At the end of Sean's four-hour stint at the help desk, Mad Melvin called. M2 was always abusive. The problem this time was the new backup software. For anyone but M2, Sean could have kept it together, but M2 never followed directions. M2's style was to click randomly and hope that he would accidentally get the result he wanted, all the while insulting the help desker. Finally Sean lost it: "Call back later from somewhere where Planet Earth is a local call," he said, and hung up. Instantly, Sean knew it was a mistake.
You've probably read about tactics for preventing yourself from becoming angry. However skilled we are at catching ourselves before we become angry, we're still left with the problem of what to do when we do get mad. Here are four steps for dealing with your own anger.The sooner
you become aware
of building anger,
you can intervene
- Learn to notice your anger
- The sooner you become aware of building anger, the sooner you can intervene. You can become more aware of feelings of anger by catching yourself in the act. The next time you're there, inventory what you're feeling — tightness in the chest, clenched teeth or fists, rigidity, shallow breathing. Knowing what anger feels like helps you notice it earlier when you're on your way there.
- Accept anger
- Anger is part of being Human. The only way to be certain that you'll never be angry again is to die, and most of us aren't ready to try that yet. When we believe that being angry is "bad," we complicate things, because our feelings of shame or guilt or even anger about being angry make regaining composure much more difficult. Accepting that you can become angry helps you to accept that you're angry when you are.
- When you're angry, take responsibility for being angry
- You're the owner of your own emotions. Only you have access to the systems in your body that lead you to become angry. You're in complete control of that process. True, someone might have done something you didn't like, but of all the possible responses available, you chose anger. That's something you did, and you can't proceed until you recognize that.
- When you notice your anger, breathe slowly and deeply
- Breathing brings you back from the edge of control, and you can act more creatively. Breathing gives you the oxygen you need to think, and breathing slowly and deliberately gives you a focus other than whatever you used to become angry.
Becoming angry is like falling from a bicycle. No matter how good a cyclist you are, you can always fall. The trick is to fall without hurting yourself or the other cyclists, and to get back on the bike again even though you know that another fall is inevitable. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Never, Ever, Kill the Messenger
- If you're a manager in a project-oriented organization, you need to know the full, unvarnished Truth.
When you kill a messenger, you deliver a message of your own: Tell me the Truth at your peril. Killing
messengers has such predictable results that you have to question any report you receive — good
news or bad.
- The Fundamental Attribution Error
- When we try to understand the behavior of others, we often make a particularly human mistake. We tend
to attribute too much to character and disposition and too little to situation and context. When we
seek a better balance, we can adopt a more accepting view of events around us.
- Social Safety Margins
- As our personal workloads increase, we endure more stress and more time pressure. Inevitably, we have
less time for the social niceties that protect us from accidentally hurting each other's feelings. When
are we most at risk of incidental harm, and what can we do about it?
- Be With the Real
- When the stream of unimportant events and concerns reaches a high enough tempo, we can become so transfixed
that we lose awareness of the real and the important. Here are some suggestions for being with the Real.
- Patterns of Conflict Escalation: I
- Toxic workplace conflicts often begin as simple disagreements. Many then evolve into intensely toxic
conflict following recognizable patterns.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
- And on March 6: A Pain Scale for Meetings
- Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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