I had written about behaviour modification in coaching to which George Anderson added a comment. His firm Anderson & Anderson provides anger management training to a large clientèle. His comment on anger management set me thinking.

Anger is an emotion that some of us find find very difficult to control. More often than not, anger blocks rational thinking and we do and say things which we later have cause to regret. Dr. Laurence Peter famously said:“Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

Looking back at something we said in anger makes us cringe with remorse. “How could I have said that?” we think. The answer lies in our inability to control our temper. It is interesting that old wounds take ages to heal. Many years later we still remember what some one- probably in a fit of anger- said to us which hurt our feelings.

The world at large has become much less tolerant of angry outbursts- either at work or at home- as compared to years past. People – employees and family alike- are more conscious of their dignity. They are willing to stand up to uphold this.

In an organization I consult with, an executive was in trouble. His fearful temper had got the better of him. At a team meeting, he ranted and raved in a manner which left his team thoroughly shaken and distraught. His inability to hold his temper proved to be his undoing. When it came to deciding his future prospects, it was felt that he was a walking keg of dynamite and could not progress to upper levels of management unless he was able to overcome this weakness.

We could get angry either because of a trigger or as a defense mechanism. A trigger can be something we see or hear that provokes us to get angry. A defense mechanism can be reacting to something someone said or did.

Here are my 7 Steps to Managing Anger:

I have found the following tips useful:

  1. Understand the Triggers: What provokes you? What gets you going? What are the things that make you mad. We are prone to get angry about some things more than others. Awareness is the first step to improvement.
  2. Hold yourself back when you get irritated. It’s like the age old advice of counting to ten. Count to hundred if you must but hold the response which rushes to your mind and lips.
  3. Be aware of your body language. Our anger shows in the way we look, the way we breathe, our very posture. Waving our signs of anger is a like waving a red flag in others eyes.
  4. Listen – however difficult it may seem. Anger compounds itself. Saying something without understanding the other’s perspective is more than likely to add to the emotional upheaval. Listen. Listen. Listen.
  5. Understand Feelings- in yourself and others. You are getting mad because you are emotional. Realize that the same process happens to others too. You aren’t the only one with feelings which can be hurt.
  6. Focus on “I” rather than ” you”: Speak of how you feel. ” I am hurt that you did not tell me of such an important development” is better than ” You are useless and the worst example of keeping the boss informed”.
  7. Make up at the first opportunity: If you have lost your temper, make up for it at the first opportunity. Don’t allow the anger to fester in you, waiting to explode again. Explain your conduct, apologize if required but put it behind you. Let this incident not be the trigger for the next outburst. Humour can help to soften the bridging process often helps.

Getting angry is natural. But that does not give us the right to trample upon others. Managing anger can only help you become more effective and respected- at work as at home.

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This is the 126 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success