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The Science Of Anger Part 1. How You Can React To Anger As A Leader Or Coach

There is a lot of anger in the world at the moment. Directed towards people, organizations and country leadership. Social media means that we are able to express her anger globally, and more easily than we ever have done before. This in turn has been inciting violence, rioting, and political unrest in many countries.

There are many discussions and there is much research about anger in the workplace. Should we express it? Should we not express anger? How do we control this? Should we need to control this in certain circumstances or is it a good idea to allow your anger to show on occasion? The following article shows an overview of anger management and the most recent research relating to how we can work with this in a leadership and coaching conversation capability.

We all get angry, we all feel this emotion, however how we allow it to manifest itself, can be an indication of our environment as children. People with high anger levels may have been exposed to this in their childhood as shown in the article here. Those who have are able to control the emotional breaking system of anger management, still feel anger, but are able to control this. A study here gives an overview. Darin Dougherty and Clinical Psychologist the author states “Healthy people experience anger, but they can suppress it before acting on it.”

Anger can also contribute to other factors increasing anxiety and public or group hysteria. Recent research in 2020 in Korea showed that anger contributed to the spread of misinformation about Covid-19. The sound of anger via social media is higher than ever and switching off digital devices can help reduce the amount of anger which is present.

Anger has been a result of quarantine shown in a paper here. This new phenomenon which many are now working with, has also shown side effects of post traumatic stress disorder and confusion. How we work with people coming out of quarantine may need to be factored into our leadership strategies.

So how should we work with a situation or person where there is a high level of anger in a working environment situation?

Stay Safe

If there is any danger ensure that you put the safety of people at the top of your list.

Stay Calm

Do not take this personally. An increase in your reaction will increase the behavior of the other person. This is about them not you.

Empathize And Listen

First being still and listening, holding the moment and allowing the person space to talk can help. Then empathizing. “I hear you. I can see how frustrating that must be for you. It sounds like this has been really challenging for you”. This is not feeling sorry for the person. This is helping them understand that you are there for them. Reflecting their language back to them, letting them know you have heard them can be useful. Avoid saying “I understand how you feel”. The immediate response can be for an angry person to say that there is no idea how they feel! Keep the focus on them.

Do Not Try To Fix Them

You may not know exactly what is happening at this moment in time. What might this person’s reality be? There are any number of influences in this person’s life which may be causing this. Sometimes now is not the time for fixing that person. They may just want to release their emotion. Gaining understanding of the source of anger can be essential in that person resolving this.

Ask If They Can Define Next Steps

Humans like to have cognitive closure as defined in this paper. Asking how to move forward and what can be done to move towards a positive next step (even just one step) can encourage movement towards a solution focused outcome. Again, ask them how they would like to move forward. Do not give the solution. Alternatively you could offer a collaborative approach. Brainstorming ideas together and allowing them to work out what may happen next. This will help them to move from the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotions to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain which is creative and is responsible for problem solving.

Anger management is part of any leader's portfolio of skills and also generally in day to day life. Our ability to control emotions in particular anger in ourselves and manage this in others, is becoming more important as the world changes. Part 2 - How To Control Your Own Anger will be coming soon.

Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an Executive, Personal and Career Development Coaching company in Hong Kong and New York. She is also the Founder of a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is degree qualified with a Certificate in Professional Coaching from the ICF, Certificate in Team Coaching from the EMCC. Also further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.


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