By Tom, on February 9th, 2012
I’m not one to anger quickly. For some people, anger is a catalyst, but it makes me feel dull-witted, sluggish, and out-of-control. So I feel it is best, to maintain my focus, to let anger flow out of me as soon as possible.
Here’s my escalating process to release my anger:
Seclusion: I get away from the cause of my anger, as well as anything that can remind me of the anger. I usually need to be alone to let the anger flow out of me. I listen to calming music, sit in a dark room, shut myself away. Unlike the rest of the steps, this is never the last one.
Empathy: I have always been one to try and see all sides of a situation. I look at who is making me angry and try to see why they did what they did. I walk a few steps in their shoes. I ask: why would a sane person act the way they did? This usually reduces my anger enough to move back into the situation or even forgive it.
Decompression: These angering situations happen fast. Sometimes I can’t even figure out what I’m angry about. So, I write down all the details I remember from the moment that made me angry. Anger is a secondary emotion; a reaction to a more primary emotion, usually embarrassment, fear, pain, or even love. Sometimes to overcome my anger I have to recognize the main emotion behind my anger, and then identify why I felt that emotion. Decompression allows me to see the logic behind my anger. It allows me to see if the anger is justified. If it is, I move on to the next step, if not I let it go.
Confrontation: If my anger is justified, and I can’t find a way to forgive it, I move on to confrontation. Which is scary for me. Like most, I avoid confrontation at all costs, but if there is no way to move past the anger, it must be done. I don’t go in yelling, accusing, or attacking in any other way. I bring up the situation; I ask if they remember it. If they don’t, it didn’t affect them the same way it did me. They will probably be quick to apologize. If they remember it similarly to how I do, it is probably a problem for them, too. If I approached it gently in the beginning, they will probably be able to discuss it with me and we can come to an understanding. If we remember it differently, they might have a problem listening to my version. This might be the hardest of the confrontations, they will think it’s my problem and I will think it is their problem. We have different realities. This confrontation will probably take a while and it might take more than one session, always trading a little bit of our own reality. The key to this kind of confrontation, and really all of them, is to compromise, find the common ground.
Basically, my technique of letting anger flow out is to look inside myself first, identify my feelings, see if they are justified and then go outside myself. The majority of the time the people I was angry at won’t even know of my anger. When they do, our relationships get stronger because we know each other better.
This process is my own, but I learned a lot about this subject from a few books:
Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–and it’s all small stuff
How To Win Friends and Influence People
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People