We all know the angry dude. The asshole in the car that won’t let go of his horn, and fifty of us around him are suffering until he stops, because he needs to be heard, the guy who goes from one to ten in a matter of minutes and just about anything will make his lid blow. The guy that throws things, breaks things, slams things, and walks out trembling. The guy who enters a room and everyone is worse for it.
Anger: a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. But more importantly, in my opinion, anger is the need to be heard. When we are yelling, honking, breaking, throwing and huffing, we are actually saying, “listen to me!” The adult tantrum is from not being understood. An angry person will often say, “I can’t control it”.
So let’s get to the meat. Here’s a short list of how to overcome anger and conflict:
1. Rate the anger. On a scale of 1-10, and only 8, 9, 10 matter. If it’s a 1-7, throw it out. So, if I light your house on fire, that’s a 10. It matters. But if I forgot to clean my dish, that’s a 1. And if you react by yelling and calling me names, the crime of your reaction is far worse than my crime of leaving my dish. And now it is not about the dish, it is all about your angry reaction. The fact that I left my dish is lost and unimportant. A fight ensues. And this is totally unproductive.
So what’s the solution? Okay, so let’s say I left my dish, and this annoys you, before you go to 10, rate it. It’s a 1- 2 at best. So breathe. You want to address this. Flat line your words, talking without emotion. If you use emotion all we will hear is your emotion and the words will be lost. It’s now about your anger and not about my dish.
Validate the other person first, and then state how it makes you feel. For example, “I know you are busy (validation), but when you leave your dishes, it makes me feel like you don’t care I have to cook”.
2. Solve the problem. Instead of getting angry, figure out the best solution. For example, a friend of mine (I’ll call her Sara) told me about the day her son was playing on the grass and a man was walking his dog. The dog peed on a bush near the boy.
Sara said to me, “how dare he let his dog pee near my child; I went right up to him and told him what an inconsiderate jerk he was… And then we got into a yelling fight and other people walking by, asked us to be quiet…he threatened to call the police…” All I could think is what a disaster. I had a hard time listening to her rant. She was clueless at the toxic energy she spread. Her kid felt it, the man felt it, the dog felt it, the people walking by felt it, and even Sara felt it. All because Sara decided to get angry instead of trying to see through the man’s lens. Furthermore, all of the aforementioned involved will carry these bad feelings for a few hours thanks to Sara. Well done.
And what if Sara said nothing. And just realized the guy most likely didn’t notice the kid when his dog peed. And what if she smiled and said in earnest, “Have a great day, Sir!” And what mountains she could have moved, brightening someone’s day instead of ruining everyone’s.
Which brings me to 3.
3.Its not the freaking Sara show. Stop just seeing through your own self-entitled eyes. Other people are sharing the grass, or not noticing you’re on it. Or their father is dying, their knees hurt, they are losing their job, or getting a divorce or whatever. They are hurting too. It’s not your freaking show. It’s not all about your needs.
4 Look at motivation before getting angry. Let’s keep on the Sara sitch. Did the man with the dog mean to be a jerk to you and your kid, purposely letting the dog pee to intentionally shove it up your ass? Most likely, no. Not at all. In fact, he didn’t even notice your kid. He had no motivation other than to walk the dog, so let it go.
5 Have some humor for drying out loud. It’s not that serious. I keep a little guy on my shoulder (about 2 inches high, feel free to carry a girl, mine’s a guy). And he is super cool, witty and even tells me when I’m wrong. So in this situation, the dog pees next to my kid, the guy on my shoulder would whisper, “nice going dude”. The little guy on my shoulder would laugh, as would I. And I would wish the dude a nice day. And I would move on from it. No offense taken.
6 Play out both movies. Okay, so we saw that movie, let’s play out the other one.
Which movie above would you want to be in? The one where Sara made a scene or the one where we laughed it off?
Instead of choosing anger, look through the other person’s lens and let the f*ck go 😉
Jacqueline Donelli is a Psychotherapist in NYC