By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I've been in my career for about 20 years, and the older I get, the crankier I get. Even little things will set me ruminating for hours. I've tried just shifting my attention, but my thoughts go right back to what upsets me. Is there any way to work with anger that doesn't leave you drained at the end of the day?
A. Yes, realize most of us just don't understand that the function of anger is to get us to understand what we need to change about how we act and to give us the energy to do so. When we are angry, we tend to feel less scared of the consequences of change and more willing to try a different way of operating.
I'm not giving all my readers encouragement to have an angry free-for-all this Monday morning. Walking into your workplace and saying the first thing that feels good is worse than doing nothing and seething internally. Most people confuse anger with yelling, accusations and general bad behavior.
There are three common reasons that you get mad at work:
1) Anger is an internal response to an external event that we interpret as a problem. You may have misunderstood the internal event, and something as simple as paraphrasing the person you're mad at will reveal that you have misunderstood their intentions.
2) You want something from someone, and you have not been effective at asking for it. Your anger is attempting to get you to be clear about asking for what you want (hint: this doesn't mean accusing the other person of any wrongdoing).
3) Someone is doing something that is not working for you. In this case, you need to invent consequences that they will not enjoy if they continue to repeat that behavior. Again, this isn't a threat, it is a promise that if they do x, you will do y. You want to motivate them to act well, not bully them into fearing you.
Unfortunately, anger has a bad reputation as an emotion that immature or weak people have when they let someone "get to them." The truth is that we are all a work in progress, and people act as sand within our oyster shells. If we can look at the grain of sand that is irritating us and understand what we need to change, we will end up with a pearl of wisdom about how to be effective.
Another trap people have at work is thinking that other people "make" them mad. In reality, people cannot instill an emotional reaction inside of us. When we are mad, it us up to us to figure out how to change what we are doing so we are no longer annoyed.
Frances Willard, American educator, temperance reformer and women's suffragist, once remarked, "I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum." Next time you're mad, use the energy to figure out what you want and how to get it. Anger can light your fuse in the directions of your dreams if you listen deeply to what your frustration is trying to tell you.
The last word(s)
Q. Can I work with someone I don't like?
A. Yes, people we don't like often share our same weaknesses. Take a look in the mirror at the way you may be similar and then try dealing with them.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This was printed in the April 8, 2012 - April 21, 2012 Edition