Today Richard Hill and Matthew Dahlitz have a quick chat about anger at work and what to do about it. Here are 7 tips on how to manage your anger…
What to do with Anger in the Office?
1) If you are the one with the anger – remove yourself from the situation and give yourself some cool-down time and space. Controlling the physical aspects of anger is important and separation is the first step if it’s possible. You probably need to burn off some stress chemicals surging through your body! So run that errand down the street or do something to move your body and burn some cortisol, loosen your muscles, take some deep breaths or do a deep breathing exercise!
2) Get yourself into a different frame of mind (be curious)- distract yourself from the situation, go for a walk, do something else, so you can come back to the situation with your prefrontal cortex fully engaged – you’ll likely see things a bit differently. Even writing it all down can help you process what’s going on in a more thoughtful and measured way – and maybe in a more objective way as well.
3) Reframe your thoughts from overly dramatic or exaggerated to tempered and balanced. Watch the language you use – rather than using absolutes like “He’s ALWAYS having a go at me”, or “EVERYTHING is ruined now”, step back from the absolutes and remind yourself that it’s not always like this and that not everything is ruined – maybe just your presentation, or maybe just your pride. You can also repeat calming words to yourself as a point of focused attention, such as “I’m staying calm”, “I’m relaxing my body and mind”, and so on. You can even ask yourself how your favorite leader/person would handle the situation.
4) Don’t play the blame game. Use “I” statements. Talking about the thing that’s made you angry in a way that communicates your perspective, how you feel, and what you need, as opposed to an all-out assault on the other person. “When you did this, it made me feel this, and what I really need is this.” You want to communicate your feelings rather than just the misgivings of the other person. When we are attacked we wall up – it’s a natural reflex – and then there’s stonewalling and you’ve lost the other person from understanding you.
5) Realise people can be oblivious to the impact they are having on you and are not intentionally trying to ruin your life. Thoughtful communication, not anger, is needed to bring about understanding and awareness. Recognise that the boss who’s caused you grief is a person too – and no doubt a complex person who has reasons why he acts the way he does.
6) Step into the other’s shoes. Empathy is the hardest thing to do when you are boiling over with anger at another person – we can become very centered on our own feelings. But if you can try to understand what’s going on in their world, in their head, there’s a good chance you will diffuse the anger in you. You don’t need to agree with the other person, but to have some insight into why they are acting the way they do, or saying the things they do, can bring down your own level of anger, bring back more of your smart brain online, and be in a better place to work out the situation.
7) Get help by using a company employee assistance program (EAP) – or go and see a mentor, counsellor or friend and talk it through away from the situation itself. By talking to someone you trust and telling them your story you can get a better perspective and they may be able to help you fill in missing pieces that you may not have considered.
I’d love some thoughts on how to react when somebody is angry.