We all get frustrated by the pressures of life but some people, it seems, are angry all the time. So how can we manage and deal with other people’s anger without getting into a conflict ourselves?
Of course, some people will do all they can to avoid conflict. As a result they may find themselves backing away from situations where they should ideally be taking control or may find that their own situation or neutrality is compromised. So what alternative strategies could they be following instead? There are three basic ways to resolve defuse workplace anger and manage subsequent conflicts.
1. In negotiation the parties will discuss the issues themselves and produce a solution.
2. In mediation a third party helps the disputants discuss the issues and produce a solution.
3. In arbitration, a third party reviews each party’s case and makes a decision.
How to Prevent Anger
There is a fourth way of managing anger and interpersonal conflict, which is even more productive and helpful – prevention. Anger and subsequent workplace conflict can often be prevented from arising in the first place by the use of good, assertive communication.
Preventing anger requires specialist skills and an environment that will enable individuals to feel safe to explore their concerns and be assured that they are being genuinely listened to. In this respect it is not enough simply to pay attention. People need to know that the listener is paying attention and understanding what they are saying. This can be achieved by using the following range of communication skills effectively.
- Active listening
- Using open questions.
- Using silence
- Challenging/reality testing
The use of these skills will enable colleagues and managers to help individuals express their feelings and so reduce the chance of a conflict escalating out of control. However, the question remains: How do you deal with anger as and when it occurs?
Individual Anger Management
This can be very difficult, and your own response to someone else’s anger will be affected by how anger was dealt with in your own family and upbringing. For example:
- If you were frightened as a child by angry outbursts you are likely to feel frightened when someone is angry.
- If your family sometimes shouted at each other and then forgot it and moved on, you are likely to feel reasonably comfortable with anger.
- If anger was seldom expressed in your family you are likely to feel confused and inadequate
There are some things you can and cannot do when confronted by an angry person that may help to calm things down. It does not help to try to defend yourself or your company, to get into an argument or become angry yourself. It may help to break eye contact – as two people both refusing to drop their eyes is very confrontational. It is also likely to make the situation worse if you are confrontational, invade the other person’s body space or give them a verbal trigger that escalates the difficulty.
5 Anger Management Tips
- Try to differentiate between current and ‘regressed’ anger. If you’re angry with someone for more than 20 minutes, the chances are they’ve triggered a response to something that happened to you in the past that may not even be their fault.
- Think about the person you’re angry with. Will you still be angry with them in an hour, tomorrow or next week? If not, why ruin their day – and yours?
- Try to relax. Take some deep breaths and calm down. Maybe ‘count to ten’. Get your emotions back under control and try to think rationally.
- If you’re still angry, try using exercise as a release for your emotions, and to stimulate the production of endorphins that will improve your mood. If this isn’t an option, find somewhere private where you can ‘shout out’ your anger, or call a friend who you can offload your emotions to.
- Remember: nobody ‘makes’ you angry– it’s your choice whether that’s how you respond. And you’ll almost certainly feel happier with yourself if you deal with your anger positively and forgive them, rather than letting anger get the better of you.
Interested in further facts about how to deal with anger and conflicts? Then “Cool It! – Anger Management & Conflict Resolution” written by Carole Spiers is the right book for you.
Download this free Anger Management Guide