Step 1. First, be aware of your anger. Label it. Tell yourself ‘I feel angry’ or ‘I feel miffed’ or whatever. Look for the right words to describe exactly what you are feeling.
Step 2. Remind yourself:
– the other person isn’t making you angry, you are.
– Has a button been pressed?
– Has a ‘should’ been violated?
– How important will this be to me in a week from now? Or a year?’
Step 3. Ask yourself:
– Are your facts right? Can you see the situation from their point-of-view?
– Remind yourself of the person’s good qualities and their past kindnesses, if that’s applicable.
– Is the other person in pain too? (We all want the same basic things: encouragement, recognition, affection . . . None of us want loneliness, rejection or anguish. If the other person is acting badly it’s because their method of finding happiness is mediocre. As the saying goes, we are all in this boat together, in this stormy sea.)
Step 4. Consider: What needs to happen from now on?
The purpose of your anger is to rectify the situation.
A) If it’s an incident requiring an immediate response:
– Slow yourself down. That will help you choose your words carefully.
– State how you feel and your concerns. Explain clearly what needs to happen now, or from now on.
For example: ‘I feel angry with what you have done.’ & ‘Don’t treat me that way again.’
(You won’t remember the steps, but if you have the gist of them . . .)
B) If you have time to prepare a response:
(1) Talk about it with a friend. (That in itself could make you feel better.)
(2) Prepare what you want to say by writing a letter, or by listing your complaints. You don’t have to send the letter, but it will help get your thoughts in order.
In your letter, try to anticipate the other person’s objections.
(i) You can send the letter instead of meeting with the person. That way, you can avoid escalating the conflict, yet still ensure the recipient is clearly aware of your concerns. The recipient can digest your letter and hopefully give you a measured response.
(ii) Face-to-face is good too. The letter you have written will prepare you, and you can observe the person’s body language.
Before you meet the person face-to-face, visualise yourself calmly and firmly stating your case. (Expect to show some signs of nervousness, and forgive yourself in advance for them.)
In either instance, if your intention is to change the other person’s behaviour, that’s good. If your intention is to just vent, it may be cathartic but you might increase the divide between you.
Step 6. Recover.
Praise yourself for the things you did right. You will be more likely to do them again next time.
‘I handled that well. I didn’t raise my voice too much and . . .’
Then look for what you could have done better. But don’t be critical of yourself. Situations like this rarely go perfectly.
Step 7. You might later want to:
– aim to ‘let go’ of the incident. More on that in another chapter.
– Again ask yourself: ‘How important will this be to me in a week from now? Or a year?’ That might diminish the intensity of your feelings.
In short, get into the habit of following those steps and you will become skilled in dealing with anger. And, with that skill you will make positive changes in your life while earning people’s respect.
It’s important because when you feel confident you can express your anger intelligently, you will lose your fear of being angry. That’s because you know you can use your anger to effect change, rather than be a victim of it. That confidence adds to your resilience.