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Published on May 12, 2020

How to Release Anger Without Hurting Others

How to Release Anger Without Hurting Others

There have been times in my life where I got angry and ended up hurting people whom I cared about. Whenever I think back about these bursts of anger, the consequences of me lashing out were always bad.

I have also experienced people unleashing their anger at me and again, the consequence for me was not great.

Anger can cause problems in your life. If left long enough, the negative expression of anger not only affects those around us but also impacts our quality of life and health.

Dealing With Anger and Uncertainty

The NZ government strategy to dealing with the COVID-19 crisis was to put the county into Level 4 lockdown. For the last 4 weeks, I have been living in “lockdown” with my son and husband.

The normal exercise of grocery shopping is now a stressful one. Only one person in the household can go to the supermarket and when you get to the supermarket, you have to manage the required 2 meters distance from each other, shop for your groceries, and keep yourself safe from cross-contamination.

COVID-19 has thrown uncertainty and disruption to our world, our communities, and our lives. As a result, many of us are feeling angry and scared. The basis of this anger comes from our fear of the unknown and having to deal with uncertainty.

Right now, I have no idea what my life and my business will be post COVID-19, and that is scary. I know that if I don’t deal with my feelings of fear, it will build over time and eventually be released through bursts of anger. This is not good for me and for others who may experience the wrath of my anger.

How Do We Release Our Anger Without Hurting Others?

Our relationship with anger determines whether we control this emotion or it controls us. If you want to know how to release anger without hurting others, you first need to understand what anger is all about for you.

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Anger is a natural emotion that we all feel. It is not a solo emotion because many feelings sit behind anger. These feelings can be anything from anxiety, sadness, fear, hurt, shame, feeling threatened, or frustration.

Anger is also not “The Problem”. It is the behavior we use to express our anger that is the real issue.

Susan David Ph.D., an award-winning psychologist and author of the book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, said that “people judge themselves for feeling negative emotions like anger, disappointment or sadness. Repressing or denying these emotions makes them stronger and leads us into deadlock.”

The first step to building a healthy relationship with your anger is to work on becoming more self-aware of the feelings that fuel it.

In a podcast interview, Four Steps to Get Unstuck and Embrace Change, Susan David outlines the 4 steps you can take to create change in your life.[1]

These four steps that Susan David spoke about gave me a framework to use to help me build a healthy relationship with my negative emotions and feelings. They also helped me come up with ideas on how to release anger without hurting others.

Four Steps to Building a Healthy Relationship With Anger

1. Showing Up

Being willing to embrace and deal with uncomfortable emotions such as anger rather than avoiding or repressing them allows you to develop your Emotional Intelligence (EQ).[2] Developing your EQ helps you gain insight and wisdom that enhances your decision-making when choosing the best strategies for dealing with the overwhelming emotions that you are feeling.

Susan David states very clearly that when you do show up, you must not come from a place of judgment but a place of kindness and compassion toward yourself. Emotions are there to provide you with information about what is going on internally for you – that’s it.

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Give yourself a break and accept that you are feeling anxious and angry and that it is okay.

2. Stepping Out

Once you have accepted that it is okay for you to feel angry, then you can step out. This step, according to Susan David, is not an easy one so you must be prepared to do the work to get this step working for you.

This step requires you to detach yourself from your feelings, step back, and observe what these thoughts and emotions are all about.

A great tip that Susan gave that worked for me was to change my self-talk from “ I am feeling angry” to “At this moment I am observing my feelings of anger are present”.

Detach yourself from the monologue in your head, and see the emotions for what they really are. They are there for a reason.

Stepping out is all about you working out what these emotions are trying to tell you.

3. Walking Your Why

Knowing who you are and what is important to you gives you clarity and direction when navigating your way through the complexity of life.

This step was empowering for me because once I got my “why”, I had a point of reference to work from. This insight gave me a foundation from which I could strengthen my will power, my resilience, and my wisdom to help me identify the ways to effectively deal with anger.

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If you are struggling to figure out your values, here is a link to Susan David’s Emotional Agility Quiz.[3] It is a very simple quiz that gives you clarity about what is important to you.

Your values are the driving force to how you live your life.

4. Moving On

For me, this step was the key to me taking action in a way that was sustainable for me. I was not looking for a one-hit-wonder approach.

I recognized that these emotions and feelings I was experiencing as a result of COVID-19 would come back in some form or another. So, I had to make changes that were long-lasting.

Susan David said that to successfully move on, just take small steps. Focus on tweaking your mindset, your motivation, and your habits in ways that are aligned to your values and can contribute to making a difference in your life

Disruption, uncertainly, and change are part of life.

I had to learn how to manage my negative feelings and emotions so that I could navigate my way through these disruptive events of life. If I didn’t do this, then my emotions would control me and that is not helpful at all.

Managing my anger in a productive way comes with a far better outcome than expressing my anger in a way that hurts others.

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When moving on regarding my anger, I spent quite a bit of time working on adjusting my mindset. Because of the Level 4 restrictions, all the gyms were locked down and so walking is the only exercise I can do that gets me out of the house. Every morning I start my walk with a simple affirmation of gratitude and appreciation for all the good in my life right now.

This simple act has had an amazing effect on lessening the intensity of my feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger.

Even though life is still tough and there is so much uncertainty about my future, I feel more in control of my feelings. I don’t have this intense bubbling of emotions going on inside me that can just explode over nothing.

I am more patient of others and definitely a lot more confident about how I process my emotions of anger in a more positive and healthier way

Final Thoughts

Uncontrolled expressions of anger can cause big problems in your life. That’s why it’s important that you learn how to release anger properly and express it without hurting other people.

Building a healthy relationship with anger is the key to controlling it, and the four steps written in this article will surely put you on the right track.

More Tips on How to Release Anger Properly

Featured photo credit: Christian Fregnan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Coaching for Leaders: 297: Four Steps to Get Unstuck and Embrace Change, with Susan David
[2] Institute for Health and Human Potential: What is Emotional Intelligence?
[3] Susan David, The Quiz

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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