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Keeping Your Emotional Cool

Anger Busting™

Ask yourself this question: "Am I able to remain detached when somebody else is angry or argues with me?"

If you're like most people, your answer is probably not only no, but HECK no.

When you're emotional, what are you listening to? Where is your attention? Is it on the other person? Nope. You're listening to the beast-brain screaming in your own head phrases like these: "How DARE they say that to ME!" "They're calling me STUPID!" "She's ATTACKING me!" "I've GOT to defend myself."

When you're listening to the beast brain babble, you cannot hope to stay neutral. You are literally giving your body a command to flood with adrenaline -- you're preparing your body to either rip their face off or run away. You can't hope to think or speak your way out of the situation because all of the neurons are firing off in an ancient beast-like part of the brain -- and none of the neurons in the rational, higher brain are able to work.

A frequent question I get is "How do I get that little voice to shut up?" My answer, marginally facetious is: "You don't." The best you can hope for is to turn down the volume and just notice that voice there in the background, and not let it determine the outcome. So how do you do that?

Breathe. I mean it. From way down deep in your belly, consciously breathe in and fill your belly--then breathe out slowly through your mouth. A few times. Why? Because the beast-brain adrenaline rush is causing you to breathe rapidly, high up in the chest, and flood your bigger muscles so you can fight or flee. It is depriving your rational brain of oxygen.

You can't think and feel at the same time! Instead, try this:

Shift your body into a neutral posture. If you're sitting, uncross everything and put your feet flat on the floor, your arms and hands open and flat on your lap or on whatever is in front of you. If you're standing, make sure you move yourself so your weight is balanced on both heels. Imagine there are steel rods going from the ground up through your heels, through your hipbones, and straight up your back. Unclench your fists. Uncross your arms. Unclench your jaw. They are all just hanging, relaxed, off the steel of your legs and backbone. Relax your eyes -- make them go soft and fuzzy. How? Breathe.

From that neutral place in your body, make note, like a tape recorder would, of what your beast brain is saying. Just notice it. Don't believe it, just notice. "Oh. I'm telling myself he's attacking my credibility."

"Interesting. I think she just called me a liar." Emulate Spock: "Curious…" "Fascinating."

If you must say something, make it a neutral report about your internal truth: For example

"I'm taken aback, and unable to respond rationally right now. Let me get back to you in five minutes." OR

"I have no idea how to respond to that." OR

"I'm so shocked at what you are saying, I have to think about how I want to respond." OR

"Rather than say something I'll have to take back, I want some time to think about it."

Notice how neutral and "Spock-like" these responses are. You are not adding anything to the emotional intensity. You are giving both of you a chance to work with a creative part of your brain, toward a different outcome than you would get with the destructive part of your brain.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You will still feel like ripping their face off, or running away. DON'T DO IT. Some of you might be afraid that I'm suggesting you surrendering your right to righteous indignation. I'm not. But… if you practice rigorously with this tool, you won't get your righteous indignation in the way of communicating!

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