Angry about being angry? It's time to make a change
Do any of the following situations sound familiar?
- Your partner or child is late home or to an important rendezvous without letting you know.
- Your child refuses to eat their food and/or has a massive tantrum for half an hour.
- Your internet connection slows down or fails just at the moment you need it.
- The person next to you is talking unnecessarily loudly into their phone for an hour.
- Someone jumps the queue you've been patiently waiting in for ages.
- Someone is generally rude in a conversation, message or email for no reason.
- Someone is walking painfully slowly in the middle of the street, blocking your way.
- You live next to a neighbour who refuses to make less noise despite multiple requests.
- Your PC crashes without saving the very important document you worked on all day.
- Those endless and repeated travel delays or traffic jams make you late for work (again), or cause you to miss your non-changeable, non-refundable holiday flight.
- A smoker inconsiderately blows their fumes into your face.
- You realise you've run out of milk or bread and the local shop has just closed for the day.
Of course they do. Now, raise your hand if you've ever lost your temper, and I mean really lost your temper, in one or more of those situations… and maybe thought or said or did something you later regretted and wished you'd reacted a bit differently.
Yes, my hand is raised too. In fact, both of them are!
Well hopefully, I have some good news for you. In this post, I want to share with you a couple of ways that have been proven (on me) to firstly control feelings of anger, and secondly to communicate them, more effectively. These have helped me to keep my cool in difficult moments, to have a much better end result, and feel better within myself because of that.
Controlling anger. Everyone loves to dance, don’t they?
I like to see life as a dancefloor, with our life experiences or relationships as our dance partners and our own different behaviours and emotions as individual styles of dancing.
When we’re on the dancefloor, sometimes we dance a slow dance, sometimes we dance a delicate and complicated waltz, and sometimes we dance like we're going crazy at a rock concert! Sometimes, we know the dance steps by heart and do them perfectly almost without thinking every day; sometimes, we used to know them by heart but we forgot them or don’t do them as well anymore so need to practice to regain the confidence to get back onto the dancefloor.
However, sometimes we need to change the steps in a dance, or learn a whole new dance because that's the only way we can do something differently or better… like controlling and communicating our anger.
When we're angry, we often blame someone or something else for it. However, that ignores the most important point – nothing else, and nobody else, is responsible for our feelings except us. The power to feel or not feel, to control or not control, our anger starts and stops with ourselves.
Our anger is the emotion we generate (and which we can control) in our mind in response to an external situation (which we often can't control). We can only control what we can control – the anger, not the situation. If we start to think in that way, we will increase our feeling of personal responsibility in every relationship or interaction we have, especially with ourselves. When we focus on trying to change somebody else, it obscures our own feeling of power to act and make choices. And this is the greatest power we have.
To go back to my dancing analogy, we cannot make another person change their steps to a particular dance, but we can control our own steps, and if we do that the whole dance – its rhythm, its speed, and how it makes us feel – changes too. When you're on the dancefloor of life, you need to listen to the music you want to and dance in the style that makes you happy. So keep your ears and minds open, and don’t be afraid to learn some new moves!
Communicating anger. Verbal 'violence' is never the answer.
Ok, so now we know some different dances and can control our anger more effectively, we're in a better position to communicate it more effectively, rather than just letting our angry thoughts explode violently out of our mouths like a volcano erupting or a gun being fired, which is what happens more often than not. So, how do we take the 'violence' out of our words?
I want to share with you the following four steps which help me to pause and take a step back before I open my mouth in those moments when I feel the 'fire' starting to come up in my belly and the 'red mist' starting to descend. These are my building blocks of 'non-violent' communication (along with an example of how to use it in one of the scenarios above):
1. Observation: state the facts on that specific situation without generalisation, interpretation or evaluation.
Example: "You came home late on Monday" instead of "you are always late, you never make an effort to come home on time."
2. Feelings: keep your expression of what you feel as cleanly as possible in a non-blaming way.
Example: "You came home late on Monday, I felt worried disappointed" instead of "you are always late and you're stressing me out/disappointing me."
3. Needs: identify your needs, express them in a clear and factual way.
Example: "You came home late on Monday, I felt worried. I need to know that you are safe" instead of "you are always late and you're stressing me out. I hate it and it has to stop."
4. Request: explain what you'd like the solution to be and ask them to do it.
Example: "You came home late on Monday, I felt worried. I need to know that you are safe. For the future, please can you let me know if you’re going to be home later than normal?" Instead of "you are always late and you're stressing me out. I hate it and it has to stop. You have to call me!"
Now you have this brilliantly simple tool, give it a go! Think of a few scenarios which would make you angry and then imagine how you would react using these four steps. I'm sure it will lead to different outcomes in how you express yourself, and the reaction of the person you're communicating to. And do you know what the best part is? Once you've done it a couple of times, it will start to become automatic for you and you'll find yourself losing your temper less and less without even trying!
Look out for my next post next month. Bye for now!
You can check out online the amazing books which are my inspiration for this blog: The Dance of Anger http://amzn.eu/43pItv1 Nonviolent Communication - A Language of Life (Nonviolent Communication Guides) http://amzn.eu/0U003os.
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