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Step-By-Step Guide: How To Manage Your Anger

Step-By-Step Guide: How To Manage Your Anger

You don’t feel proud, but sometimes you can’t help it. Anger takes control of the situation and you end up embarrassing yourself in public, or entering in a discussion you didn’t want to. Sometimes it is nobody’s fault, just a series of bad circumstances piling up until the outburst happens. The main point is that you didn’t want to get so mad, but you did. You snapped. And then everything was a mess despite your best try to keep it down.

You have to know that this happens to all of us. Anger is powerful and necessary: it serves a function. But it shouldn’t rule your life. You are in control. Looking into the past has no use, my friend. Take a deep breath and let it go. It is time to focus on doing better the next time anger takes the best of you.

Just a warning: This will require your entire commitment and determination, so if you are expecting a “count ten” or “relax” kind of article, you better move to another one. But if you follow the instructions, I promise that anger will never rule again your life.

1. To Stop the Gun You Need to Know What Is the Trigger

Anger might be more or less accepted, but let’s be honest: it is part of the human behavior. It helps us to understand things that make us feel uncomfortable, threatened or upset. However, how we manage it is our choice.

The first step to assure your victory in this battle is dating your enemy. It is impossible to fight a fear if you don’t know what it is. To know how anger plays you each time you snap, you have to get underneath its skin.

It is vital that you understand why.

Here are repeated patterns that people feel identified with:

  • Have you feel that something was unfair? Probably you have been blamed (even punished) for something you weren’t responsible for.
  • Have you feel you were losing control? Your job was threatened, your partner broke up with you, or a great opportunity passed by.
  • Have you feel physical or emotional pain? A rough discussion or a bad injury that persisted.
  • Have you feel threatened? Somebody criticized your work or said you could do better.

These are common causes to get really stressed out, even mad. Nobody likes not being rewarded for a good job or deal with a messy house when you get home tired. You and I, we both have expectations that need to be fulfilled, and when that is cut short, frustration reveals itself.

Do not underestimate the relevance of this step.

Identifying your triggers is the main key to manage your anger correctly. You are a smart, strong individual and you can do better than a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way. Take a few moments to think about some things that trigger your frustrations: from the way somebody talked to you yesterday to the annoying traffic lights.

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2. Feeding the Wrong Habit

Anger is a habit —not a good one, of course. You might not have thought about it, but the same way that as soon as you wake up you [get dressed / brush your teeth / drink a glass of water whatever that applies], when you see something that doesn’t fit your expectations, anger skyrockets.

Take a quick look to these habits:

  • Waking up is the trigger  brushing your teeth is the reaction — fresh sensation in your mouth is your reward.
  • A sudden twist of your plans is the trigger — anger is the reaction  releasing the frustration through a tantrum is your reward.
  • The alarm is the trigger — hitting the snooze is the reaction — having 5 more minutes to sleep off is the reward.

And we love those 5 more minutes.

Habits, no matter how complicated they are, are always constructed by these three basic elements. The problem is that you have interiorized anger as your natural reaction and you no longer think about it: that is the tricky aspect of habits.

Charles Duhigg does a great job explaining habits’ formation and how they rule our lives on The Power of Habit. It is a simple process that if you conquer today, will give you an incredible power and control over your own decisions. Habits are a loop of actions and reactions you perform unconsciously. Master your awareness and you will triumph over your habits —and of course, over your anger.

Here is a simple exercise:

If you have already identified some of your triggers, fill up the blanks to get a bigger picture. This will help you to clarify the process and move to the next step.

[blank] is my trigger  [blank] is my reaction  [blank] is my reward

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3. Breaking the Chain of Reactions

Once you are aware about how your habit looks like, it is time to change it. And here is where it gets awkward. Bear with me. You and I have heard thousands of times “relax”, “count until 10”, etc. All lies.

Let’s face it: when your anger gets to the dangerous point of a boiling pot, there are not many chances to stop it. Relaxing techniques work when you are able to realize you are getting into a hazardous area, not when you are already in it. That is about awareness and it takes longer to master.

So instead of trying to breathe and take control over the situation —which you have failed to do hundreds of time—, try to do something absolutely radical.

Don’t think: Just do it.

  • Shut up, stand up and jump.
  • Tell a bad joke.
  • Sing a song.

Yes, you read me well. Do something absolutely ridiculous and not related.

Don’t call me crazy yet. What we are doing here is breaking a habit right in the middle of its process.

The faster way to stop your next fight is link a completely different reaction to the habit. When you are about to break down, I promise that if you switch what you are doing before (or even during) letting the anger out, all the hard feelings will go away in a second. However, don’t leave the situation. You are not avoiding it, just cutting the habit.

You might feel embarrassed but the frustration will automatically cease because in the end, we are more in control of it than we like to think. Next time, you will remember the feeling and your frustration will slow down. If you don’t believe me, give it a shoot and come back later amazed by its effect.

You might be wondering…

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If it works, why nobody is doing this?

Easy: they focus on the wrong strategy.

Many people believe that if you acquire a deeper understanding on how your anger works, you will be able to stop it by snapping your fingers. “Let’s dig into the root of the problem!

There are only two ways to change your behavior: you avoid the trigger or you switch the reaction. I want you to understand this because my goal is that you regain control. I am not trying to “stop” anger since it is a natural feeling —and a useful one. I am preventing you from letting it get to your nerves and rule your life.

Once you have cut the process several times, you will be able to discern the moments before anger drives you completely nuts. That is the point you want to achieve. Then, you will be able to take it easy and act rationally.

4. Letting the Anger Go Away

People say that one shouldn’t let the anger out, but if you don’t get rid of it eventually it will be more harmful.

This doesn’t mean you have to yell or create an uncomfortable silence: there are ways to let it out without making a scene that actually help to tame your temper. Getting upset is a sign that something is not going as you expected and that generates frustration. It is a natural warning sign.

Sometimes, the frustration grows so fast that it bursts into pure anger. Once you are able to prevent the “boom!” by managing your anger, it is time to release the frustration in a healthier way. Breaking things, screaming to the nothingness or doing whatever you used to do during a tantrum, it is not the way.

What you create by doing that is another bad habit. You are not crushing it, just pushing it away for a little bit.

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Once the tension is gone, it is a good moment to reflect and talk. If you don’t like sharing feelings with others, you can always write it down or go somewhere to write anonymously (Reddit will do for this). This way you are opening a door to kick out your frustration.

However, don’t fall into these commons mistakes:

  • Don’t focus on the problem: this means, don’t over think it. Try to identify the trigger and then, let it be in the past.
  • Don’t blame others: reflection is time to heal, not to judge.
  • Don’t get stuck on the things you did wrong: find the things you have done differently this time.
  • If you didn’t change the pattern, don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to acknowledge what went wrong.

By doing these you are not only approaching a different way to release the frustration, you are also redefining a new pattern of thinking. This is called Cognitive Restructuring, and it helps you to deal with problems differently. To reinforce this pattern, you can ask yourself these questions and answer sincerely:

  • Could you have avoided the trigger?
  • Could you have approached the situation differently?
  • Do you regret something you did or said?
  • Should ask for forgiveness?

5. Changing Your Habits is Changing Your Life

There are many other practices you can add on top of these ones to create a more solid and consistent habit to manage your anger. The easiest one is avoid your triggers, right?

If you know that getting stuck in traffic won’t help your morning, try to leave home earlier so you skip the rush-hours. If fast food hurts your stomach, find a please were you can get healthier meals for the week. There is a solution for almost every problem: be wise.

Meditating, learning breathing techniques, even seeking professional help or supportive groups are a great core of resources to have on mind. Taming your anger it is not a sign of weakness but a sign of self-discipline.

There is no need to get overwhelmed by your frustrations and make a scene each time something goes wrong, ruinning your day. You are better than that. You are in control of your anger therefore you are in control of your life. Acknowledging this will make you more confident and strong.

Next time, you won’t feel embarrassed; you will be proud.

Featured photo credit: Stefan Kunze via albumarium.com

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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