Are you Angry?
Are you angry because a person, an organization, or a country made the wrong decisions and now you are stuck at home? Are you mad at people in the grocery store because all the TP is gone, or people aren’t wearing masks and are passing too close to you? If you are, you are not alone.
With the massive amount of change we have been forced to endure in a few short weeks, you should expect to be angry. Anger is an important emotion that shows up when we feel threatened, frustrated, or powerless. It shows up when we lose something or someone. It shows up when we are forced into situations that are outside of our control. Anger is human. It is natural. It is OK.
What is not OK is to vent your anger on things, pets, or by hurting yourself or anyone else. If you think screaming, lashing out or rehashing the issue with anyone who will listen will make you feel less angry, think again. Studies show that venting unpleasant emotions only reinforce them. It is also not helpful to bottle up those feelings. Turning anger inward can cause physical and emotional problems, like stress-related diseases and even depression.
So, what is this powerful energy that is erupting inside of you and what should you do about it?
What is Anger?
Anger is energy. Like fear it, is triggered by an event or thought that starts a physiological response. In the case of anger and fear, adrenaline pumps and blood is diverted from “non-essential” systems to our extremities. This internal surge prepares us for massive physical action. You shift into a fight, flight, or freeze response so you can defend yourself, run away, or play dead.
This reaction is incredibly fast because it is ruled by the old brain. The physiological surge takes 90 seconds to course through your body. On the 91st second, you have a choice.
Use your Anger
As the leader of critical projects, your choice is to hold onto your anger or to use it as the energy of personal change. More often than not, leaders mistake anger for power and fear for respect. The truth is that angry bosses are rarely effective. Having a good yell may feel cathartic at the moment, but it creates a toxic environment and erodes your standing among the team. People do not want to work with angry managers.
So, if anger is normal and natural, how can you use it in a positive way?
- First, wait 90 seconds and let the anger pass. As soon as the physiological effects wash out of your body, acknowledge it. Say to yourself, “Wow, I’m angry! Don’t deny it or blame someone else by saying, “You make me angry. Don’t sit on it or hold it in. It is far better to own those big emotions, including anger.
- Next, Investigate the trigger event and ask yourself what about it makes you angry.
- Ask yourself, “What is the threat I feel?” “Why is this threatening to me?”
- Analyze, “How big is the threat?” “What is the worst that could happen?”
- Diagnose how to deal with the threat. “What are some options I could take to minimize the threat?”
- Relabel your anger. Where does your anger fall on the thermometer of emotions? Pick a positive emotion at the same intensity and change the word anger to the emotion you pick. For example, change I am angry to I am surprised. Or, I am angry to I am driven. Or, I am angry to I am motivated to succeed.
- If the trigger for your anger involves another person, decide how to communicate with them in positive way. If you felt hurt or frustrated by their actions, explain how it made you feel and let them know what changes you will make as a result. Be sure to talk with them only after you shift your negative emotions to positive.
You can discover more about managing your emotions in 10 Ways to Cope During Trying Times
When your People are Angry…
The world has changed dramatically in such a short time that it is affecting everyone. Until your team adjusts to the new “normal”, anger will be a constant companion. But that anger does not have to be destructive. Even if your people think they need to vent, you can show them a different way without using your positional power. Here’s how.
- Affirm their feelings. When someone is angry, the first thing they want you to know is that they are angry. Trying to calm things down by ignoring their feelings will not work, even if you are only trying to help solve the issue. Instead, say, “I see that you’re angry (or upset, frustrated, etc.) and I understand your feeling.” This starts the cooling process, even if it doesn’t calm things down immediately. Remember, you’re not agreeing with what they are saying, you are just identifying their feelings and affirming their right to feel however they feel.
- Be honest about your feelings. Let them know how you are feeling, especially if they have aggressively spoken or insulted you. “I see that you are upset about this and I understand how you could feel that way. I want to be honest and tell you that I’m getting defensive and a little upset myself because of your raised voice and physical closeness. Let’s both calm down and talk.”
- Clarify and diagnose. Use active listening checks to make certain that each of you has an understanding of the facts and data. Your interpretations may differ widely, but it is critical to agree on facts. You can agree to disagree.
- Discuss what happens next. Now that you both have learned from each other, what do both of you need to do differently going forward?
- Be appreciative. Acknowledge each other’s willingness to dig in and discuss an emotional issue to maintain your working relationship.
You can learn more about team management during crisis at 10 Motivating Secrets from Great Leaders.
Anger is not good or bad. It is energy. The “goodness” or “badness” is in the choices we make in how to use this big emotion that is welling up. Learn to use your anger as the energy of personal change and motivation. It will serve you and your team well.