Anger is a perfectly natural emotion that tells us something is wrong. Feeling angry in itself is not the problem, far from it, the way in which people manage their anger can be the problem. Learning to express and manage anger in a healthy way can take time and practice.
People normally manage anger in one of the following ways:
Imploder ( passive)
Keep their anger in and don’t show it at all, bottle things up out of fear of expressing their real feelings of anger. Tend to say “yes” to most things out of fear of the consequences of saying “no”. The imploder can push down their anger for years without ever expressing their true feelings. The imploder may use food as a way of “pushing down” their anger. The imploder is also more prone to bouts of depression.
Very visible anger, can move from anger to rage very quickly and cause harm to themselves by premature heart attacks or strokes. Tend to damage interpersonal relationships with family and friends as their anger can be unpredictable.
Initially implode, then show their anger in an indirect way. This can be quite a difficult behaviour to spot as it is subtle (see examples below). People often describe their behaviour around someone whose anger is passive/aggressive as “walking on eggshells around them”. This is the most prevalent type of workplace anger. Unfortunately this type of behaviour relies on silence. In other words, when those around them do not mention that their behaviour is not acceptable, it continues.
The healthiest way to manage anger is by expressing your feelings in a calm, fair, direct and honest way. This involves learning how to make it crystal clear as to what you want, and how to get what you want in a way which respects others. It is a skill and has to be practiced. Being assertive does not mean being pushy and demanding, it means being respectful of yourself and others.
The most common type of anger style which can be seen in the workplace is the Passive/Aggressive. Examples of this kind of behaviour include:
- Copying other people in an email when it is not necessary
- Gossiping about others at work
- Using humour to put others down, then say “I was only joking”
- Indirectly chastising the behaviour or performance of someone by speaking about them “behind their back” to others
Tips for Managing Anger
1. Deep breathing from your diaphragm, picture your breath coming up from your stomach (Please note: breathing from your chest will not relax you). Breathe in through the nose for 4 counts and out through the mouth for 8 counts. This lowers your heart rate, calms you down and lets the angry feelings subside.
2. Thought stopping. Focus on slowly repeating a word to yourself e.g. “calm”, “relax” or “stop” or counting backwards from 20 to 1. Any type of thought distraction is good.
3. Distance yourself. Try to physically remove yourself from the situation if possible e.g. go for a walk, do some exercise, put the person on hold. If getting physical space from the situation is not possible try to get psychological space by:
- Think of a relaxing place or experience.
- Repeating the word “CALM” over and over in your mind.
- Try to see the situation from a third person perspective and remain objective.
- Believe that the feeling will pass. Don’t keep thinking of the reason you are angry, its important to distract your thoughts from what is making you angry.
4. Resolve the anger. It is important to make sure you commit time to thinking about how to resolve the situation in an assertive way rather than avoiding, denying, or projecting your anger onto the wrong person. If avoided it will only be a matter of time before the anger reappears. Using these problem solving skills may help:
- Write the problem down
- Communicate your feelings
- Ask for what you want
- Acknowledge the other person’s point of view
- Develop a list of options
- Discuss the pros and cons of each option
- Keep working till you reach a consensus
In spite of these strategies, there will be times when people find themselves in situations when managing their anger seems impossible. However, through practising the techniques above, they will find over time that the feelings of anger and rage will not engulf them, and the feelings of helplessness by not expressing their anger won’t overwhelm them.
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