Anger is an important emotion. It can tell us that something isn’t right and we need to make a change on our own behalf. But many of us react to it in a way that’s not constructive. Often, we either deny it or fail to understand the issues that cause it. Here are a few tips from psychologist and best-selling author, Harriet Lerner on how to manage anger effectively.
Speak up when an issue is important to you. You don’t need to address every injustice and irritation that comes along. It’s an act of maturity to let things go. But don’t stay silent if the cost is to feel bitter, resentful or unhappy. We let ourselves down when we fail to talk about things that really matter.
Don’t strike while the iron is hot. The worst time to speak up is when you’re feeling angry or intense. If a conversation is getting heated, you can always say, “I need more time to sort my thoughts out. Let’s make an appointment to talk.”
Keep the focus on you.When we’re feeling angry, our capacity for clear thinking and creative problem solving can go down the drain. We get too focused on what the other person is doing to us (or not doing for us) and lose sight of our own creative options to resolve the situation. We try to change or convince the other person, and as a result, nothing changes at all.
Avoid “below the belt” tactics. These include: blaming, interpreting, diagnosing, labeling, analyzing, preaching, moralizing, ordering, interrogating, ridiculing and lecturing. But it is possible to say even the most difficult things with kindness and tact. This will help the other person to actually hear what you’re saying. Use “I” statements and watch out for disguised “you” statements (“I think you’re narcissistic and controlling.”).
Don’t tell the other person what she or he “should” think or feel. If the other person gets angry at you, don’t criticize their feelings. It’s better to say, “I understand you’re angry, but I guess we see this differently.” Remember that the other person’s right to be angry doesn’t mean that you’re to blame.
Say it shorter!We over-talk things when we’re in a reactive mode. Slow down your speech, turn down the volume and lower the intensity. When you have something difficult to say, try saying it in three sentences or less.
Learn to do less.Getting angry will get you nowhere if you continue to manage the underlying problem in the old familiar ways. Consider it a fundamental law of physics. Let your anger about a situation be the catalyst that causes you to take action. For example, continuing to take on the responsibilities of a family member or co-worker who isn’t pulling their weight will only perpetuate the problem and fuel your anger. Learn to do less.
Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and author of The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships.
If you live a large and courageous life, you will experience disappointment many times. See what can be learned from the situation, and understand that life is not fair. If you want to avoid disappointment and rejection, sit quietly in the darkest corner and take no risks.
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