offer opinions and say how they feel. They can articulate their thoughts calmly and clearly. This approach is neither aggressive nor passive. Assertive communication allows us to deal with conflict constructively when it occurs. To be assertive we use a clear, firm and calm voice. We maintain eye contact, while keeping an open posture and we respect the other person’s personal space.
People who are easily angered tend to move into a heightened state of anger quite quickly. This often comes from the fact that they tend to jump to conclusions about situations before they have time to consider all the facts. When our anger goes from 0 to 100 in a short space of time we often do or say things that we may later regret.
When you notice your temper rising it is key to change your instinctual response and slow down. Take some calming breathes, in through the nose and out through your mouth. Consider your reaction carefully. Allow your mind to catch up with your body and listen with full attention to what the other person says. It may even be wise to take some time away from them to consider your response.
It sometimes feels like the most natural thing to become defensive when we are criticised. Learning not to bite back immediately can be hugely helpful. Consider the alternative perspective. It must be one of the most frustrating occurrences in anyone’s work day, when they feel they are not being heard. It feels disrespectful and demotivating. When people are critical or unhappy it is important not to fight back with a justification or a redirection of blame. First, simply listen.
At the beginning it may not initially seem the most natural but encourage them to detail what their concerns are. Patiently listen to them and it may allow you to understand what the better/best course of action is. Holding your fire and reflecting on the bigger picture can keep the situation from spiralling into a back and forth argument, which adds to the negativity. If we become better communicators, we can defuse the destructive potential of anger and truly express ourselves.
Attending some psychotherapy sessions can be a powerful and productive way of helping us to change our communication style. It can also help us learn other strategies for dealing with our anger issues. Therapy is an impartial and confidential space where we can estimate and explore the impact of our anger in our relationships, the work place and the wider world. It is a place where we can come to understand how our anger has evolved whilst learning how to deal with its disruptive force in the here and now.