Anger: How to Rechannel It for Self-Reflection and Self-Regulation
We live in a world that often tells us that emotions are negative and do not belong in the workplace. With so much happening in the world, it is easy to become frustrated and even angry. Anger is not always negative, though. If we can understand how anger works, we can manage it more wisely. As certified work-life strategists, we can coach our clients to manage emotions more productively. We can teach them the benefits of rechanneling anger so that it leads to self-reflection and self-regulation.
When something contradicts our values, attitudes, or perceptions, our body is sent a powerful alarm that stimulates the hormones. The effects of anger are designed to stir our emotions and enable us to restore the balance of right and wrong. But there is a fine line. How do we determine if we are getting angry for the right reason?
We have probably all been in situations where a boss, manager, or colleague lost their temper and said or did “unreasonable” things. Sometimes, these episodes become daily occurrences, leaving everyone to tiptoe around the person.
While there are many factors to explain outbursts of negative emotions, what would happen if we did not reject our emotions and instead were taught skills for self-regulation?
As humans, we have a wide range of emotions. Positive emotions such as happiness, joy, and excitement are socially acceptable. However, sadness, anger, or frustration are viewed as negative emotions that tend to make others uncomfortable. Yet, these emotions, when felt and acknowledged, can be channelled as a catalyst for change.
Understand the Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
Emotional intelligence is: “the ability to understand your emotions and those of other people and to behave in an appropriate way in different situations.”
So how can emotional intelligence be applied in the workplace?
If we review the above example of the colleague having a temper tantrum, we can see why it is important for us to learn emotional intelligence. It’s taxing on everyone involved to have to deal with someone who does not know how to regulate their emotions.
When people have anger management issues, we may tend to think that they are out of control or have low emotional intelligence. Their thinking may actually be distorted. Imagine someone saying something to you about a loved one that might embarrass or even hurt you. You are likely to want to defend your loved one by quickly saying something back to this person. If you revisit your thinking patterns, you’ll see how your response might fuel anger and lead to unproductive results and upsetting interactions.
So, just how do we rechannel anger into self-reflection and self-regulation? Here are a few suggestions:
Maintain Your Internal Locus of Control
Remember the one thing that guides your locus of control—your sense of choice. You have the choice to either react or be proactive in how you respond. You can channel your anger to lash out at someone, or you can rechannel it to respond calmly and rationally, addressing the heart of the issue and finding a reasonable solution.
- What do I have now, and what do I need to do?
- What will the consequences be if I take a certain action?
Anger has consequences.
Accept Our Responsibility to Self-Regulate Our Emotions
The responsibility falls on each of us to learn how to self-regulate so workplaces are healthy and safe environments.
We need to be aware that past anger is sometimes stored in our cellular memories and can be unleashed. Also, certain conditions or disorders make emotional regulation challenging for individuals with, for example, traumatic brain injury, a stroke, or other medical conditions. So, we need to exercise empathy, patience, and be mindful of this possibility so that we gauge our behaviour accordingly.
The SAP Model enables us to trace the cognitive steps to becoming angry:
Should: Revisit your expectations. Do you have a set of “shoulds” or expectations that were not met?
Awfulizing: Pause and reflect. Do you find yourself exaggerating the negative consequences of the violation of your “shoulds?” Are you magnifying the event?
Personalizing: Try to avoid overreacting. Your anger can erupt out of control if you believe someone purposely did or said something to harm you. Do you personalize comments and/or actions and project blaming thoughts?
Blaming thoughts can create a raging inferno inside us that causes havoc on different levels.
Employ Three Strategies for Emotional Self-Regulation
- Notice when heated emotions arise and create space from them. Physically step away from the situation if possible.
- Become aware of what is happening in your body. You may notice your jaw and shoulders are clenched or that your body has tensed. Take a few deep breaths and relax the muscles. Name the emotion and the sensations that are arising.
- Observe what you are telling yourself and use reframing. If you notice you’re telling yourself that you are silly for making that mistake or that you should do better work, it makes sense that you get upset. Instead, strive to show yourself some compassion and grace.
Maybe you did make a mistake, but you are human, and we all make them.
Engage in Journalling: A Helpful Technique for Managing Emotions
For one week, track every time you get angry, why you got angry, and note the physical and emotional triggers that triggered your anger. Keep a journal to help you become more mindful and raise your awareness. Reshift and transmute the patterns that are causing you to become angry to become calmer. When we are calmer, we think more clearly and act rationally.
Adopt NLP Principles: A Guidepost for Understanding Behaviour and Managing Emotions
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an empowering communication and development tool for understanding our behaviour as well as the behaviour of others. It is the study of the language of our own mind and provides an understanding of the conscious mind (goal setter) and the unconscious mind (goal getter).
There are 16 NLP principles or presuppositions.
These NLP presuppositions are assumptions or beliefs that aim to enhance communication and foster excellence. They propel us to consider the possibility of seeing things in a different way instead of resorting to our old ways of thinking. We can start by asking ourselves:
- How might things be different?
- How do we want things to be different?
- How can we make them different, starting with a simple mental shift?
Notice that the fourth and fifth NLP presuppositions are important in managing your emotions and understanding behaviour.
- People respond to their experience, not to the reality itself. Appreciate other people’s interpretation of the world.
- Every behaviour has a positive intention. Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have available at the time.
We can apply these principles through awareness and systems thinking.
Try the Systems Thinking Approach
Systems thinking allows us to utilize this model to identify patterns of behaviour over time. We can observe events or data to understand the underlying structures that drove those events and patterns.
If we observe others’ behaviour, we can examine their values, beliefs, ideologies, and principles that drive that behaviour. We can then understand the connections behind systems thinking—everything is interconnected in this universe!
If we can understand the structures that fail to serve us well, we can expand the choices available to us and create better long-term solutions to issues. However, we need to have curiosity, clarity, compassion, choice, and courage to do so.
Apply the Tip of the Iceberg Model
We often see things by looking at the “tip of the iceberg.” But what happens when we look around it? Applying the Iceberg Model, we can consider what we may not understand or know about the issue. For instance, your clients may find themselves getting angry at a bullying or harassment situation at work. We can employ the Iceberg Model to investigate the mental states, events, patterns, and trends to gain deeper insights into the problem.
Ironically, we may think that our colleagues share the same views or perspectives of the past, or have similar information concerning an issue at hand, yet, this assumption is not always true! Therefore, it is essential to engage multiple people in brainstorming to understand and solve the issue. Remember, there is more than one side to the story and often more than one solution.
Memories become blurred and perceptions can change over time.
Leverage your Subconscious for Support
If you or your clients find you often “get stuck in anger” and don’t know how to solve an issue, don’t fret—ask your subconscious for help! You may fall asleep with the issue on your mind, but when you wake up, you will find you are more alert and ready to see things differently. Your subconscious will prime you to make the right decision and access the right solution. The saying “sleep on it” often works!
When you do receive an answer, remember to thank your subconscious mind—your trusted friend when you need to solve a pressing issue.
So, we can rechannel our emotions back to a state of balance to uncover meaningful solutions. Note that we have choice—we do not have to sit with the anger. We can use our creativity to examine the issue from different angles and regain peace of mind and clarity on how to resolve the issue, or at least see it from a refreshing viewpoint.
To learn more about emotional intelligence, enrol in the exciting Certified Work-Life Strategist course with Career Professionals of Canada.
Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.
Conny Lee is a Certified Holistic Narrative Career Practitioner, Online Business Manager for coaches, Certified Career Strategist, Certified Employment Strategist, and Certified Résumé Strategist. She is focused on supporting people to create the career, business, and life they truly desire and love. To learn more, visit Conny’s website at thevisionaryva.com. When she isn’t working, Conny enjoys reading, listening, learning anything related to personal development, spending time with her family, and working out.