How do you react when someone makes you angry? Do you come out ‘guns-a-blazin’ ready to annihilate the other person?
Or do you sulk and and give the cold shoulder.
Neither of these ways will result in a successful outcome. Read on …
South African Taxi-drivers
I live in South Africa and our taxi-drivers make me really mad! I’m not talking about your regular cab-driver but mini-bus taxi drivers. Mini-bus taxis are the main transport for thousands of South Africans. They drive dangerously and are a law unto themselves. Driving through red traffic lights and overtaking on solid white lines are minor transgressions. Most road deaths here are from accidents involving these mini-bus taxis.
A time when I was as Mad as Hell!
I was fetching my daughter from school when I was caught in a minor traffic jam. A bit of patience and we’d get through without huge delays. I was chilling out when I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the taxi behind me starting to overtake me on a solid white line and on a blind corner. I was furious! No ways was I going to let him in and I quickly closed the gap between me and the car in front.
I soon changed my mind! My blood pressure was rising and I realised that I wouldn’t win. Taxi-drivers here don’t mind dents in their vehicles, but I do. I could see he was trying to push me off the road. I gave up and let him in but was still very angry!
Thinking further down the line!
I then thought that my determination not to let him in, could possibly contribute to a terrible accident. What if he collided head-on with an innocent motorist coming round the corner. That sort of accident could be averted if I just let him in. So even though I had a right to be angry, and felt justified not letting him in, I had to think a bit further down the road about the possible consequences of my behavior? (I wish he had done the same.)
Although innocent I had to take responsibility for how my angry reaction could aggravate the situation.
THREE WAYS TO RESPOND TO ANGER!
- The ‘Mad’ route
- The ‘Sad’ route
- The ‘Glad’ route. Why ‘Glad’? Well, ‘glad’ rhymes with mad and sad and so is easy to remember! We need to aim for the ‘Glad route’ where everyone ends up happy.
The Mad Route
When someone criticizes you do you attack them back? Many people justify their angry outbursts by saying ‘that’s the way I am – I blow up and then it’s all over’. However, that sounds like a shotgun firing, and what about the damage that’s left behind? The implication of this kind of remark is that you’re not responsible for your behavior.
If you get mad when someone criticizes you the implication is that you’re perfect and don’t make mistakes. ‘How dare so-and-so criticize me, the perfect one!’ By the way an anger response is very common to a perfectionist..
Getting ‘mad’ badly affects your joy and health. Excessive anger leads to raised blood pressure and a possible heart attack as well. It causes anxiety for those around you. We can conclude that a knee-jerk ‘mad’ response is a BAD IDEA!
The Sad route
When someone is angry with you do you have a ‘pity-party’? Poor me! Or maybe you withdraw, give the cold shoulder, or the silent treatment for a few days. The problem with this type of response is that it is very manipulative. Getting mad is an active anger response, withdrawing is a passive anger response. It is not loving and actually quite self-centred.
Bottling up your anger can lead to bitterness and poisons the system. You can bet your bottom dollar it will find release somewhere, even after a very long time. I have heard people spew out long built up resentment and it’s not pleasant. A bit like an old-fashioned pressure cooker which leaves a mess everywhere when it explodes.
The Glad response
To get the best result when someone is angry with you need to watch your tongue. Count to 10 before your respond. Think before you speak. Ask yourself if it is really worth loosing your cool over the issue.
I think we can learn a valuable lesson from Abraham Lincoln. When he had to write a letter to someone who had irritated him, he would often write two letters. The first letter was deliberately insulting (giving full vent to his anger). Then, having got those feelings out of his system, he would tear it up and write a second letter, this one tactful and discreet.
3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVELY DEAL WITH ANGER
Step 1. If someone is angry with you RULE ONE is do not defend yourself. Yes, you read right – DO NOT DEFEND YOURSELF! We have two ears and one mouth so we need to listen twice as much as we speak! Listen to what the other person has to say.
A person who immediately becomes defensive usually responds this way because of a poor self-esteem. Do not defend yourself and remind yourself that the angry person is entitled to his opinion and that is all it is, his opinion.
Step 2. Listen for a grain of truth in what the other person is saying and acknowledge it to the other person. At this point it is not about you but about making the other person feel heard and loved. Find out more. Even if you feel there is no truth you can still be loving. Thank the person for sharing their feelings. Listen because the person can be right or wrong, or somewhere in between. How are you going to know if you don’t listen! None of us are perfect (that’s a fact!) and maybe we can learn something from the other person’s criticisms.
Step 3. Clear up any misunderstanding. Respect the other person for having the guts to share their feelings with you. Speak the truth in love
The Book of Psalms in The Old Testament is full of wisdom about anger. Here’s a selection of wise sayings.
Don’t make friends with people who have hot, violent tempers. You might learn their habits and not be able to change. Proverbs 22: 24-25
People with quick tempers cause a lot of quarreling and trouble. Proverbs: 29:22
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29
Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace. Proverbs 15:18
People with a hot temper do foolish things; wiser people remain calm. Proverbs 14:17
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs19:11
A fool gives full vent to his anger – a wise man keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11
Come to think of it, the world would be a better place if we all learnt how to deal with anger, wouldn’t it?