September 12th 2016
7 healthier ways to deal with anger
December 9th 2016
From small tweaks to great strides, we asked a trio of experts for their top tips for transforming anger from the negative to the positive at home and at work
Are we getting angrier or are we just insufficiently equipped to manage our tempers? According to the experts, it’s a mixture of both. “It’s directly linked to the fact that we live in a culture that’s driven by fast food, fast internet, fast service and a ‘I want it now’ mentality,” explains Michael Fisher, founder and director of the British Association of Anger Management. “As a result, our capacity to actually remain tolerant and patient with others diminishes considerably.”
With degrees of anger varying greatly from a gentle fizzle to an all-out fire, how can we better manage our anger issues to turn them from something negative to something positive? From small tweaks to great strides, we asked a trio of experts for their words of wisdom.
1. Find out your anger type
What’s your default anger setting? While it can differ from situation to situation, more often than not, many of us probably follow similar patterns when our buttons are pushed. “The way we deal with anger tends to depend on whether we are ‘Conflict Avoiders’ or ‘Conflict Seekers,’ says career coach Anna Percy-Davis. “‘Conflict Avoiders’ tend to bottle up anger and frustration often to the detriment of themselves which can result in problems or issues in the workplace festering. ‘Conflict Seekers’ tend to let off steam regularly and immediately when something angers or frustrates them. This knee-jerk reaction can lead to difficult relationships in the workplace. It is important you know which camp you fall into and which camp your boss and your colleagues fall into too if you are going to deal with anger issues in the workplace,” she advises.
So what sort of anger management strategy can best help you deal with yours and other’s anger in a healthier way? “If you are a ‘Conflict Avoider’ you need to come up with ways in which you can express your anger rather than letting it fester,” recommends Anna. “You have the advantage of being inclined to pause before you vent your anger - but this should not stop you from stating what you feel. Anger bottled up is bad for your stress levels and can often be manifested in other ways, like moodiness or you can take it out at home which is seldom helpful. The challenge for the ‘Conflict Avoider’ is to make sure you do deal with what has made you angry, so look at ways in which you can express your worries or concerns in a constructive way with your boss or colleagues, otherwise the situation is likely to reoccur.”
What if you’re prone to sudden moments of red-mist induced rage? “If you are a ‘Conflict Seeker,’ the challenge for you is not to express yourself too aggressively in the moment,” says Anna. “Flashpoints of anger need to be managed so you don't say something you’ll regret. As a ‘Conflict Seeker’ you need to learn to pause before you speak and the classic ‘count to 10 before you speak’ is useful here. If you can walk away from these angry moments and reflect on how to handle the situation before acting on it, even better.”
2. Take a moment to choose
Anger is such a powerful emotion that it can often feel like it’s outside of your control. However, seeing flipping your lid as a choice rather than an inevitably can go some way to getting a handle on it. “Your thoughts create how you feel, so if anger is a feeling, it is therefore being created by a thought process,” says clinical hypnotherapist and life coach Jacqueline Hurst. “Anger comes from our thoughts - not from our mothers, fathers, sisters...and so getting our minds right is so important.”
In the moment, anger can feel anything but a choice, but Jacqueline points out that if we change our mindsets beforehand, then this can prove fruitful for whenever the fateful moment strikes. “If someone hoots at you when you’re reversing for example, it’s your choice to get angry or not, to think that he’s just having a bad day and move on. It’s your decision not theirs, so in this way, you get your own power back and gain control over it.” Her advice for interrupting the habit at the beginning? “First, stop and take a breath and then ask yourself how you can think about this differently – this is the biggest thing I’d say to someone for staying calm in a situation. Say, ‘It’s not my problem, it’s not about me.' You can either stop and take a breath or wind yourself up more and make things worse.”
3. Look at the wider picture
“Stop and look at the bigger picture,” recommends Michael Fisher. “Listen and remind yourself that it’s okay to have a different opinion and try not to take it personally,” he adds. Taking a quick time out can also prove effective for helping extinguish any instantaneous explosiveness that you’ll regret later. “If it doesn’t matter in 5 minutes, let it go,” says Michael.
Approaching anger from a reflective perspective also works well for separating the reasonable from the unreasonable says Anna Percy-Davis. “Try to understand where your anger is coming from,” she says. “Sometimes an issue or a personality in your workplace can make you upset and angry, but sometimes other issues perhaps in your personal life could be distressing you and this can seep into your working life and manifest itself as anger. Or perhaps it's just a long established habit that you have developed that causes you to feel angry. The more you can understand where your anger is coming from, the more you can work on strategies to deal with it.”
Looking to your support network can also prove valuable too. “Spend time with people who make you feel good, confident and understood,” recommends Anna to help put everything back into perspective and reassure you that there’s more to life than this particularly heated moment.
anger is an energy, so if you can channel that energy and learn to use your anger effectively, it doesn't have to be all bad
4. Write it down
“Start an anger journal,” recommends Michael, if getting out of your head during times of turmoil is proving particularly difficult. “Buy yourself a blank notebook and start recording every time you feel angry. Write down the time, date, the situation itself, your thoughts and your behaviour ranked between 1 and 10 (10 being terrible) and then define your feelings associated with that. It’s more to do with not letting anger take up space in your head and transferring it from the internal to the external.”
5. Turn anger into something positive
“Remember anger is an energy, so if you can channel that energy and learn to use your anger effectively, it doesn't have to be all bad,” says Anna in order to use your anger to fuel rather than drain you.
This is in fact a key point behind Movement for Modern Life’s Transforming Anger Mindfulness Meditation. With a recent study suggesting that risk of heart attack can be tripled by exercising while angry (click here to find out more), less physically exerting alternatives could hold the key to helping you ‘blow off steam’ effectively and healthily. “Transformation of the emotional power of anger from something negative to something positive” is the focus of the meditation says yoga teacher Toby Ouvry, with the use of visualisations, breath work and other mindfulness techniques added to address feelings of judgement and a sense of justice sought when anger threatens to take over. Designed to direct anger in a more positive direction, those interested in trying it can access the website for two weeks as a free trial to see if it’s for them or not. Find out more details about it here.
6. Broach the subject sensitively but assertively
Want to help someone you know who has anger issues but unsure of how to broach the subject? You’re not alone. It can be intimidating, however letting them know sooner rather than later could be doing a greater service for all concerned in the long-term. “Just tell them,” says Michael. “You can try saying that you’re scared of their anger and that they need to sort themselves out. They will probably become defensive as it’s a sensitive subject and while you can’t overcome this, what you can do is recognise that they will get defensive and not take it personally. People are so intimidated by people who are angry that they end up pussyfooting around the subject, but the people who come to our programmes whose wives, children or bosses have told then enough is enough, or where the courts or the police have told them to sort it out wish that they’d been told earlier. It can be terrifying though, but it’s our responsibility to be able to be assertive and tell people how it is.”
If you’re particularly worried, just frame your language to best suit the person and situation by avoiding accusatory language and reinforcing the message that it’s being approached with transparency and the best of intentions. “Approach it gently and don’t point the finger,” suggests Jacqueline. “Perhaps say ‘I’ve noticed that you flair up and you don’t need to do this. I would love for you to help yourself as it can’t be enjoyable for you.’ Offer to talk about it.”
She adds, “It’s not about saying what they’re doing wrong. It’s about saying for example, ‘When you’re angry, I feel X e.g. scared’ and those sorts of things. Getting help is really important. None of us are perfect. It’s important to talk about it, and that’s what help is for. It’s not to be ashamed of.”
7. Seek expert help if needed
“If you are finding that you are experiencing a lot of anger in your working life and struggling to find the best ways to deal with it, it might be time to seek professional help - get a coach, therapist or counsellor,” suggests Anna. “They can help you work out how best to handle your anger - do you just need to find some better coping strategies or is it time to look for a new job?” Anna's coaching sessions and work with the How to Academy are at hand to help, with her workshop 'Success Strategies for Women in the Workplace' on the 13th of March 2017 covering conflict and how to deal with difficult colleagues or bosses.
The British Association of Anger Management also runs a range of programmes and events to help, more information of which can be found here. Furthermore, Jacqueline’s online Life Class also provides a flexible option that you can do from the comfort of your own home. “It helps you to get your head right and better understand the beliefs that are painful to you,” she explains. “Becoming aware is really important for helping aid change and because it’s online, it works well if you don’t want to sit down in front of someone or want to do it in your own time. Changing the anger pattern and seeing how to do it yourself is a very powerful thing.”