Be Artful With Your Anger

Newsletter 20

Take One: Hank looked intently at the chronically surly and disrespectful subordinate across the conference room table. He felt like reaching across and strangling him with his bare hands, felt guilty, and let him off yet again with the standard unassertive warning about being “nicer.”

Take Two: Hank looked intently at the chronically surly and disrespectful subordinate across the conference room table. He felt like reaching across and strangling him with his bare hands, so he did.

Call me picky, but from where I sit neither of these responses will benefit Hank or his team. Ignoring the problem or throttling the offending party is not likely to yield the desired long term results. So why do people sometimes choose these paths?

For starters, many of us were taught that anger is a bad feeling that we should always avoid. The folks who espouse this point of view would have us believe that there is something wrong with us if we ever feel frustrated or angry. I disagree strongly.

Sure, you can put so much pressure on yourself that you generate a lot of unnecessary fear, frustration and anger in your life. However, assuming that you don’t fit into this category, then my dear old mentor and I invite you to “celebrate” your anger. It is a natural and powerful emotion that is highly useful in supplying you with the energy you need to overcome great obstacles and to accomplish great things.

The trick is to be able to think and feel at the same time. If you feel guilty about your anger, then you are tempted to think that you must back away from the issue at hand. If you act on your anger without thinking, then you may find yourself doing life without parole in very unpleasant environs. The time tested advice about counting to ten to give your thinking a chance to catch up with your angry feelings is golden.

How does anger fit into your intimate personal relationships? The same wise man once told me that you don’t really love somebody if you haven’t given some thought to wringing his/her neck at some point. I’m not sure if that’s true, but my take away is that it’s natural to get angry with someone you care about a great deal. Think about it. Who can cause you more frustration and pain than the people you are closest to?

Take Three: Hank took a moment to reflect, then said, “You know, I respect your need to be independent and do what you think is right for you. I would never want to hold you back in your career. However, we’re on the same team, and that means we can create a higher level of success for ourselves by working together effectively. I’ve been given the leadership responsibility in our team, because someone needs to make the final tough decisions when we can’t all agree on what’s best. If you’d like to remain a member of the team, then I’m going to need considerably more basic civility and respect from you. What are your thoughts?”

TECHNIQUES

Technique #1: Celebrate your healthy anger; it’s an important and integral part of who you are.

Technique #2: Practice thinking and feeling at the same time; it can be done.

Technique #3: Be artful with your anger; use it to accomplish something positive for yourself and others.

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