The human brain boasts an enormous capacity for emotion. It’s one of the things that separates the human race from other mammals. It’s extraordinary when you think about it — but it’s also the aspect of humanity that makes it possible to feel angry at someone.
Like any other instinctual emotion, anger is a natural response to feeling wronged. You can even make anger productive when handled properly. But if you remain angry at someone indefinitely and never seek out a resolution, that simmering fury can become toxic. Here are a few ways not to respond to anger.
1. Suppress the Anger Until You Burst
Some people tend to think that feeling angry at someone is wrong, so they don’t confront the emotion. They try to bury it deep down within them and ignore it. This might work for a while, but eventually, the pent-up anger will build and explode — probably in a way that isn’t productive at all. Instead, when you feel angry, let yourself experience the anger authentically and without self-judgment. Sit with it for a while, assess it and then take action.
2. Avoid Positive Forms of Self-Expression
Although certain forms of coping with anger aren’t helpful such as gossiping, there’s nothing wrong with engaging in some self-expression to help you work through feelings of indignation. For example, try journaling to unravel how you feel and why, or even write a letter to the person who wronged you. You might not send it, but at least you’ll have some insight into what’s making you angry.
3. Turn to Passive-Aggressive Coping Mechanisms
Suppressing anger isn’t a productive strategy, and neither is approaching the object of your ire with passive-aggressive comments that hint at the conflict, but don’t totally reveal it. Your friends family and coworkers aren’t mind-readers, so when you’re angry, take some time to cool down and then let them know. Use “I feel” language to tackle the problem and only deal with one issue at a time. Don’t go overboard and pick apart their every irritating habit.
4. Distract Yourself With a Jam-Packed Schedule
Since anger is an unpleasant emotion, many people feel tempted to avoid it all together. To distract themselves, they’ll dive into activities or stack their schedule. Instead, plan some time to relax and give your nervous system the chance to slowly descend from the emotional high. This will help you approach the system with a clearer head and avoid losing your temper.
5. Ignore Their Point of View
When you feel slighted in some way, it’s easy to think, “I’m right, they’re wrong,” and allow your sense of self-righteousness to squelch any attempts at reconciliation. But you should remember that there are always two sides to every story, even if you don’t know what the other one is just yet. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re angry at and give them the chance to explain their point of view before you hand down a verdict on their behavior.
6. Dwell on the Problem
Once you confront your anger and respectfully confront the person responsible, your emotional work is really done. You might receive an apology or you might not, but you can’t let the actions of the other person involved dictate how you feel about the situation. Assess your anger, speak your mind and then move on, leaving the anger behind. Even if your friend or coworker doesn’t accept fault, you can take comfort in the fact that you responded maturely and respectfully.
Stay Cool During Your Next Conflict
With these tips in mind, approach your next interpersonal conflict with a newfound levelheadedness. You’ll probably feel better about the outcome afterward, and your relationships will likely improve, too.
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