How to Transform Anger Into Constructive Action Become more successful by understanding what underlies your anger.
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Yesterday, I had a conference call with business partners scheduled for 2:30 p.m. At 2:45, I received a call saying we had to wait because one of the partners hadn't called in yet. Calls like that kept coming in for the next two hours, leaving me more and more frustrated. It wouldn't have been so upsetting, except this same partner has done this time and time again. As it turned out, he did call on time, but someone missed his call.
While sitting by the phone waiting, I reflected upon what I should say and how I should say it. I knew it would be detrimental to speak of it in anger. But I knew it would also be detrimental to say nothing. So I decided to calmly and respectfully say something to the team. It went something like this -- "Guys, we're a team, and we have to work together as a team. Being two hours late for a meeting compromises the team. I can understand how there can be an occasion where it is unavoidable, but it has been a pattern not only with me, but with other business people. Now, I understand that you, Bob, did call in and someone missed the call. But when we have an appointment, you should call back more than once. You should send emails if need be. Try different numbers, do something. Don't just make one call and walk away, compelling everyone else to sit around waiting. Okay?"
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The idea here is to enhance my relationship with the partners and to gain their respect -- not to alienate them, heighten the conflict or compromise our relationship.
Transforming our anger.
There's an all-important message here in regards to dealing with anger. Instead of lashing out, we need to find a constructive way to deal with the situation. There is no reason to suppress our anger, but we do need to transform it. It's natural to feel like we must explode to release our anger. The reality is, we will feel worse about ourselves and compromise the situation by doing so.
We feel much better about ourselves, improve the situation, and release the inner tension constructively by taking the time to get to the rational root of the situation and then express that understanding wisely and maturely. Instead of feeling bad about our immature behavior, we feel good about how we handled the situation. Instead of rallying to justify our lashing out, we feel empowered.
Letting off steam.
Of course, there are times when it's fine for us to show our anger. Generally, that's the case when the person we're angry with is not present. Then we're just letting off steam which will allow us to speak about it properly when we see the person again. However, if we do this, we should maintain a respectful attitude for the person. While it can be helpful to let off steam, it shouldn't turn into slander of the person. Talking through an issue with others can be helpful, but it can easily lead to gossip, which is destructive.
Also, don't overindulge. It's one thing to let it out. It's another thing to try to put out the fire by fanning the flame. Excessive venting feeds negativity.
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There may be times when we do well to show our anger directly to the person involved. Sometimes, showing how we truly feel is the only way to get our message across with sufficient emphasis. But in such cases, we need to be able to manage it. We might even say we're using the display of anger wisely. We can refer to that sort of anger display as "controlled anger."
However, we are not capable of controlled anger until we have mastered the art of transforming our anger into calm, mature and rational behavior. Instead of a wild, volcanic explosive anger, controlled anger is more grounded, coming from a place of inner stability and reason. Like anger transformed into a calm demeanor, controlled anger is also followed with a feeling of respect from others and for ourselves.
Anger is a normal human emotion. We don't need to judge ourselves for feeling angry. Thinking that, in order to be a better person that we should never feel angry, is unrealistic. However, we do need to learn to deal with our anger wisely.
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Look deeper for the root cause.
We need to give ourselves the time and space to get to the root cause of the anger before we act. Anger is usually an emotion that is based upon a very different emotion. Oftentimes, the root cause of anger amounts to nothing more than hurt feelings. We feel hurt, frustrated, threatened, judged, wronged or disrespected, and we respond not from that root emotion, but instead with anger. In this sense, anger is a disingenuous display. It's not truly expressing the real underlying feeling. Instead, it arises from a state of inability to deal with the deeper emotion.
Maturity in life and success in business depends upon our ability to see what underlies our anger. The most successful business people understand the full range of their emotions.