You feel that chest full of irritation. Your throat is tight and you are having a hard time breathing?
It feels awful.
How to Handle Anger
What can you do?
Yell? Rant? Curse?
(Cursing’s always a good one for me ‘cause it gets me laughing inside.)
But in fact none of those responses are particularly helpful. They just doesn’t lead to constructive steps forward.
How about stonewalling?
Let’m feel your heat through your stony cold silence.
But neither lashing out nor shutting down lead to a constructive resolution.
What has a chance of working is having “a difficult conversation.”
Finding the Way Forward with Difficult Conversations
A difficult conversation gets under the surface of what’s wrong and finds a constructive way forward.
You don’t cast blame for mistakes people have made. Instead, you find practical steps forward with a constructive discussion that’s unheated, nonjudgmental and neutral.
If you can pull that off when you’re really angry and you’ll qualify for sainthood.
Waiting to Get Curious
As you might have guessed, I’m pissed off at someone. I did curse a bit. And now I’m stonewalling. But eventually, I’ll be ready for that difficult conversation.
Here’s what I want to remember.
Rather than casting blame, I want to get curious about what happened.
Only when I genuinely care about what’s going on in the other person will I be able to have a constructive conversation about the problem. How I handle this is, after all, my choice.
Maybe tomorrow or even next week the heat will subside and curiosity will take its place. Til then, I think I’ll stay quiet. Icy quiet.
For great stuff about difficult conversations, see Holly Weeks’ slide show in the Harvard Business Review online.
Curse, Stonewall, and then Get Curious
Even in the smallest of irritations, you’re likely to move through this pattern. You’ll curse (inwardly anyway), you’ll withdraw, and then when you get curious, you’ll start to find a way forward. Notice your patterns in handling your own anger.
How do you deal with anger? Share your patterns in the comments below.