Manage Your Temper before It Manages You
perhaps you’ve heard or read that women are uncomfortable with anger, find it hard to acknowledge their anger and have more trouble handling it. Researchers, however, are finding otherwise. “Women are just as able to acknowledge anger as men are,” says
clinical psychologist Dr June Price Tangney, co-author of Self-Conscious Emotions. “We’ve also found that women are more likely to take constructive approaches to handling anger-like sitting down and talking it over-than men are.”
Handling anger constructively is no small feat. As emotions go, anger is pretty intense. Situations that ignite anger-being blamed for something that’s not your fault, for example, or being lied to trigger the flight-or-fight-response, a complex reaction to stress that results in a release of adrenalin, increased heartbeat and other physiological reactions. When angered, our bodies are primed to either slug it out or run for our lives.
“Most often, anger is functional-a sign that something needs to be changed. It’s not a bad emotion, there is nothing wrong with feeling anger” There are, however, right and wrong ways to handle anger, say researchers. Here’s what to do.
First, do nothing.
If you don’t feel as effective at diffusing anger as you would like, stop the moment that you feel your pulse quicken with anger, and do nothing until you’ve had some time to think, says Dr Susan Hailer Waiting a moment isn’t the same as stifling anger. “Stifling is ignoring the problem,” she says. “I’m saying stop and think, and then address the problem.”
Admit that you’re angry.
Don’t bottle up your anger; you’ll feel resentful, says Dr Rihanna Brooks, a family and clinical psychologist. Don’t blow up, either. That usually escalates tension and leads to more anger. The ideal approach is to express anger in a reasoned way that leads to change, not to hold it in or explode. Studies suggest that people who habitually suppress or vent their anger run a greater risk of heart disease, chronic aches and pains, suppressed immunity and other health problems.
Leave the scene, mentally or physically.
If you overhear your coworkers saying something nasty about you in the canteen, head for the ladies’ room or the car park for a few minutes, suggests Dr Brooks. If your boss criticizes you in the middle of a meeting-—when you can’t very well get up and leave envisage yourself leaving the room for a calmer setting.
Ask yourself exactly what made you angry, says Dr Tangney. “Consider the other person’s intentions, what extraneous variables might have figured into the situation at hand and what your contribution (if any) may have been.” This alone may diffuse your anger. If someone cuts you up when you are driving, for instance, consider the possibility that she might be rushing home to care for a sick child, or that you might have been driving too slowly.
After you’ve taken some time to get some perspective, talk it out, says Dr Susan healer, a clinical psychologist and author of the audiotape Conflict Resolution. Speak calmly and choose your words carefully. Avoid statements like “You made me angry.” Blaming remarks like this put the other person on the defensive, which only makes resolution more difficult.
Reason with yourself.
Sometimes you can’t tell the person that you’re angry with that you’re angry with her. You can’t thrash it out with the driver who cut you up, or with your elderly mother who is ill with
Alzheimer’s disease or with your temperamental boss who has just torn a strip off you in public When it comes to your mother, reason may be the best balm. “Reminding yourself that she really doesn’t have control over what she’s saying can help diffuse the anger,” says Dr Brooks. How can you get past your angry feelings towards your boss? “If someone unloads on you inappropriately, it helps to realize that there’s something wrong with her, and not you,” says Dr healer. “You may have been making some mistake, but that’s not a reason for her to flare up she could politely inform you.”
Since situations that anger us trigger a powerful physical reaction, getting out and moving your muscles with brisk exercise can do much to help alleviate angry feelings. When researchers at two California universities asked 308 men and women what they did to improve bad moods, the most popular answer was “Exercise”.