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Handling Anger

Handling anger
Second Opinion: Carmel Wynne Irish Times 06 03 2007 by kind permission
How do you decide if you have had a good or a bad day? Have you the self-awareness to know yourself? Or do you discover you are stressed and out of sorts by default, when someone tells you?
Brian returned home one evening after learning that one of his top managers was leaving to go to a rival company. He shouted at his son to clear his toys away, snapped at his daughter and when his wife asked, "Why are you so angry?" he exploded in denial.
"I'm not angry. Can't you see that the children have to learn to think of others and you shouldn't criticise me in front of them."
Brian lacked the capacity to take his emotional temperature. He literally did not recognise his feeling of anger.
He knew he was upset that he was losing another excellent manager. But he failed to see that he took his feelings of anger out on his children and upset his wife.
Ignorant of his emotional state, he alienated others without any awareness of the cost to himself, his company or his family.
As chief executive officer of a highly successful company, Brian saw himself as a high achiever. He had no time for "touchy feely nonsense" and found it irritating that his wife assumed that she knew how he felt.
We all know the Brians of this world.
People who get angry and they don't know it. If anybody dares to suggest they're angry, the immediate denial, "I'm not angry", is offered with a furious tonality.
Yet this denial is not a lie. Some people are not in touch with their feelings. They genuinely do not recognise their own emotional response.
I've met a tiny number of men who took pride in their ability not to allow feelings to interfere in their decisions.
Emotional self-awareness is the foundation on which most of the other elements of emotional intelligence are built.
If we can't understand ourselves, what we feel and why we feel as we do, how can we be aware of the impact our actions have on others? We cannot change what we fail to recognise or acknowledge.
The negative culture Brian created in his company alienated staff.
The higher up in his company you went, the fewer people remained with any length of service, except at the very top.
This scenario of people being negatively affected by the belligerent behaviour of a person who is lacking in emotional intelligence is scarcely unique. Anger is a double-edged sword because it skews judgment and breeds fear.
When the perpetrator and the victim are in highly emotional states, it's difficult to register what exactly is happening.
Angry people are often quite oblivious to the strength of their own emotions. They may be dimly aware that something is wrong with how they communicate but the only way they know how to get what they want is through intimidation.
When any of us are confronted by someone's anger, our brain automatically senses danger.
The amygdala, an almond shaped area in the mid-brain, triggers the fight, flight or freeze response to danger.
Fear powerfully arouses the amygdala's extensive circuitry, focusing our thoughts, attention and perception on whoever or whatever it is that has made us afraid.
We instinctively go on high alert. It's stressful being around angry, emotionally unaware people.
Irate people are often aware that they don't relate well but fail to recognise how the fear they engender in others creates emotional distance in relationships, alienates colleagues and negatively affects their business.
Anger is an emotional energy. It can be a destructive, alienating power when it erupts from the person demanding what they want. Or, used in a healthy way, it can be a contacting energy that motivates the self-aware person to go after a desired outcome and gain co-operation.
We all have the emotional resources to develop self-awareness.
In some they lie dormant and unused but with a little coaching it's possible to learn new patterns of behaviour quickly that will maximise the effectiveness of any interpersonal transactions; develop our potential for growth; enhances team work skills and build quality relationships with colleagues.
With these resources we could decide to make every day a good day.
Carmel Wynne is a life skills and business coach, psychotherapist and master practitioner NLP.

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