When You’re Angry: 3 Things to Consider
“I was angry with my friend; I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
This is the first line of A Poison Tree by late 18th century-early 19th century English poet, William Blake.
His sentiment is one shared by many: don’t bottle up your anger. Talk about it. Make peace with the person with whom you are angry.
I remember when Marjory said, “I gave my colleague a piece of my mind for withholding information from me, and, oh my, that was the beginning of weeks of him shunning me. I thought this was the right approach, but the relationship only deteriorated.”
What Marjory did not realize is that there are ways to express your anger that will offend and make your colleague defensive, and there are ways that have a better chance of your being heard, without starting a war!
Three things you want to consider:
(1) How am I feeling? I mean, what is the feeling behind the anger? Was it that Marjory really was afraid that she would make a mistake because she didn’t have all the facts? Was she worried that her colleague didn’t think her worthy of the information? Was she concerned that there is a power struggle building up and her colleague wants to diminish her power? Get in touch with the primary feeling.
(2) Share your feeling and how your colleague’s behavior is affecting you, and
(3) BE READY TO LISTEN TO THE RESPONSE.
Marjory might have said, “I was afraid I’d say the wrong thing about the doctor’s new initiative, because you didn’t tell me about the report that came out.” Her colleague might reply, “You didn’t need to see the report.” or “But I did. I put it in your box.” or “I was in a hurry and I forgot.”
If her colleague feels under attack, he might respond in a hostile manner. Marjory would have to LISTEN, leave a space for silence in hopes that he’ll say more, and then respond, paraphrasing what he has said in order to confirm to him that she has, indeed, been listening. If it’s a simple misunderstanding, again paraphrasing will tell him that he’s been heard.
You don’t want to risk escalating the emotional temperature. Listening can provide an opportunity to reduce everyone’s temperature before Marjory may need to repeat her concern, not as an attack but as a way of sharing her concern and gaining understanding.
Try it! And send us feedback on your experience.