A few weeks ago my wife and I started to talk about our different parenting styles. In my experience, 98 percent of the time that’s a topic that leads to me getting angry and a big argument blowing up between us. But because it’s a pattern that I’ve learned to recognize, instead of responding with anger (like I usually want to), I made a decision to stop talking about it and walked away. When my wife later asked me if I was mad at her, I said “No, I just wanted to walk away before we got into an argument.”
I realize that might not be the most polite way to deal with anger, but I think it’s better than getting into a big argument. It’s a way for me to calm down and restart the conversation. So when my wife and I did talk about it again, we were still a little irritated, but the temperature of the conversation had gone down. Because I recognized the pattern, I was able to curb my anger and we were able to avoid a big argument.
I’m writing this for people that struggle with anger to help them better understand ways to work through their anger and understand that they’re not alone in their struggles with anger. Maybe you can try some of the things that have worked for me, and better yet, the ones that didn’t work for me, because they may work for you. Here are some things that I have found to be helpful (and not so helpful) in dealing with anger
- Be aware of the subjects that can make you mad. As I said in the beginning, I’ve started to recognize certain patterns with my anger, which helps me to stay in control during those situations. Another example is that when someone speaks to me in a certain tone of voice–like if an older person talks to me like a kid—I realize that I could be likely to get angry, and I make a mental note of it.
- Think before you speak. In those moments I tell myself: don’t get angry. In my own mind, I have to freeze time and think before I speak. I try to slow down my thought process and try to find a better way of handling things instead of yelling and getting angry. As I said in the beginning, one of the things I’ve found most useful is to just stop talking and maybe walk away to relax or think for a second before saying something that I shouldn’t (especially if it’s front of children). When someone strikes my anger nerve, I try not to act on it, but to calm it.
- Use cold logic on yourself. When I slow down, I try to use logic on myself and think, Did I do something wrong? For instance, one day I was 15 minutes late for work and one of the managers said, “You should be at work on time tomorrow.” I wanted to get angry at him about it, but when I actually thought about it, I realized that he was right and that I should be on time. In other words, I have to take responsibility for my own actions and things that I can change. As an article that I saw about how to curb anger put it, “Remind yourself that the world is ‘not out to get you.’” You might just be having a bad day, or have made a bad choice.
- Give yourself some grace. When I do mess up and let anger get the best of me, I can’t be too hard on myself, because then I’m not giving myself any room for growth. I’ve gotten angry at myself a 1,000 times for getting angry, but the more I let myself down, the better I’m getting at saying “Okay, I messed up,” move on, and try to do better next time.
- Think happy thoughts. That’s one that didn’t work for me, because when I get angry there are no happy thoughts! But maybe it will work for you.
Getting rid of anger is a slow process. You’re not going to wake up one day and find that it’s suddenly gone. I still get angry, but I’m getting a lot better at curbing it. You have to commit to working on it, be aware of your anger on a daily basis, and teach yourself to slow down. And don’t forget to laugh at yourself, too: because sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.