For some, anger is a suppressed emotion they rarely tap into. For others, it’s something they avoid altogether. But for many, it’s explosive and difficult (at best) to manage.
Anger is something everyone has to deal with. The question is, how can you best manage yours?
The Saturday Night Live alum (and movie star) Adam Sandler comically portrays his anger in a way many people can relate to, such as when he’s a minute too late to order his favorite fast food breakfast at McDonald’s. When the clerk tells him they stopped serving breakfast, he “flies off the handle” and lashes out. He doesn’t seem to have control over his anger (like many other people), and he goes through life feeling as though he could lose control at any minute.
Do you relate? Is your anger getting the best of you? Ask the following questions in order to find out:
- Would your co-workers, children, friends or family define you as having a “short fuse?”
- Have your angry outbursts ever cost you a job, a friend or a relationship?
- Have you ever felt guilty after yelling at your spouse or children—while feeling helpless to control those outbursts?
- Does your stress level get out of control any time you’re cut off in traffic, or when a stranger accidentally bumps into you on the subway?
When expressed the right way, anger is a very healthy (not to mention necessary) emotion to have. But expressed in the wrong way (such as when you embarrass, humiliate or lash out at another with a loud voice or threatening language), it’s time for some serious damage control.
These three easy steps will help you learn to deal with your anger positively so you can be in control at all times (and improve your relationships as a result)!
Find a Creative Outlet for Your Anger
Do you yell because that’s the only way you know to release and express your anger? Do you “lose it” every time your boss disregards your ideas, or your toddler hits his little brother? If you’re prone to acting out in a rage (such as yelling at an innocent passerby to release the anger you have), it’s time to give yourself the number one rule for the “short fuse predicament”—a big time out.
Many people have a hard time controlling their anger because the only way they know to release it is by verbally retaliating to the person who has made them angry in the first place. Since anger is an emotion, your angry outbursts are coming from an emotional place. Learn to deal with the emotion. When you have it under control, you can calmly discuss those feelings with the person who triggered your anger.
For example, if you’re used to yelling at your toddler who doesn’t like to share his toys with his siblings, give yourself a time out the next time you want to yell. Remind yourself that it’s not your child, but his behavior, that made you angry.
Give yourself a few minutes to distance yourself from the emotion and/or situation. Grab a cup of coffee and read the paper, or distract yourself from intense, negative thoughts by calling a friend or taking a walk.
After a few minutes, revisit your anger and contemplate why you’re angry. When you’re calm and you’ve given yourself a time out, it’s easier to communicate with others—and you lessen the risk of a heated argument.
Think Now, Speak Later
When you’re used to immediately reacting to your anger, it’s easy to forget the foolproof rule you learned as a child in school: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! It’s as true today as it was then—people don’t respond well when you act as though you’re attacking or threatening them. When you start feeling angry, think before speaking and resist saying anything at all (for the time being.)
Imagine putting yourself in their shoes. Would you be open-minded and prone to apologizing if someone came to you while yelling profanities and accusing you of cutting in front of them in line—on purpose?
Deep down, everyone wants to be treated well. Everyone wants to be fair and be treated fairly. Do yourself and your anger a huge favor: Treat those around you as though they didn’t mean to do whatever made you angry, and you will able to shift the entire conversation from defensive assumptions to a place of peaceful communication in a heartbeat.
Turn Angry Outbursts into Awesome Communication
Just like any other form of self-improvement, anger management gives you the opportunity to break out of the old and into the bigger and better! Once you’ve begun to take a time out in order to diffuse intense feelings, and have begun to think about what it is you really want to say (instead of saying something you can’t take back), you can transform how you express anger and do it in a healthy, positive way that will make everyone happy!
For example, if a stranger bumps into you and spills his latte all over your crisp white shirt, consider thinking about what you really want to say. In other words, give it the old “anger switcheroo.” Switch from your usual comment of “You jerk! Look what you did!” to “Hey, we all spill things from time to time. I’m just glad I didn’t wear my designer shirt today!”
When you take a breather before reacting, you can transform your anger, your communication and your relationships. All it takes is a belief that you have control over it (no matter how short a fuse you have), and with that belief comes the breakthrough. You can go from angry to awesome in three steps a day!