Do you ever get angry and lose your temper? I’ve done this, and it can be embarrassing. Especially if the level of anger is disproportionate to what triggered it.
Looking silly is never fun, and I always regret it later. Being controlled by one’s emotions is just bad.
Anger can be a great productivity tool when it drives you to make needed life changes. Not if it shows up often and feels like an uncontrollable force in your life, however. In that case, it will bring with it a constant torrent of emotions that can cloud your judgement.
We are also subjected to an overwhelming load of information and opinions through social media and news outlets. Some of it, you will find offensive. It is important to be mindful to these stimuli, and pay attention to how certain topics make you feel.
Here’s a 10-step process for transforming feelings of anger. Below each step, I have included an example of how the question might be answered:
- Ask yourself what emotion is behind the anger?
Anger tends to mask other emotions. Most likely, the anger you are feeling is a cover for another triggered feeling. What exact emotion was triggered for you in the situation?
Shame, feeling neglected, feeling embarrassed or disrespected, ignored or belittled? Find the dark emotion behind the anger, and you are closer to uncovering the source for your outburst.
It can be quite freeing to determine our triggers for anger, and will allow your reaction to make more sense.
Here’s an example from my life – a friend teases me after I describe a new idea for a product. I get angry at him, and later realize that embarrassment, disrespect and disappointment in hearing contrary views were the reasons for the anger.
2. Ask yourself if the intention behind the action was to cause anger or offense?
Often, you will figure out that a triggering comment was made without negative intention. We all have the tendency to get stuck in our heads at times and think only of ourselves, and how certain actions affect us.
There’s a good chance that the person that triggered the anger was acting without considering how their actions might affect you.
In my personal example – I asked myself if he meant to offend or embarrass me? In this case, no, he was just expressing how own opinion.
3. Is the emotion that you felt a logical response to the action? Why or why not?
In my example – no, the event was triggering old feelings that came up from being insulted in front of others, and everyone laughing at me in response. Or yes, he should have mentioned his views in a more considerate way.
If I’m not sure how logical the emotion was, it might be a good idea to ask a friend what their thoughts were on the conversation and whether my response would have been their response.
4. Could there have been a misinterpretation between what was done or said and how you felt? Either on your side, the other person’s side, or both?
In this example – yes, I might not have explained my idea with just a few words in a way that makes sense. Or yes – he might not have realized that his comments could be offensive.
5. What’s another way you can interpret what was said or done?
In my example – I was having a bad day and was more sensitive to comments than I normally would be. Or, this was not the right time for either of us to have this discussion. Or, his thoughts have merit and I should consider the ways in which this idea might not work when designing the finished product.
6. Is there yet another spin you can put on what was done? This time, one that shows empathy.
For my example – he might have been having a bad day, and reacting overly harshly because of that. I can have empathy for him, and realize that this is someone else’s behavior. It exists outside of me, and I can also choose how I react to it.
I can simply take measures to ensure that my boundaries are clear in cases where I have felt disrespected.
7. What are some preventative measures that you can take in future to avoid this happening again? List out all of the options that come to you.
In this example – One option is to look back over previous experiences with him. Does he have a tendency to offend me with his opinions? Or, could I have overreacted to someone expressing a contrary opinion that I wasn’t ready to hear?
If either of these is true, I will be more cautious with expressing new ideas to this person in future when either of us appear to be tired or having a bad day. And mention to him that I don’t want to discuss business ideas with him, as I can be sensitive about how they are perceived. And mention that his comments have hurt me in the past.
I will also try to keep conversations limited to safe topics. If I realize that I was being oversensitive, I will try to be more accepting of unexpected responses when expressing new ideas. When I expect only 1 specific outcome for a conversation, I could be setting myself up for disappointment.
It’s also great to know that issues between you and this person can escalate quickly. And to be willing to change the subject or mention that a conversation is getting heated, and you both need breaks from it.
Great communication about your personal boundaries is key. It will go a long way toward keeping you from situations that bring out your anger.
8. Is there anything you need to say in order to feel heard about the emotions felt in #1?
In this example – I need to express how disrespected and embarrassed I felt by this friend. Or, I need to go back to this conversation with him, and apologize for overreacting, but say that I was hurt by what he said. And reiterate that next time, we can work to de-escalate when either party gets offended.
9. Are there any other emotions that come up regarding the incident? It’s a great idea to try to learn more about yourself based on your negative reaction to a situation.
In my example – His comments made me feel as though my ideas and thoughts don’t matter. And I felt belittled and ridiculed. Or that I have stupid ideas that I should not have the courage to mention to others, as I will be made fun of.
10. Can you see a learning experience from this?
Note: There is almost always a learning experience from every strong reaction. In summary. I have decided to set a boundary for how this friend (and others) should speak to me. I try to be clear the first time behavior is shown to me that is unacceptable.
I’ve also learned that this friend and I should avoid meeting when either of us is tired. Or, I should ask him in future to hold off on commenting until I’ve explained my thoughts fully.
As a result of this experience, I now know a lot more about my personal triggers. I am more aware of which emotions my anger often masks. I also need to be clear to others about the reasons for the anger, so that I feel heard. And have him think more carefully about his words. I’ve now developed a plan of action for when and if this happens again with someone else.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have a recent incident that you can apply these steps to?
What have you learned from the incident? And what’s an alternate way that you can view it that lessens the anger. And turns it into a learning experience?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I read every comment.