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If You Can Manage Your Anger, You Can Manage Your Relationships

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

We all experience times of heated discussions when we are angry, irritated, or annoyed by our partners, co-workers, or friends. It is how we behave in response to these feelings that make the difference in the course of our relationships: it can make it better or worse.

While irritation and annoyance are easier to manage, anger is an unproductive feeling. Although it is a useful signal, a “warning light” that causes us to act, as a solution, anger rarely helps, for it adds fuel to the fire that often causes inappropriate behavior.

A starting point is to ask yourself how you usually deal with anger. Do you tend to bottle up your feelings and explode later? Or do you vent your anger freely, regardless of when, where, and with whom?

Both options might work for you in the moment, but long-term they will affect the quality of your relationships and even the quality of your health, since repressing feelings lead often to psychosomatic problems.

There is a third possibility: acknowledging and labeling your anger, but getting it under control and behaving assertively.

When you decide that you no longer want to be a victim of your anger, there are some things that you can start practicing.
  1. When you find yourself in a situation that has the potential to become an escalating conflict, slow the process down and increase awareness of your anger’s earliest warning signals. These signals come in the form of bodily sensations: rapid heartbeats, blushing, body trembles, clenched jaw, heating up, and shallow breath.

  2. As soon as you realize the first signs that anger is getting out of control, indicate to the other person that you are feeling angry about the situation and discuss the need for a time-out or a break. Then leave.

  3. While on a break it’s very important that you do not think about the fight because this will only keep you in anger. Instead, find external distractions to calm and soothe yourself: listen to music, check your phone or emails, read a magazine, go for a run, or do some meditation...

  4. Once you feel less angry, become more open to the view of the other. You can actively seek a way of finding at least a piece of truth in what the other person says, regardless of how much you feel certain that he/she is incorrect.

  5. Come back when you feel the anger has subsided. As you feel calmer, you are probably more willing to admit that you, too, have been somehow contributing to creating anger. Taking responsibility and apologizing for things we might have done wrongly leads to a more collaborative way of working with the other person in finding a solution.

If taking a break is not possible due to circumstances, try to be patient. Anger, like other emotions, comes and goes. You can take a few, long, deep breaths and actively put your body in a calmer posture. You might want to relax your jaw, soften your shoulders, and de-tense your body. You can also try repeating to yourself to keep calm or imagining a mental barrier between you and the person in front of you.

Be quiet for some moments and then speak slower. Quiet is the natural state of the body at rest so it will help you calm down. When you speak, try mirroring the other person by repeating keywords that your counterpart has just spoken. This technique shows the other person that you are listening and that you take them seriously, leading to a more collaborative state.

Once you had this positive experience, you will feel more confident about yourself and the way you handle your emotions.

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