Tapping the Positive Potential of Anger
Anger is a high potential power-emotion.
Anger reveals your values and exposes a hidden self. Flipping off reckless drivers may not be polite but it says you value your safety. The sad side of anger is it makes you a fool.
Unmanaged anger is scalding, destructive passion. Managed anger drives change by harnessing energy.
The down side of unmanaged anger:
- Motivates reckless behavior.
- Loosens tongues.
- Causes more damage than good.
- Focuses blame on others.
The up side of managed anger:
- Motivates action.
- Fuels courage.
- Clarifies values.
- Intensifies focus.
15 Ways to Deal with Anger:
Contributors on my Facebook page completed the sentence, “I deal with anger by ____:”
- Trying to find the funny or ironic in the middle.
- Getting it out and getting it over quick.
- Riding my bike.
- Thinking of solutions.
- Being sure my brain is thinking before my mouth is moving.
- By putting the energy into positive behavior.
- Walking away and taking time to evaluate.
- By reflecting on my part in the situation.
- Painting, writing about it.
- Seeking advice from a third party.
- Picturing what my grandfather’s reaction would be.
- Checking my ego.
- Too often saying things I regret. (I had to include that one)
- Accepting that I’m angry.
- Depending on the situation, letting it out on the person who screwed up.
When I feel anger’s heat, I call a trusted friend and spew it over him. I tell him exactly what I think, unfiltered. He always does the same thing; he listens and slows me down. He saves me from a world of regret and enables me to identify constructive behaviors.
What advantages and disadvantages of anger do you see?
How do you deal with anger?
Frustration is a Good Thing? “I love seeing frustration. I don’t rush to end it”
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Perfect timing! I’m going to keep this marked “unread” in my inbox for a while. Thanks for the post. 🙂
Thanks for you note. For me, a post on anger is almost always timely. 🙂
Best success to you,
I work in a developing nation with 3,000+ staff and am finding that “controlled outbursts of anger” are required to get my point across in a passionate manner and to emphasis something that is critical to our future success. Before this role I have never sworn or displayed anger in the workplace, but suddenly I am finding this is sometimes required.
I communicate the requirements in a normal fashion, and numerous times via different means, however my senior management team sometimes decide their own priorities, often counter-productive to our targets. Outburts of anger help refocus their efforts onto the high priority items.
However, I still fell uncomfortable using this method and would love to be able to get the message across in a more level fashion. Anyway that is why we are here as expatriates, to try and develop the capability of the local staff…
I wonder about the cultural component of your comment. Are outbursts of anger expected by people in some cultures.
I’m thankful for your candor, insight, and passion.
I wish you the best,
Hi Dan, yes I believe you are correct there re the “cultural component”. Unfortunately this can be a very violent part of the world and it appears this violence / anger is a way of getting what one wants and demonstrating “strength”. “Strength” is required to earn respect.
The real trick for me is to remove this tool from my toolkit when I return to working in a developed nation, as I would probably end up with a lawsuit on my lap…
If I may be so bold as to suggest some thought be given to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. As with any theory, it’s far easier to debate than it is to place into the real world as it sounds like you have your hands full. But what has helped me in the past is trying to determine what specifically is the “need” that needs to be satisfied for either a person or a culture. Once that desire is identified then focus on helping the person to achieve satisfying that desire. Rather than me taking up space in here with Maslow perhaps you can do a search. It might help.
Hi Doug and thanks for your comment. I think you are correct with respect to my situation and Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs and that is the real challenge of these type of roles – helping my staff balance the constant internal conflict caused by them trying to reconcile their cultural demands versus the requirements of the company.
Thanks for expanding your comment. It helps me understand what you are facing.
I love your reference to returning to a culture where anger is more measured… I can see the challenge.
Here’s to managed anger 🙂
Callum, you used the word passionate, which can be a healthy conversion of anger–and valid to keep people aligned with the vision.
From anger, beyond being a fool as Dan noted, often comes reqret for the actions that follow the anger. And with repeated angry outbursts, the impact becomes less and less. Sounds like more tools definitely are needed, great that you can see that.
On one level, also great that your senior management team are not a bunch of ‘yes men’ and on the other hand, herding cats gets tiring. That they have many foci, perhaps a retreat with the group to align the focus with the vision. The other ‘go to’ for me, is, it ALWAYS about the customer or the service, it is not about the other leaders or you. If they are ‘misdirecting’ energy and resource away from the customer or service, that needs direct feedback. Now, if the direction they are heading is in fact a better service, then you have to do your own reflection… 😉
You are right, Dan the worst thing that happens when you blow up and act out of control is that you look the fool, have people lose respect for you and take your own credibility down a few notches.
I think the deadliest combination is #5 and #12, at least for me.
5.Being sure my brain is thinking before my mouth is moving.
12.Checking my ego.
If our egos are not in check, we always think we know the answer and the only correct way to accomplish a thing. It makes us close our minds and our ears, as well as our hearts.
We cannot hear or receive when we are closed off. And if we are loud enough and bizarre enough, no one can hear us either. They stop listening.
And that is wise counsel. Have someone you can trust, that you can give your honest thoughts to, and who is capable of correcting your course gently.
I’ve done some pretty foolish things while angry… ugh!!
Unmanaged anger definitely closes my ears and opens my mouth…thats a “wonderful” combination… NOT!
I’m not event acknowledging your ego comment. I have no problem in this area. 😉 (thanks)
I also find that others shut down when we heat up. Who could blame them.
I wish you a great week.
Great statement… managed anger drives change and harnesses enegry! We anger on many levels.. social, personal, and situational (a good example being having to change a flat tire in the rain and the wrench slips… you scrape your knuckles on the ground and the pure rage turns you into the Hulk). But each anger level would require a different control/response mechanism; in other words, directed energy. Not all anger requires rage for a response but any response as a result of anger should be measured. Focus is not part of anger but it is certainly a remedy. Nice thinking post, Dan.
Thanks for the good word and illustration that shows the diversity of anger.
There is an “AT” when it comes to anger. That’s something to think about..
I’m glad you took time to share your thoughts and insights.
One of my clients rightly pointed out, “Anger is an emotion that does not solve the problem!” When I get in the state, I just know nothing constructive is going to come out my mouth, so I look to disengage and take time out.
Nicely said Thabo,
Anger doesn’t solve at best it motivates us to solve.
Great seeing you again,
When I get angry I use the energy to explore solutions. I’m not saying I don’t get upset or rant internally but I do believe that most people are doing the best they know at any given time… so I try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view – to understand how or why something happened and then suggest ways to avoid it happening again.
We can sometimes get stuck in a downward spiral of frustration, injustice, anger–> lather, rinse, repeat and that is just wasted energy and time.
Anger is energy and can be converted.
In the moment, not so easy to do. With time and space, it can recharge you and help you plow through frustration or unproductive barriers. First though, you have to convert it by changing something Change your environment, shift your view, do something physically active to shift you. Go talk to someone (or vent as Dan noted), go pet your dog or cat, maybe eat a small piece of chocolate (hard to be mad and eat chocolate at the same time). Not talking avoidance, you still need to go back and deal with it.
I agree that there is advantage of managed anger over unmanaged anger. But I think controlled anger is dangerous. When we manage anger, we find some ways to extinguish it but when we control it, it keeps on piling. Slowly it becomes heap of angers which harms to self and others as well. I deal with the anger by smiling. I express my views with trusted friends and take suggestions. I walk around in open place and talk with people. I just do not sit because it keeps me to think harder and harder about the things.
Anger leads to fear. Usually unmanaged anger is sign of fear. Powerful person should talk with the target. Whenever I feel angry with someone, I express my views in light manner to the person. I mean, you need to pass the message. It is possible that many a times, others do not know the repercussion of their actions. So, it could be better, if we find ways to express our views with the one who has created the situations.
I have recently witnessed the downside of unmanaged anger (as described), from one person — and also witnessed the upside of managed anger (as described) from another person in direct response to the first.
The “scalding, destructive, and reckless” nature of one person’s rage led to focused actions in a second person which were certainly not the actions desired by the first person. Very interesting indeed.
In the mid-1980s, I read an essay in my seminary ethics by Beverly Wildung Harrison that I keep going back to (amazing for something I read nearly 30 years ago!) called “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love.” Part of Harrison’s goal in the essay was to help women in particular, many of whom had been raised to believe that they were not allowed to FEEL anger, much less EXPRESS it, get in touch with the constructive power of anger.
Her argument is complex and difficult to summarize in a comment, but a couple of quotes in particular seem to fit this discussion.
“The moral question is not’ what do I feel?’ but rather ‘what do I do with what I feel?’ . . . Anger is not the opposite of love. It is better understood as a feeling-signal that all is not well in our relation to other persons or groups or to the world around us. anger is a mode of connectedness to others and it is always a vivid form of caring. To put the point another way: anger is — and it always is — a sign of some resistance in ourselves to the moral quality of the social relations in which we are immersed.”
“We must never lose touch with the fact that all serious human moral activity, especially action for social change, takes it bearings from the rising power of human anger. Such anger is a signal that change is called for, that transformation in relation is required.”
Emotions are signals that our bodies give us. We always have choices in how we deal with those signals. Emotions are not just about being; they are also about doing. We can say “I am angry” and describe a state of being. We can continue to be in that state. That’s a choice. We can also look beneath the emotion to see what values, norms, moral imperatives are being stepped on. And when we know that, we can move from being to doing, to repairing the damage caused by the stepping-on. Our energy to create change may well be fueled by the power of anger, but it can be put to use constructively in the work of love. That’s the doing part.
Yikes, I think my comment is officially longer than the post! Oops.
Excellent. I would add #16 to the list–Ask how you will evaluate your reaction in a year. It probably isn’t important enough to remember.
Anger and I have not been successful at developing an equitable friendship. I can see how much of your advice and opinions could be very helpful for those with the wherewithal to respond. If I’m responding, I’m not angry; only slightly miffed. I long ago accepted that anger is an insidious form of denial. In addition to blocking a chosen response, by me, it blinds me to the incipient source. I am of the opinion that anger is the delusional bi-product of some other painful emotion or just fear in one of its many forms. I prefer to be excessively frustrated than a little angry. If I can stay with the primary emotion … well it is safer all around.
Hey Dan, isn’t coincidence unnervingly predictable! I downloaded an E-book before flying to LAX today, – Richard Bromfield – How to Unspoil Your Child. Apart from having young children I always find it useful to look at those child wrangling strategies in order to manage the grown children we both are, and manage. Bromfield covers a lot of ground in a very succinct way and invariably (always?) the finger is pointed at the parent. He discusses anger – and that success comes from not displaying it (though admitting at times you will succumb).
I have long held the view that anger, including mine, is almost always driven from something the person getting angry hasn’t done – this in turn is why it can be a successful route to change because you are both the primary (but not only) ‘victim’ you are also the perpetrator and the cause – only YOU have the solution.
To use an example from the responses, and with all respect to Callum (as i have found myself in the very same situation in a foreign country – fortunately not with 3300 staff ) – I would propose that the anger arrives exactly because what else had been tried had failed; out of frustration (and ‘failure’ in the loosest of terms) at our own inadequacy (not that of others) we lose the plot.
I hate getting angry because I know it means there is something I have not done, I am reasonably relaxed when others do, as I know it is their ownership which is needed and I can help them identify that, when we both lose the plot – well I know we both have work to do and I have to be the first one to show I’m prepared to do that.
Reblogged this on Jots & Thoughts and commented:
Always good to look at the pros and cons of “anger.”
Wow I like how real the person was that said #13. It seems like more people deal with anger that way then in any other way. It’s sad too because once something is said it can never be taken back no matter how much you try to apologize. People are willing to forgive the bad things that are said out of anger but they never forget it was said. Acknowledging you do it is the first step to stopping it, so bravo to the person that said that!
It is always harder to say than to do, but I love these suggestions. I truly like the idea of venting to a trusted person or friend and letting them calm you down or change your focus briefly so you can look at the problem constructively. As you said, sometimes anger can be constructive if done right.
Valuable and insightful. Your readers have a diverse way of managing stress and anger. I am going to try to monitor how often I “abuse” my partner by venting to him even when he is not involved. He is a great person because he knows how to change the topic and let me talk out my problems with the day. Always good to have a great friend in your life to tell anything! Good for you, Leadership Freak!
Anger Management is only possible when you have a good set of principles and habits you stick with. The most important one in my mind is to sleep over it. A new day brings a fresh perspective and allows me to reflect on the whole situation. At the end it comes down to an important question:
Do I want to be right or do I want to get it right?
Thanks for sharing this great post.
Reblogged this on Town My Way and commented:
Use frustration to your advantage because there is no sense in letting anger take over. Find what you are actually working for. When things are going good we tend to overlook some of the negative sides of our business model. When we get frustrated we are forced to reevaluate our model and determine what is essential for survival. What makes your business go and what are you building around?
One thing that has helped me is to have a friend or colleague who will allow me to just “vent.” It has to be made clear that the person is just venting and not expecting the other person to find a solution. Also, it needs to be someone who feels equally able to use you as someone to vent to when needed. Sometimes it just helps to hear yourself out loud. Also key is not letting the “vent” session turn into a downward spiraling “gripe session.”
Great post. I try to deal with anger on my own and without the person or situation who is triggering the upset. I don’t avoid it, but I’ve learned over and over again that when I feel mad or victimized by something that it is never constructive to point fingers and try to force someone to take responsibility for my upset. I do have a good friend who makes the space for me to tell them how I’m feeling and allows me to tell my victim story then consciously guides me toward empowered thinking and taking personal responsibility for finding what this upset triggered in me and constructive solutions within myself.
Also, my personal experience has taught me that the thing I think I’m upset about is never what I believe. It is usually that a person or situation outside of me has simply pressed a metaphorical button and mirrored back to me something within that is unresolved and needs healing.
I always try to remember what I learned in my Spiritual Psychology learning. “How you deal with the issue is the issue.”
Once I feel secure in the work I’ve done, if I still see a need to involve the person who triggered the upset, I find I am able to approach it in a much more empowered and conscious way that does not involve projecting my issues on the other.
Thank you for this post.