Coping with Anger

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Coping with Anger

The wild tempest that rages within us when we are furiously angry has been a focus for much of Western civilization’s great literature. In his plays, William Shakespeare immortalized the lengths to which extreme anger can devastate relationships.

King Lear exiles his most beloved daughter from his kingdom and his heart when she angers him. “We have no such daughter, nor shall ever see that face of hers again,” he rages. “Thererfore be gone/Without our grace, our love, our benison.” (King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1.) But Lear learns, after it is too late, that she is the one daughter who truly loves him.

In Othello, the insane Iago poisons Othello’s heart with lies about his beautiful wife, Desdemona. The Moore is driven into the blackest of rages over Iago’s tales of infidelity and kills her in a fit of anger. He learns of her innocence after it is too late, and, like Lear, he dies a tragic death.

We all have felt the hot flashes of anger, although, perhaps, not on such an epic scale as Shakespeare depicted. However, even though you might not be driven to radical lengths, the ability to control your temper, whether or not your anger is justified, remains crucial to both your personal and professional life.

When you are angry, you should first examine why you are angry. Be specific in describing to yourself the cause of your anger. Then try to see the situation from a different point of view. We can become so wrapped up in our own feelings and difficulties that we forget that, for the most part, people are truly trying to do the best they can. They aren’t out to get us.

When we are angry with others, we are often being unfair to them. Our anger usually arises out of a misunderstanding or an unrealistic expectation. What seems like infuriating behavior is more often just the other person’s effort to keep his or her balance.

When you’re angry you should ask yourself, “Am I jumping to false conclusions? Do I have unrealistic expectations?” It also helps if you try to see things from the other person’s point of view, and avoid believing you know how he or she ought to be acting. For example, suppose a man is furious with a boy in his neighborhood who hits his new car with a rock, but his attitude toward the boy changes when he learns the boy’s sister is dying.

If you decide your anger is justified but that it is not an appropriate time to engage in an all-out confrontation, you need to control your anger. One strategy to stem the rising tide of anger involves becoming more aware of how your body reacts as you grow irate. Through various relaxation techniques, you can learn to bring the physical effects of anger under immediate control.

It’s important to pay attention to how your posture changes when you are angry. For example, as you struggle to keep your composure, you might find yourself tightly gripping the telephone receiver, or clutching the steering wheel of your car in traffic. The jaws are also a target for stress.

When you’re angry, you will most likely find yourself tensely clenching your teeth. Realizing that these are common reactions and that they are not helping you calm down is a big first step in coping with your anger. Now you should take additional steps to do something about it.

I always recommend to my clients and people who attend my seminars to use progressive relaxation exercises. These exercises help you center; they teach you to be aware of your body’s reactions when you’re angry and to assert some control over them. In progressive relaxation exercises, you alternately tense your muscles and relax them. You can start at your feet and work your way up to your head, or you can focus on a particular tense area.

Here are some other techniques to help you cope with anger:

• Take deep breaths. Like the progressive relaxation exercise, deep breathing encourages you to relax and normalize your body’s reaction to anger.

• Take notes. This can help you reflect on what the person who angered you has said. The very act of writing will force you to take some time before you respond and will help you obtain a more objective point of view.

• Close your eyes and use positive visualization. Closing your eyes gives you time to relax and shut out the world. Couple this with positive visualization, a technique where, for example, you picture yourself speaking calmly and objectively with the person you are angry with until you reach a satisfactory resolution of the problem, and your results are very effective.

• Use the hold button on the telephone. If you are on the telephone and find yourself growing angrier by the minute, don’t be afraid to use the hold feature on your telephone. Be polite, of course, and don’t get off the telephone too abruptly or keep the person holding for too long. Make sure you take the time to calm down so that you don’t end up saying something you’ll regret later.

• Lower your tone of voice. When people are angry, their voices tend to get louder. Be aware of this, and consciously turn down your volume. When you are shouting, nobody is listening, and you are only exacerbating an already tense situation.

Anger can be a frighteningly overwhelming emotion. Whether your anger comes on like a sudden storm or simmers slowly, you must learn how and when to express your anger. It is healthy for us to acknowledge that we are hurt or threatened or frustrated, but we must make sure that our expression of anger is appropriate. Otherwise, we could end up with a fate as tragic as that of a character in a Shakespearean drama.

Copyright©2006 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and success coaching programs. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in career coach training. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many businesses around the world, on the subjects of leadership, achievement, goals, strategic business planning, and marketing. Joe is the author of three books, Starting Your Own Business, Finding Your Purpose In Life, and The Guerrilla Marketing Workbook.

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