Managing your anger means not saying or doing things you’ll later regret.
It means calming yourself, assessing situations with a cool head, and taking sensible actions. It basically involves making choices around four components of your behavior:
- 1 Expressing yourself
- 2 Taking care of yourself
- 3 Building up your tolerance for frustration
- 4 Maintaining a positive outlook
When you express yourself, you promote constructive communication. Have you ever heard the expression that communication is 10 percent information and 90 percent emotion? It means that good communication is more than just send- ing a message. It’s like a game of catch. It involves making sure that the message you send someone else is the message they’ve received, and that the message you receive is the message the other person has sent. Easier said than done!
Communication is effective and constructive when actions match words. If your words and actions don’t match, then your listener will ask you for clarity, and you will need to o er it. So as you talk with someone, pay attention to how you’re feeling, to the words you’re using, and to what your body language may be saying.
Because communication is a two-way street, expressing yourself effectively also means listening to your partner in a conversation. For example, if your husband/wife is saying the same thing over and over, maybe he/she thinks his/her emotions haven’t been heard along with his/her words. That’s a common issue because it’s so easy for a listener to jump over someone’s feelings and start giving advice, sharing facts, or trying to minimize a problem instead of really hearing what the other person is saying. But when you refuse to hear someone else’s feelings, you’re saying, in effect, “Your feelings are not okay. You have no right to feel that way.” And when you verbally attack other people, they respond by defending themselves and counterattacking, and pretty soon the discussion has escalated into something so completely unrelated to honest emotional needs that further talking can’t lead to a solution.
This works the other way, too—if you’re not fully heard, then you can’t communicate your needs. So it’s understandable that you feel frustrated or angry when you’re not feeling heard and the other person just cuts you off by saying, “That’s ridiculous!” You can’t solve a problem that you don’t understand, and full communication—listening to words while also listening for feelings—is what leads to understanding. Surprisingly, though, there’s often no need to solve the problem, whatever it is, once the people discussing it are sure that their feelings have been heard.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
When you take care of yourself, you promote your own happiness. Your happiness is just as important as anyone else’s, so set some limits on others’ demands. Your whole day doesn’t have to be a round of people-pleasing tasks. Today maybe some- one else can pick up the dry cleaning or mow your mother’s lawn. Again, though, this is easier said than done. People who want you to do things for them may think you’re being sel sh if you say no, and you may think so yourself.
But this is really more about self-preservation. How can you truly care for others if you don’t care for yourself rst? Besides, why not be a role model for self-care? Otherwise, all you’ll be doing is teaching others that you’ll always be there to solve their problems, and they’ll never learn to do that themselves. It may be hard to set boundaries and then watch people struggle, but that’s how people grow.
BUILDING UP YOUR TOLERANCE FOR FRUSTRATION
When you increase your tolerance for frustration, you foster forgiveness. If some- one hurts you—a neighbor tells lies about you behind your back, your business partner steals from you, your spouse has an a air—you want to lash out in anger, especially if the other person’s behavior involves a personal betrayal, or if there’s a signi cant di erence in power between you and the person who hurt you.
When you can’t hit back, your frustration can feel extreme. Why shouldn’t you seek revenge? Why should you ever forgive anyone who betrays you? These are legitimate questions. And the answers have to do with an important fact: Forgiving someone else’s bad behavior is not the same thing as forgetting or condoning the behavior.
Forgetting means repressing—bottling up hurt and anger. But forgiveness is a powerful stance because it rests on the ability to let go of your painful feelings about a person or an event so you can move on with your life. Someone else’s bad behavior caused you pain, and you are making the choice to let your anger and pain go. Forgiving others’ hurtful behavior is an opportunity for you to let them be responsible for themselves.
Your act of forgiveness is for your benefit, not anyone else’s. As the old say- ing goes, holding a grudge against someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. When you seek revenge or wish harm to another, the bit- terness of your feelings depletes your energy and prevents your pain from healing. But when you increase your tolerance for frustration—that is, your tolerance for not lashing out when others hurt or disappoint you—you can learn more about the world and discover new opportunities to grow and stay healthy, because you’ve developed the power to let go of the past and enjoy your life in the present.
MAINTAINING A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
When you maintain a positive outlook, you become more able to manage your interpretation of events. Your outlook on life—its speci c events and the other people involved in them—has much more to do with how you feel than it does with actual events and people in your life. If you see the world as a terrible place where the cards are stacked against you, then you create a formula for anger, sadness, or worry. You have a choice about what you emphasize in the world around you. If you wake up in the morning and it’s raining, you can interpret that fact as a per- sonal a ront from nature and bemoan the gray, depressing day to come. Or, you can look out at the rain and feel content to be warm and dry in your comfortable home. It’s really up to you