PHOTOGRAPH: Kamil Macniak, 123rf.com
Have you ever felt the urge to shout at that woman who stepped on your foot in her five-inch stilettos and walked on by as if nothing had happened, or snap at the child sitting at adjacent table in the restaurant throwing the tantrum of the year?
You don’t have to feel guilty about having such angry thoughts, says Jasmine Siang, clinical psychologist and founder of Heart To Heart Psychotherapy. While anger is considered a negative emotion, it is not negative or wrong to experience it.
It is always healthy to express your anger as this helps you to make sense of your current state of mind, says Jasmine. Any emotion is a natural reaction to a given stimulus or situation. So when someone steps on your foot, your brain registers that have suddenly and unexpectedly received harm. Your initial response is then to defend yourself, which then manifests as anger.
Anger only becomes a problem when your behaviour as a result of it is anti-social or destructive, such as hurling profanities at the person. Once you learn to deal with the negative behaviour, you can find healthy ways to express your anger, which will in turn boost your overall emotional wellbeing. Here’s what you can do.
1 Tell someone about it
When you encounter a stranger who’s made you angry, it may not be appropriate to let the person know that he or she has done so. Confronting them may do more harm than good as it’s likely they’ll become resentful and react negatively towards you rather than try to understand your emotions. This could end up leaving you feeling even more frustrated and upset.
The better alternative is to air your grievances later to a friend or family member who can empathise with you. Do not let your anger fester, Jasmine says, or you could become even more isolated and unhappy.
And do the same for others. At home or in the office, when someone is ranting to you about something, Jasmine says a simple statement like, “I can see that you’re angry and I can see why” can make them feel better. When a person feels understood, they’ll dare to share more.
Once you cultivate an environment of sharing, you too can express your emotions without fear of rejection or dismissal.
2 Go slow so you can think
It is easy to blow up in the heat of the moment. Jasmine says this is because we go on autopilot and let our instincts take over. We may even yell at the very people who have set aside time to listen to our problems.
When you feel angry, there is usually a deeper issue at hand – and you need to be aware of it. Kenneth Oh, relationship coach at Executive Coach International, cites this example. You are furious at your colleague for making a mistake and it’s fallen to you to clean up the mess. What might really have triggered your anger could be the additional stress from the task, or maybe you just feel it’s unfair that it is your responsibility to salvage to situation.
Don’t react yet. Pause and give yourself time to think about what you feel. What are you really angry about? Is it this particular person who angers you constantly? Is it their behaviour? Or is it something entirely unrelated? You might just be having a really bad day and are using him or her as an avenue to vent.
3 Take responsibility for your emotions
Once you have investigated your thoughts, express them with words. “Don’t just fume,” says Jasmine. “Make sure that your fuming has content.” If you don’t provide clarification as to why you are angry, the other party will not get feedback about the behaviour that caused your anger.
Don’t assume that people know why you are upset. By putting your anger into words, you and the other party can then start talking about what the problem is and come to a better understanding.
Never push the blame for your anger, advises Jasmine. When you say, “He made me so angry”, you are giving the person power over your emotions. So say “I am angry at him” to reframe the situation.
“By doing this, you take responsibility for your anger and show that you are in control. Figure out what you need to resolve the situation. Do you want to react aggressively or simply walk away? There are many options other than exploding in anger,” adds xxx.
4 Know what you need, then teach it to others
When someone is angry at you and you don’t know how to make things right, they tend to say, “You should know what to do.” What most people don’t realise is that they themselves don’t know what they need when they are angry.
Figure out what works best for you. Let others know whether you need to yell and vent, or simply be left alone for an hour to cool down.
“It is like writing your own instruction manual,” says Jasmine. “When you prepare people in advance, they will know exactly how to react to diffuse the situation and this will help you in the long run to preserve important relationships with them.”
Kenneth says the secret is for all feedback to remain objective. Do not point fingers, but rather discuss the situation. For starters, describe the impact of what the person has done in a factual manner, rather than criticising them or lashing out.