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On Anger: Techniques for Managing Emotions at Work post image

I run, I do yoga, I reflect, I write and sometimes I get angry.

As leaders, how we manage our anger and other emotions is vital. Everyone is watching, and if we don’t handle our anger well we can make a tough situation even more difficult.

“Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way this is not easy.”
~ Aristotle

I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but when I’m in a values clash, or if someone isn’t straight with me I get ticked off. I don’t always love how I react on the inside or the outside.

In his work on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes,
Anger is the most seductive of the negative emotions; the self-righteous inner monologue that propels it fills the mind with the most convincing arguments for venting rage. Unlike sadness, anger is energizing, even exhilarating.

Intervene Early in the Anger Cycle

Goleman talks about intervening early in the anger cycle, to challenge the thoughts and assumptions at the source of the anger. This is similar to the approach recommended by the Arbinger Institute in their work around “Self-Deception”. Both approaches focus on truly considering the emotions and values of the other person. Reframing the issues and changing perspective help to organize a more productive response.

While anger breeds more negativity as we subconsciously look for ways to justify our negative emotions; reframing diffuses the intensity and makes room for more logical approaches.

Consider Meditation and Other Mindfulness Techniques

In his book, The Mindful Leader, Michael Carroll recommends mindfulness practices and meditation as a way to get better insights and mastery of our emotions.
Emotions are like unruly but beautiful creatures that we work hard to tame. We want our emotions to behave themselves, but they are not always predictable. Some emotions seem very powerful and threatening, so we have them caged for fear that they will escape, and make us do all kinds of things that we might regret. On occasion, an emotion may break out and frighten others or we may let one out of its cage to prance around and have a little naughty fun, but generally, we work hard to keep them under lock and key. Other emotions we domesticate, and they behave like circus monkeys– entertaining us and keeping us distracted and happy.
Meditation helps us to sit with these emotions and handle then more objectively.

Of course, the techniques that will work best, are the ones we will actually use. As leaders, it is vital that we acknowledge how we handle our emotions and find productive way to manage those feelings productively.

What techniques do you find work best for productively managing anger and other strong emotions?
Filed Under:   Communication
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt is a keynote speaker, leadership consultant, and MBA professor. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, marketing, customer service, and human resources. Named as a top 100 Thought Leader in Trustworthy Business Behavior, Karin helps leaders improve business results by building deeper trust and connection with their teams. She knows the stillness of a yogi, the reflective road of a marathoner and the joy of being a mom raising emerging leaders. Ultimately, it's about Confident Humility.
 

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What People Are Saying

Steve Borek   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

I’m enjoying the book “Search Inside Yourself.” I wrote a post about it a few months ago.

The book suggests meditation, anticipating the situation unfolding, and wishing everyone to be happy. Worth a look.

I naturally remain calm in the middle of the storm. While others are letting their emotions get the best of them, I’m able to slow things down and focus on what’s really going on.

I agree, it all comes down to emotional intelligence skills.

karin hurt   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

Thanks, Steve. I look forward to reading it! Ah yes, slowing down…

gregblencoe   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

Karin,

I love the Aristotle quote!

Like you, I exercise a lot. This helps so much to reduce stress and keep me relaxed.

I’ve also meditated for about five years. This has been really helpful. It has helped me to stay centered and not have as many highs and lows.

Another thing that has helped me is to realize that my anger is sometimes worse than the actual thing that happened. My response to what happened is my choice. Now I’m much more likely to remind myself in the middle of my anger that I can choose to look at this in a different way. And I realize that being angry often isn’t making me happy or contributing to solving the problem.

letsgrowleaders   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

Glen,
Thanks so much for the continued conversation. You always raise such important points. I too find it frustrating when the anger doesn’t really contribute to the problem solving… I am intrigued by your commitment to meditation, particularly as I know you are also so active. I have trouble with complete stillness…namaste.

Larry   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

Bill Burgemeister’s advice was “Never waste a good mad”.
As a young man, I told him that I was trying to never react in anger. His view was that if something really got your blood flowing, it would be best if the person you were interacting with knew that it aroused your passion. Hmmm, sometimes. Maybe the key word in the quote is “good”. But I’m not sure Bill believed in filtering.

letsgrowleaders   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

yup… that seems to be the big trouble for me. I don’t want to waste a “good mad” either.

And I don’t want myself or others to lose the passion, particularly when it is vital. But then again…. just how to express it…so it can be best heard…ahhh, that is the journey.

Sara Parrish   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

Great post, Karin!

With teams I’ve worked with in the past if someone seemed to be getting “angry” about another person, situation, policy, or me, I would ask them to write down their concerns including positives that they could take from the situation. This was a great way for me to assess the situation and work toward a resolution.

By stepping back and not reacting it gives them a chance to stop and look at themselves and the situation. A lot of people don’t “own” their emotions and just have them. As leaders, our stability in owning our own emotions is essential to the success of our team.

I have found that this process very helpful in my personal and professional life. If you think about, how we react is based on how well we prepare.

letsgrowleaders   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

Sarah,
Thanks so much for joining the conversation!

Love the writing down idea. Stepping back can be so important.

Exciting to learn more about your journey this week.

Namaste.

Greg Marcus   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

I have had good luck lately by thinking of what the other person needs when I get impatient, the cousin if anger

letsgrowleaders   |   28 August 2012   |   Reply

Greg,
So great to hear from you. Thanks! Agreed… really thinking about what the other person needs particularly at points of impatience can really help. That’s when it can be the most difficult and most important.

Marcus   |   29 August 2012   |   Reply

“reframing diffuses the intensity and makes room for more logical approaches.”

I’d like to read a post with some constructive examples of successful reframing.

letsgrowleaders   |   29 August 2012   |   Reply

Marcus, that is a good idea. I will work on a follow-up post with some more examples for the future.

Paul Koppel   |   14 February 2014   |   Reply

Anger is normal human emotion, each and every one used to experience. Regular practice of yoga, meditation, exercise are really helpful in reducing the anger. If you are anger then unload all the feelings of anger, by expressing the feelings to your friend. Spend some time in greenery, or go to some ride.