An executive recently asked me, “Do you ever get angry?” I believe the question she really wanted answered is, “How do you manage your anger or frustration?” Even though sometimes I feel like an alien, frustration and anger are a “normal” reaction for human beings. I have never been one to be over the top with rage, but I have had my moments.
Over the years I have studied and pondered anger management. I discovered early on that anger can be very destructive to: relationships, reputations, health and opportunities. I have often wondered why a perfectly rational person could fly off the handle and act as if their head was somehow detached from their body. Psychologists refer to this as the lizard brain raising its ugly head or amygdala hijacking, where cortisol floods to the brain and a person goes into fight, flight or freeze mode. This was very effective earlier in human evolution if a tiger was about to attack you, but most things that flip our lids are not life or death situations. It is hard to believe that a rude comment or a nasty email can have the same impact on our brain as being in close proximity with a venomous snake.
I have by no means mastered anger management, but these strategies have helped me:
- Be more grateful.
- Be mindful of what you put in your mind, body and spirit. For instance, too much caffeine and not getting enough rest can shorten your temper.
- Anticipate stressful situations and prepare for them. Notice your "frequent flyers" and identify ways to reduce the stress associated with situations that have caused you to become frustrated or angry in the past.
- Wait before you respond. Count until your anger subsides.
- Notice your breathing.
- Take a positive time out. Do something physical, like going for a walk.
- Reflect on your behavior and the lessons learned.
- Forgive yourself and others.
- Recover with others. Is there something you need to apologize for?
How do you keep your anger in check? Please add to the conversation – comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.