In this video, Marlene Chism uncovers three myths about anger: that anger is bad, that you need more self control, and that anger should be avoided at all costs.
- I can't tell you how many of my coaching sessions have started with this confession. "I have an anger problem." I can remember hearing these words from a project manager who by his own admission told me he blows up on his team members. And he was worried that he was about to blow up on the owner of the company. He came to me seeking techniques on self-control because he was emotionally drained from trying to avoid his feelings of anger. Like this manager, I would say that most of us secretly struggle with what we believe to be an anger problem.
But what if I told you that anger isn't necessarily a problem? But instead, it's our beliefs about anger that keep us imprisoned. Let's look at three myths about anger and expose them so that we can be free. The first myth is that anger is bad. The second myth is, I just need more self-control. And the third is anger must be avoided. Let's tackle myth number one. Anger is bad.
If you believe anger is bad, then you judge yourself when you get angry. Likewise, you probably judge others when they get angry. What we're really judging though is the behavior. The behavior might be unprofessional, unproductive or unacceptable. But the behavior that results from anger is distinct from the emotion of anger. To break this myth, let's step out of judgment and reframe anger. Anger is an emotion. An emotion that's trying to get your attention.
It's trying to make you more conscious of your choices so that you can respond rather than react. Anger is saying to you you're tired, you're really hungry, you need to ask for what you want. A boundary has been crossed. It's time for some fun. You need to stop taking on everyone else's issues. You need to slow down. Now, you may still ask, "so is anger good or bad?" The answer is neither.
Anger is an emotion that can be channeled to benefit you. But it's difficult to make anger work to your benefit when you fall for the second myth I just need more self-control. Because this myth is partly true. We can all benefit from more self-control. But without awareness and without adequate resources, self-control flies out the window and we go on survival mode. You and I have only so many resources for self-control. For example, you've been keeping 12 hour days.
You didn't get any sleep last night. Oh yeah, and your teenage daughter, she stayed out all night long and you have a project due tomorrow. You skipped lunch. How well do you think your self-control is going to work on this day? I wouldn't rely on it. Your resources are drained. You need some rest. You need a good meal. You need a clear head. And let's face it. You probably need a little fun. It's almost impossible to exert self-control when you're extremely frightened or when all of your resources are depleted.
Learning self-control is an act of discipline. But under certain circumstances, we can't completely rely on self-control alone. Okay. Myth number three. Anger must be avoided at all costs. People try to avoid the feelings and the expression of anger. You may pretend things are okay when they aren't. You may want to appear polished. You may want to be perceived as perfect therefore, you suppress your anger.
For example, as a manager, you may avoid initiating difficult conversations not only because you're avoiding your own anger, but you're afraid to provoke anger in your employees. Personally, I've seen marriages break up because people avoid their feelings and thus avoid speaking their truth. The truth is, anger can't really be avoided. It leaks out in sarcasm, undermining, irritation and passive aggressive behaviors. If you and I are going to tackle our anger problems, we've got to bust those anger myths once and for all.
Remember, anger, it's not mad. It's just an emotion. Managing anger is all about self-control but you only have so many resources for self-control. And anger can't be avoided. It leaks out in other ways. In fact, avoiding anger is like ignoring a red flag. Eventually, red flags because white elephants that get in the way of productivity, effectiveness, and even personal happiness. The first step to managing your anger is to reframe anger so that you make anger work for you instead of against you.
- Acknowledging an anger problem
- Using calming techniques
- Avoiding other people's issues
- Understanding your triggers and old behaviors
- Mastering your narrative and taking control
- Setting appropriate boundaries
- Making anger work for you