Managing Anger: Three Steps Across The Bridge

by Naomi Drew M.A.

Workplace conflict can sap energy, drain creativity, and cause divisions that are difficult to repair. Conflict at work can negatively affect the bottom line. Yet, strategies are available that decrease conflict and improve workplace climate.

The first step is shifting the mindset. Did you know that the bridge between any conflict and its peaceful resolution is the space we allow before reacting? Here's what it takes to create that space:

awareness, choice, and willingness

1. Awareness - Notice your own reactions in the moment of anger (pounding heart, racing pulse, negative thoughts, etc.) Instead of moving forward with words or physical reactions, take a step back, breathe deep, and feel what you feel. If you have to say anything, try, "I'm really angry now. I need to take a moment to cool off."

2. Choice - Anger makes us think we have no choice but to react automatically. Not true. We each have the power to choose our responses in the face of anger, but first we need to detach from the adrenaline surge that pushes us to act in ways we may later regret. Make a conscious decision to exercise your power of choice next time anger strikes. Instead of doing what you've always done in the past, use the following steps:

* STOP - take a step back and simply notice your physical reactions.

* BREATHE - inhale deeply right down to the pit of your stomach 3 times.

* CHILL - walk away for a moment, get a drink of water, wash your face, or do something else to release the energy of anger. When you've retrieved your grounding, go back and talk about the problem.

3. Willingness - Ask yourself this: Am I willing to give up the way I've reacted to anger in the past to create more positive relationships in the present? This isn't about relinquishing your power or your right to be angry; it is about letting go of reactions that can escalate conflict, diminish the dignity of the other person, and sometimes even lead to long-term divisions. If you're willing to start responding to anger in more constructive ways, use the STOP, BREATHE, CHILL technique next time anger strikes.

We all have the power to get a handle on anger. Willingness to take the first step can spell the difference between divisiveness and harmony. It starts with every one of us. As Gandhi says, "We must be the change we wish to see in others."

Copyright, Naomi Drew, 2006



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