Removing Wood From the Fire of Anger
ANGER is rampant in the organizations. Why? Because people experience a gulf of difference between what they expect and want, and how things actually are. While the gulf is common, leaders should take the uncommon path to ease this anger and frustration. If you’re a leader, you can do so by expressing yourself more accurately and authentically, and being prepared to serve the greater needs of the team, vision, and community.
Anger is a flag; it is an emotional signal that what you want and what you have are not the same. Anger is a primitive impulse – a burst of energy and power that rises up so you can force the situation to change, to muscle events to fit your desire.
Unfortunately, anger typically fails to achieve positive and successful change. Much of the wood fueling the fire of anger is unmet needs and misunderstandings. By learning to identify and express your needs, you will take away some of the sources of anger.
One personal tool to address the fires of anger is Mindfulness, the meditative practice of awareness. Being mindful doesn’t magically take the anger away, or even prevent the anger from arising. Practicing mindful awareness gives you choices; from choices you can construct the life and relationships that fulfill and engage you. Consider these steps to take back control of your primal flames.
- Pay attention
Notice your body and how it reacts during anger. Feel the tightness, heat, pressure, buzzing, and whatever else your body registers as signs of anger.
Stop. Breathe. You can be angry AND still think through options. You can be angry and be still for a moment.
- Identify what you really want
Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. What is the real need that is causing your anger? Is it a need for recognition, safety, inclusion, growth, control?
- Evaluate how you expressed yourself
Reflect on how well you asked for what you desire. If others are not providing you with what you expect, it may be a sign that you did not express your request clearly enough.
- Do a reality check
Ask yourself whether what you want is realistic and achievable. Is what you want possible from your team? Is your desire something to focus on in other venues? Can other relationships or environments better serve you?
- Express your unmet needs
This step takes some courage. If you believe that what you really want is achievable, then ask for it. You may find that you avoid asking for your real desires for fear of rejection, fear of failure, lack of self value, or some other limiting thoughts.
I am not promising that self expression alone will remove all your anger. However, I have witnessed that self-expression reduces anger and opens the mind to search for creative, applicable solutions to reduce frustration.
Anger flares up quickly, but dies down slowly. As a leader, as a person in relationship, you must be careful not to burn the people around you with the flames of your anger. Unmet expectations are par for the course of life, and so is your capacity to choose your behavior, rather than react like a conditioned animal.