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A key to controlling anger is to not let anger control you

Coach's Corner--December 8, 2008

The Client
Name: Marc
Age: 38
Title: Sales manager
Time at company: 8 years
Industry: Insurance
Issue: Keeping temper under control
Q. I’ve learned to manage my temper pretty well over the years, but when I’m stressed I fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. I don’t like this behavior. How can I avoid it?

A. Combine a hot-headed disposition with regular day-to-day stresses, then add a dose of holiday pressure and worries about the economy. It’s a recipe for blow-ups, but you can bring them under control.

The inner game
Remind yourself what has worked before. What have you done to manage your temper? Consider preventive strategies as well as steps you’ve taken in the moment to remain in control.

Understand your triggers. For example, if you know that last-minute changes or people who don’t follow through will flip the switch for you, plan ahead. Think, “What will I do if…?” so that your plan can mitigate your reaction. You might not see your own triggers, so ask trusted colleagues for their perspectives on what sets you off or even what seems to help you stay calm.

Look for role models. Identifying strategies that others use can give you ideas on ways to be more effective. In addition to people you know, consider public figures and characters in movies and books.

Most importantly, bring down your general temperature. The stresses in life aren’t likely to go away; however, you can influence your overall tolerance. In particular, look at your self-care. It’s not new advice, but it bears repeating: Notice what you eat, get some regular exercise, and get enough rest.  Meditation is another effective option. If you don’t already do these things, consider the barriers that prevent them and look for small ways to get started.

Transform your feelings. When little things get to you, look inside and notice what is driving your reactions. Focus on ways you can have some control so that anger won’t be your default.

The outer game
Start your day with a few minutes of quiet. Reflecting on your day, the tone you want to have, and how you’d like to feel at the end of the day can get you off on the right foot.

Manage your environment. Our society can have an angry tone these days, and these moods are contagious. Try to buffer yourself from anger, whether it comes from people, media, or other sources.

Model calmness. You can’t live in a bubble, but you can handle situations calmly and help defuse them. Find ways to practice. For example, if traffic gets to you, take a deep breath and relax. If you’re with a negative person, point out the positives instead of falling into their mood. Continue to pay attention to your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, too. It’s great preventive maintenance for keeping your temper in check.

If you have to, apologize — and forgive yourself. You won’t be perfect, but a sincere apology will earn respect from others and ease the damage your temper might do.

The last word
It takes courage to tackle a personal habit like losing your temper. Your determination and consistency in approach will bring you greater success.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted December 7, 2008
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