A few days ago, I found myself in a place of anger. You know the kind that infuriates you just by the thought of it. It’s been a while since I got really angry about anything because I try my best to nip things in the bud when it’s at a stage of annoyance, rather than let it fester and evolve into Anger.
However, not everyone has the same way of dealing with annoyances and anger, and it just got me curious… – what makes us tick, what are the ways people display anger and what can we do to avoid anger outbursts?
Because after the anger dissipates, I was tired af. As the saying goes, Red is not a good look, so let’s put anger under the microscope today.
Part 1 : Why do we get angry ?
This part addresses our common triggers for anger.
Typically this varies from person to person, depending on what we think are non-negotiables / important in life, and how our past experiences have shaped our viewpoints. So Anger is triggered, upon our perceived violation (I use the word perceive because things happen as is, but our perception is how we attribute meaning to an event). of a particular value.
And because our values are shaped by our belief system – I notice that triggers can be paired with a common belief. It’s all these virtues, that most of us are taught growing up.
Common triggers and its underlying value:
- Injustice (We should be fair in our dealings, and each pull our own weight)
- Disrespect (We should treat others with respect)
- Abuse (verbal & physical) – (We must not cause harm to others)
- Lies (We must always tell the truth)
- Lack of Control (We are in charge of our own lives)
But the grey area is, all these terms eg. fair, respect – means very different things to one another. Maybe for one being disrespectful means not giving feedback face to face, maybe for another being disrespectful is only when swearing is involved.
So Triggers are the first phase of Anger. And if triggers are not addressed at the get go, increased frequencies will bring us to the second stage – Escalation. I see these both are just the build up stage.
Part 2 : How do we deal with Anger?
This part addresses the anger outburst. Shit has hit the fan. This is when we have had ENOUGH. Our head is not in the right space, our blood is boiling. You know the works.
When someone is angry, there are 3 general approaches to anger :
1. Passive Aggression
This is a non-confrontational approach. This is usually deployed by those who are uncomfortable directly discussing about anger (maybe cause there isn’t a close relationship between the parties, or the person generally dislikes confrontation) or holds the belief that the other party should already know without needing them to explicitly state it. So this often seeps out through maybe cold shoulders, pretending everything is fine when it’s not.
To approach anger in a passive aggressive way is to essentially drop hints, and hope the other person ‘gets it’.
2. Open Aggression
This is a lash-out approach. Think of it when the lid can no longer hold down the anger, so it spills out of the pot onto everyone else. This is usually deployed by those who struggle to control their anger so it seeps out through verbal or physical aggression like swearing, sarcastic remarks, ‘pay back’ behaviours.
To approach anger in an openly aggressive way is to essentially punish someone into subservience whether consciously or not. The more important goal is to express vehemently rather than to get the intended result because we all know shouting at someone is not a good way to get someone to change their behaviour.
3. Assertive Aggression
This is the healthiest approach to go about anger. This approach is especially important when we deal with those whom we are close to – be it our family, friends and coworkers. But it doesn’t stop there because just because someone is a stranger and you don’t care about him, means it gives you a free pass to yell at it. So this approach is the golden standard for all situations.
It involves awareness of what your triggers are, and that others may have a different viewpoint. Expressing anger assertively means clearly stating how certain actions make you feel and giving the other party a chance to share their side of the story.
To approach anger in an assertively aggressive way is to prioritise the end goal of correcting the behaviour, not ruining the relationship along the way.
Part 3 : How can we reduce anger outbursts?
Prevention is better than cure.
Being angry is no fun to anyone. It’s tiring, it disrupts the peace. I’m not saying we should avoid anger but I think there are early interventions that can either reduce the intensity of anger, or reduce the frequency of us getting angry.
1. Manage expectations from the get go
It’s important to set the tone right from the start and seek to understand the existing arrangement. Whether it’s at the workplace, household or on a holiday. It’s good to clearly outline the non negotiables for all parties involved and set ground rules on ways to go about it in case there are any disagreements in the future.
2. Voice any displeasures latest by the second occurrence
I think this works because it balances both being forgiving for a once off incident, but at the same time giving timely feedback to set the boundaries of what is okay and what is not. Say it too early, maybe it seems like you are petty, say it too late, you risk getting mad and isn’t giving the other party a chance to work on things.
3. Reflect on your own self talk and behaviours
Are you engaging in any behaviour that may be triggering for others? Are much of your anger rooted in your perception and negative self talk (you’ll know this when you find yourself ‘misinterpreting’ situations frequently)? Consistent self reflection is a good way to build self awareness and actively work on areas for improvement.
4. Calm down before you decide to express your anger
This is an oldie but a goodie. It’s so cliched because it’s true. We are not objective when we are fueled with rage or annoyance. There is no good that can come out of confronting someone right there and then. It’s best to take a walk, talk to someone objective about the matter or anything that gets you into the right headspace before addressing the situation.
I know I started this article being a discussion about Anger but it ended up being a pitch for Communication. The more and more I go through life, the more I think that Effective Communication is the #1 life skill everyone should have.
Because heck, there are 7.6 billion of us, how else would we get by without any differences at all?