Emotional Intelligence- Six ways to manage your anger

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It was in the summer of 2002 when I called one of my very big customers, a huge multi-national group, who used to give us a business of around Rs. 50Lacs annually. I had some technical as well as commercial queries to ask him for one of their orders, as he was our single point of contact in that company. It was about 11.00 AM and after he picked up my call, I did ask him “was it the right time to talk” and only after the affirmation from him I went ahead. After hearing my questions, he just lost it and started blasting me saying that I should not be asking these questions at this time. His frustration was evident in his tone and words. I was able to even visualize him- the frown on his forehead, the sweat in his palms, and the irritation he was feeling could easily be sensed by me. Thankfully, I was able to keep my cool (actually, not too sure whether it was my cool or my repressed anger, which I was not able to vent it out on him as he was my old client).

But as a thorough gentleman that he was, he called me back after half an hour to apologize about his behavior and then answered all my queries. It had so happened that, when I had given him a call, he was with the excise duty inspector and that fellow was getting under his skin. He was unnecessarily harassing our client and that was the result of his venting it out on me.

Like in the above story, anger can get the better of us due to the environmental conditions on which we have very little control. May be my client was standing in a hot, filthy, and dirty government office which also had very low lit, dusty, and on top of that, the excise inspector was breathing down his neck. If in such trying situations, (when the coolest of the persons can lose calm) you get a phone call, that case is a potential candidate for venting out your frustration. However, if you are at the receiving end, you may ignore such behaviors and probably excuse that person saying “he had a bad day in office” with better self and social awareness.

The other story was when I had lost it on my wife. It was in April-2015 when my parents were about to relocate from Thane to Pune. We had already started the packing and wanted to get rid off of our old furniture and my dad even negotiated with a vendor for it. Some amount was finalized and the said furniture was taken down (from our 3rd floor flat) to our society premises by the vendor, but suddenly he started to act very nastily with my father. He just refused to take the material. My dad was 80 years old at that time and he even told him to take away the furniture free of cost as some society members started taking objection to keeping the material there for a long time. I was able to speak to my dad last at around 2.00 PM on the landline telephone. Immediately after that MTNL disconnected our line in a very swift action in response to my dad’s application to surrender the phone as they were about to leave Thane. His mobile was also not reachable and I was just not able to contact my dad when I very badly wanted to and ask about the furniture vendor’s intentions. I was in the office at that time which was in Vikhroli-east (a suburb in Mumbai), a driving distance of about 15-17mins from my house in Thane- east.  I was getting tensed and frustrated with not being able to solve the problem of furniture or to talk to the vendor/dad.

So, I thought let me call my wife and ask her to go to my parent’s place (we stay just 5mins walk from their place) so that I could talk to my dad through her mobile and solve it. But she wouldn’t pick her mobile (silent mode) and since she wanted to have her afternoon siesta, she had removed the receiver of our landline telephone as well. She was not aware of all those things happening at my dad’s place. Now, already annoyed and frustrated at the vendor and anxious for my dad, I was getting mad at my wife and in a fit of rage, decided to rush home. I drove this distance of about 13 km within 9mins and the moment I reached my home, I just blasted my wife and did not allow her to put forth her side of the story. I didn’t just allow her to utter a single word. I was yelling at her at the top of my voice. I had reduced her almost to tears.

What was my wife’s fault? She just wanted to rest undisturbed for about 45mins after helping my parents to pack their luggage whole of the same morning.

Why was I not able to show any empathy for her? I think the reason primarily (apart from  off-course the fact that I was worried about how my father would handle the situation at his age and the frustration that vendor went nasty on my dad) was my ego- the thought that ‘how can she not pick up ‘my’ call when I needed her the most to do so?’ ‘How can she sleep when my dad is in trouble?’ ‘Why did she come home back without asking me?’. When it’s only ‘I’, ‘Me’, and ‘Mine’ all the other skills of emotional intelligence like self-awareness, self-management, and empathy are forgotten and this gives rise to anger. I would again reiterate that; thoughts give birth to emotions and emotions will decide your behavior.

Anger- can be a deadly emotion and when a person is engulfed with it, he/she loses the capacity to think rationally and logically. A decision which could have been taken with a cool head, just because of some minutes of madness, cannot be even thought about or a totally wrong decision taken for which one may have to regret and repent for a lifetime. However, anger is a very universal emotion and everyone gets angry. The question is how much and in what duration? i.e. the intensities and the frequencies of getting angry are what matters and it differs from person to person.

In most cases, anger is the result of an expectation or need not met. As seen in my case above, it is also the result of one’s ego not being caressed. Anger may also result in the way a person is brought up from the childhood e.g. a child who is pampered at home and gets everything that he asks for or even what he doesn’t ask for, will get easily mad at people who may not agree to his point of view or if he doesn’t get what he wants as he grows as an adult. Anger can also be nourished by the people around you, as your losing temper may sometimes be viewed as being straight forward and as a very transparent person.

However, such people confuse anger with assertiveness– a quality which allows you to know your strengths and accept your weaknesses and doesn’t allow others to take advantage of you. Getting angry most times is out of lack of impulse control and smells of self-absorbed and self-centered behaviors.

The following figure shows how anger manifests. First, it starts with a thought or the belief which is influenced by EGO, lack of self-awareness, and lack of impulse control. Thought, in turn, creates an emotion (in this case anger), which in turn incites some wrong behavior from you and last but most importantly, is its consequences/implications.

How anger manifests in our body and its implications….

On most occasions, and whatever be the reason, the base of all anger is fear. Fear of losing control over other people, fear of losing self-pride, self-importance or fear of loss of money, relationships, position, etc.

However, getting angry is not always bad. In the following conditions, you have to get angry, else it will be a sign that you have no self-worth, no self-esteem, no self-regard and you care less about yourself, people around you, or about your nation.

  • You want your anger to move you to stand up for yourself when your talents are being exploited in the workplace.
  • You would like to use your anger to complain any wrongdoings or injustice say, corruption in your housing society matters and complain against the secretary and the chairman of the society to the deputy registrar of housing societies.
  • You need to get angry to protect yourself in road rage and return some blows if the other person attacks you, for not no fault of yours.
  • You want to let anger move you to write a letter to the editor in your local newspaper about some social injustice or these days bring the same out in social media and make the culprits famous and punished.
  • All great leaders such as Lokmanya Tilak, Veer Sawarkar, Martin Luther King (Jr), Subhash Chandra Bose, Nelson Mandela, etc. were all angry men. But they turned their anger against the atrocities and inspired people to fight along with them.
Anger for societal change or for protection of self….

The above figure depicts the anger in a very positive manner. That’s when anger is required and is good for society. It starts with some injustice, exploitation, or self-protection and in this type of anger, the major difference is the person is fully aware of his emotions and the emotions of others, has lots of empathy and sympathy for the society in which he lives and is a true leader. All true leaders are angry. They are angry against the set wrong rules, regressive mindsets and they are the ones who can bring about a change in the society/nation. People just follow them and small gathering converts into a mass movement in no time.

Constructive anger has its advantages as well. Anger helps you in infusing enthusiasm, energizes you, and improves your communication with other people.  The sudden display of anger by a normally cool and calm person, may get you all the attention and since people respect you for your calmness, they understand the gravity of the situation and this might help you to get your job done. Your self-esteem and self-worth increases, if you show your anger for valid reasons. This also helps you to defend yourself against fear and insecurity.

Also, it is worthwhile noting that, on most occasions, we get angry with people who are weak as compared to us or we seemingly have some authority over them. Many times, this seniority is misused to intimidate others into submission to us. E.g. boss gets angry over his team members but can’t display his frustration and anger to his seniors. A husband gets angry over his wife but swallows the bitter pill in front of his friends. He can at best repress his anger which is also not a very good sign. We have already seen the ill effects of suppressing emotions on our physical body in my earlier blog and how it can result in many health issues. If we think that we are at par in strength and power as the other person, that is when the fight or tussle starts and temperatures run high.

Some people can be dangerous with their anger. They may not react immediately for a perceived trivial issue, and you may think that he/she didn’t mind or taken it sportingly and the matter is resolved. However, these people may get revengeful and wait for the right opportunity to get even at you and they will attack either through words, dirty politics, through someone else, or even physically at the right time which suits them. Have you ever heard someone say “I will not talk anything right now, let my time come then I will it to show them”? Such people not only get even with you they seek to reap double the returns they had paid for. We need to be careful about such people.

Before we see how to manage our anger, it is very important for us to understand the different intensities of anger. Anger can be felt mildly, extremely high, or somewhere in between. The least intense state of anger starts from annoyance and can escalate to disappointed, dissatisfied … right up to getting furious. The figure below shows the different intensities of anger. Being able to distinguish (naming which emotion is happening) between these different shades of the core emotion (in this case anger), helps an individual to manage this negative emotion in a much better way and is a sign of high emotional self-awareness. The states of anger are as follows:

Different intensities of anger from least intense to most intense
  1. Annoyance: this is mild anger caused by a nuisance or inconvenience. Possible actions resulting from annoyance are brooding, passive-aggression, and suppression.
  2. Disappointed- this is similar to getting annoyed with a slightly higher degree when e.g. you are not happy with the action or behavior of the other person and comes to you as a surprise. Normal reactions will be again suppression, withdrawal, or simmer.
  3. Dissatisfied- when you get angry over the other person for not performing as per your satisfaction. E.g. “I am totally dissatisfied with the results of your team for this quarter”.
  4. Frustrated: This is a response to repeated failures in overcoming an obstacle. Or when you find yourself in a state of helplessness and don’t know how to come out of it. The actions which may result will be destructive like insulting, screaming/yelling, quarrel, or undermine.
  5. Disgusted: when someone acts in a shameful or a sickening manner. Resulting actions from the person experiencing this emotion is, avoiding the said person, withdraw i.e. there is no dialogue between the two, or dehumanize i.e. your treat that person as though they are not human beings.
  6. Irritation: This anger is caused by the repeated or strong nuisance. The actions can be all of the above plus dispute or suppression of anger.
  7. Mad: It’s starting to get heated up now. Actions can be all the above plus some violent methods like breaking something or banging your fist on the table.
  8. Bitterness: This is anger after unfair treatment. The possible actions resulting from bitterness are suppress, passive-aggressive, dispute, insult, scream/yell, brood, undermine.
  9. Vengefulness: The desire to retaliate after one is hurt. The possible actions resulting from all the above or using physical force. All the actions are destructive.
  10. Furious: This is uncontrolled and often violent anger. The actions can be regretful and the person may repent for the whole of his/her life for them. All the actions are destructive.  

How do I manage my anger?

The following are some of the tested ways in which one can manage anger tendencies and save self and others from possible rupturing of relationships, and other undesirable consequences:

  1. People always say that you must count from 1-10 giving some time for the emotions to settle down and then talk or take any decision. However, do we really remember what to do when we are angry? we even don’t know what we are doing some times. Our brain ceases to work when we are really mad at someone.

The best thing in such cases is to paste the following questions/statements in a prominent place in your bedroom or on the wall robe or pin it on your working table at home and your office. This will act as a reminder when you are about to lose your head on something or somebody. Once you practice this, you will get into the habit of restraining and have the required impulse control to manage your disruptive emotions.

  • I don’t have the option to undo my actions or pull back my words
  • Why did I react the way I did? 
  • Did my reaction help me or harm me? 
  • How will my reaction make me feel an hour after? A week after? A year after?
  • Did I speak/react/do something irrationally in the heat of the moment?
  • How would I respond in the future to a similar event?
  • Before taking any action or reacting what would I say to me?

These statements/questions have really helped me and I am more aware now before I talk or take any action against any external triggers.

2. Manage your ego: As mentioned in the beginning, one of the main reasons for anger is ego. Most of your temper issues will get resolved if we can let go of our ego even 50% of the time. However, it is easier said than done. You need to really work on letting go of your ego. It’s no easy.

You can take baby steps towards this at home itself. If there is a fight between husband and wife due to any reason, and there is no dialogue between the two of you, you should be the first one to approach your spouse for a truce, irrespective of who was at fault. The same can be extended to your friends and relatives. All ego problems and hence the anger start with ‘being right’. Develop a habit of letting go of being right.

Next, you may get attached to some genuine NGO, temple, Rotary club, etc who are doing their bit for the society. Just being there for any of their donation programs or projects for the poor, feeling of compassion will surely ignite into your hearts. You may also donate some fixed amount every month for these causes. You will thank the almighty for everything he has given to you. You will realize how fortunate you are. All your pride, position, and the money power will be forgotten when you see the plight of those people. Service above self towards the society helps you to remain grounded at least to a certain extent.

3. Withdraw from the scene temporarily:  If you realize that the other person said something which was really offensive or he/she were angry at you due to any reason and that you were also about to lose your temper, just tell him/her that “it seems you are really very upset right now, let’s discuss this in the evening (or any mutually decided time) when emotions settle down”. You need to employ this approach, as anyway he/she is not going to listen to you when they are very angry. Your words will fall on their ears but not reach to their brain or heart. So, there is no use talking to them at that very moment. However, do remember to take up the discussion on the objectionable point later. Because, as you have deferred the discussions, those emotions of anger, disappointment, frustration, anxiety, etc. will be there inside of you and unless you put forth your point or prove yourself right, it will continue to simmer inside like a pressure cooker, waiting for the first opportunity to burst which can be more harmful.  E.g. you may always get irritated when your nasty boss confronts you and you may have the tendency to argue or even get mad at him. Next time when you have a meeting with your boss, just keep observing your emotions and once you get the first clue that your internal temperature has started raising, tell the boss “can I just come back in a little while sir?” This will diffuse the emotion. After some time once you go back to his cabin you may start with “yes sir, so what were you saying?”. You will feel that even he would have cooled in the meantime.

The same can be said regarding office breaks. If one takes regular time-outs (just about 5-10mins) to say coffee or going to another department to deliver some documents, this will remove the stress and irritation that surrounds them at work.

4. Increase your anger vocabulary: As we have seen the various intensities of anger, practice to differentiate, and then label the emotions to differentiate between, annoyed, irritated, enraged, outraged, disgusted, etc. Then mind what you are saying when you are in any of those anger states. Are you saying any of those offensive words? Instead of saying “you are an idiot” say “I feel I am getting furious”.

Also, observe the tone and the loudness of your voice. Are you sounding sarcastic? How many times do we hear people say “I don’t mind doing that extra work for the company, but the tone in which my boss tells me really upsets me.” Or “the way he talked, really pissed me off”.  The same is true with loudness. When we are furious, we tend to shout or yell. However, we forget the fact that, the more we shout, the fewer people hear you. Your message gets lost in the overheated dialogue.

Then practice empathy: Before yelling or labeling some adjectives on the other person, think how would you feel if someone did that to you?

5. Does it really matter?  Another reminder you can stick on your working desk at home as well as in the office is paste/pin the letters “Does it really matter?”

I was guilty till not too long ago; I would get upset at my wife if something from the original setting was disturbed or was not neat and tidy as I wanted it to be. If some things were not in place, it would irritate me and I used to vent it out on my wife. Sometimes we unnecessarily give so much importance to small things in life and if you think in the hindsight ‘did it really matter that she made some mistake in cooking and the food tasted different?’ ‘Did it really matter if she was not able to spread that bedsheet correctly on the mattress?’ on most occasions, it doesn’t really matter. We get upset with our loved ones on these trivial and useless issues and put an unnecessary strain on relationships.

6. Relaxation technique: we have discussed this technique (slow and deep belly breathing) in my earlier blog on mindfulness. Still, it is worthwhile mentioning here again from the anger point of view.

However, before that, we need to understand how our body reacts to anger instead of responding to it. When we get angry, the brain perceives this as stress and adrenal glands release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the blood. Your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension everything goes up. And since our brain takes anger as a threat to our body, we prepare ourselves for the attack as a means to defend the impending harm from anger. This is how the body physically reacts to anger. We need to calm ourselves by responding to anger to reverse this process. Slow and deep breathing as per the following steps helps in calming down the anger. Taking a few deep breathes immediately relaxes our body and cools down the emotions. However, we need to practice this as a routine exercise, rather than waiting for the anger to get better of us.

  1. Take a slow and deep breath and hold it till the count of five (approx.5 secs) or as long as you can. See to it that your belly gets raised as you deeply inhale through your mouth. Don’t force yourself into breath. It should be as rhythmic as possible.
  • Now, exhale it in an exaggerated way through your mouth. Again, hold for a count of five.
  • Continue doing this for another 8-10 cycles. Remember to exhale from the mouth and as much as you inhale.
  • As you are exhaling, think that you are letting go of all the anger, frustrations, fury, etc. This is your mind’s command to your body for releasing this unwanted tension.
  • As you practice this breathing technique with full mindfulness and remember to do it as many times in the day as possible, you are always in the mode of slow and deep breathing and when actually you experience anger, you will remember to go through this process as a correct response.

My experience is if you practice this kriya for at least 10-15 mins daily, you gain much better control over your emotions.

Conclusion: Anger is one of the most universal and common disruptive emotions. However, by practicing some of these methods, one can easily manage anger and avoid regrets and other undesirable consequences.

28 thoughts on “Emotional Intelligence- Six ways to manage your anger”

  1. The various forms of anger ate well defined by you that everybody can understand how anger is manifested in everyone of us. The suggestions on how we can manage anger effectively are are very useful. Thank you very much Shrikant!

    1. Thanks a ton for patiently reading my Devadossji… Do keep reading and motivating me.

    1. Thanks a ton for patiently reading my blog Bhagya… Do keep reading and motivating me.

  2. A very good article on ANGER management. You have put your thoughts using the right words. An article worth reading again and again.

    1. Thanks a ton for patiently reading my blog Shally… Do keep reading and motivating me.

  3. Thanks a ton for this article. Brings out the real and persisting issue and experiences that are often termed due to” heat of the moment”.. but the reason behind anger and how it can be managed is very important to know..

    1. Thanks a ton, Radhika for being the regular reader of my blogs. Do keep reading and motivating me…

  4. You have been able to cover all the aspects of anger management in your blog. Tips on controlling your anger is very useful. It’s important that we do not take any decision or react when the emotion of anger is around you. Hope to see some more such enlightening thoughts from you.

    1. Thanks a ton, Gopinath. Yes, will continue writing. Do keep reading and giving the feedback..

  5. Really nice article.Your writing skill is very good. ALl articles are informative. Thanks a lot.

  6. Thank you Shrikant for sharing this information… it is really very helpful to understand the intensity of anger..

  7. Highly useful and practical information about the intensities of anger and the various methods to tackle this complex emotion. Ego, frustration are surely the most important triggers of anger. Thank you for this useful information.

  8. You have defined anger so well…When expectations are not fulfilled or the need…Examples are so apt and of our daily life…So can relate to it…Also how to overcome anger is well described

  9. Wonderful article,
    Very well described different forms of anger, most important, not only advantages, but you described the advantages of anger also.
    Different ways of anger control especially the breathing exercise, is highly appreciated.

  10. Wow…..anger has so many aspects…never had these thoughts when I was furious as one thing is for sure…in anger you lose your thinking abilities…so very well written by you about the techniques to help reduce ANGER!
    Also patience is the key

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