Being angry isn’t such a bad idea . . . how can you say that?
We may ask ourselves what is happening to me, but it might be better to ask ourselves what anger is doing to me. What is happening is that we have forsaken our self-monitoring capacity and the ability to observe what is happening. Remember, anger is caused by a perceived injustice and keep in mind that all of us have our own fairness perception.
Psychologists have teased out three types of anger. One type is that sudden anger, that shoot from the hip feeling, when we feel trapped and we lash out at the offender. Another is when we feel the behavior we are receiving is done deliberately and is unfair or unwarranted. Both are situational and episodic in that these angers do not persist. The last form is more insidious because it doesn’t go away but rather curdles and churns and eats at us; it’s called dispositional anger, as it impairs our ability to control our behavior leading possibly to apathy, thoughtfulness, or the loss of cognitive control, or maybe aggressive behaviors. This is important: suppressing our anger, shoving it under the rug pretending that we aren’t angry, may cause harmful effects as well; ‘putting on your game face’ doesn’t always work.
Returning to the topic question, Being angry isn’t such a bad idea . . . how can you say that? because anger may have some positive attributes. These are opportunities for personal awareness and growth. Conflicts are part of life, and learning how to handle them is empowerment. There are three strategies to examine: first, try to avoid a confrontation that will cause anger by setting limits, second, control your anger with logical and sensible options with manageable responses, and third, learn what sets off your anger so you can avoid that behavior, and by all means, prevent a physical confrontation.
Here are more specific ways to deal with conflict:
- Stay calm by maintaining your own stress levels. Keep in mind that all of us have our own fairness perception so avoid behaviors or statements that may exacerbate the interaction negatively.
- Apply active listening skills which simply means, listen to the speaker. Do not think about your next retort or come-back, repeat what the speaker is saying. The speaker may say, “you’re not listening to me!” and actually you aren’t. Turn off the script in your head and pay attention. You might think of this as “lean in,” this term became an instant catchphrase for empowering professional women but it applies to everyone; lean in, pay attention, listen.
- Sometimes, the past rears its ugly head and the current infraction is really about that and not what is occurring now. Try to understand where the anger is coming from by uncovering the root cause. Move forward; the past is the past. This opportunity explores new and creative ways of solving a problem. Select a solution that is workable for everyone. Throughout the discussion, ‘killer statements’ are not allowed; we must maintain respect. Employ “I” statements as in “I feel this . . .” rather than “you always... “which is accusatory.
- Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind proclaimed, “After all, tomorrow is another day," this coming on the heels of Rhett Butler’s rebuke that he was leaving her for good. Although this may have worked in the movie, in real life, don’t delay dealing with conflicts, walking around the proverbial elephant in the room. Deal with it. It’s empowering!
These are excellent resources:
The National Resource Directory – a searchable database of resources vetted for the use of service members, veterans, family members, and caregivers