Anger is all around us. Just talk to someone rushing at the airport—if you interrupt them on their way to the gate, they are likely to respond in anger! It’s one of our basic emotions and often comes out when our goals or plans are disrupted.
Anger is a powerful emotion. It can spiral out of control and become very destructive. But if we learn to manage our anger—especially in the moment.
Here are some ways for you to explore how to manage anger in the moment.
Anger And The Importance Of Self-Awareness
Remember anger is not always bad. Instead of labeling emotions “good” or “bad,” it’s more accurate to say that they can be “constructive” or “destructive.” Anger, when applied to appropriate situations—like injustices in the world—can be a constructive motivator.
- Know what anger looks like: Anger is one of the seven most basic emotions, and we can see it clearly in people’s facial expressions. Common characteristics of anger are a furrowed brow, squinting eyes, and tight lips. When you recognize this facial expression in someone else, you know they are angry and can start to work to smooth things over.
- Know what your triggers are: Each of us is unique in this way. Everyone has some different triggers that will make them angry. It’s important to know your triggers and know when you might need to bring some strategies into a specific situation. Catching yourself when you’re triggered helps you intervene early before things have escalated.
- Bring tools with you: If you anticipate being triggered, bring some tools along to anticipate how you will manage the trigger. Analyze the situation you are going into, see if there will be triggers, and prepare yourself for how you will handle it.
Have Practical Tools To Use When Angry
If you anticipate being triggered, bring some tools along to anticipate how you will manage the trigger. Analyze the situation you are going into, see if there will be triggers, and prepare yourself for how you will handle it.
- Use the power of your breath: Breath has the power to take us away from the fight or flight response, as your body does when it perceives a threat. Breathing slowly and deeply helps us switch from the sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system—it will help you remain calm.
- Implement the seven-second reset: This technique helps channel the power of the breath. Start by feeling your feet on the ground for the first second, then breath in (seconds 2-4) and breathing out (Seconds 5-7) and releasing tension and re-setting ourselves.
- Reappraising what’s happening: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes to see what other perspectives there might be. Instead of assuming you know what’s happening, try to look at it from another angle. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, it’s easy to get angry. But what if they are rushing to the hospital? It can provide a mindset shift that helps lessen anger.
- Know when to walk away: There are times when our anger is too strong to stay in the present conversation or situation. Know when you need to take a step back and calm down. But don’t totally walk away! Come back to the situation when you are in a calm headspace.
Learn to Reflect On Any Experience Of Anger
When we’re angry, we look for data to affirm how we’re feeling. Instead of doing that, stay curious about what someone is saying—ask questions and get curious about what’s happening. Curiosity gets us out of the heat of the moment.
- Put it on paper: Sometimes we can’t say what we really want to say in the moment because of the intensity of our anger. Getting things down on paper will surface your emotions. It helps you get curious and look at the situation objectively.
- Practice a conversation: Most of us don’t do our best with tough conversations if we’re caught off guard. If anger may be part of a conversation, make sure to practice what you want to say ahead of time.
- Keep a diary: Record situations where you’ve regretted your angry response. This isn’t to make you feel bad, but to understand what happened, why you were triggered, and why you responded how you did. This helps you prepare for a similar situation in the future.
Anger can be an intense emotion—sometimes we feel controlled by it! But it doesn’t have to be that way. You have the power and ability to implement these tips and start managing your anger in the moment.
Today’s EQ Workout
Reflect on the last regrettable episode of anger you had. Be curious about it. Write down as much as you can about the experience. What was the trigger for the emotion? Do you see any patterns if this response and other times your anger has surfaced?
You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores today’s topic in more depth.