First things first: anger is a normal and valid emotion, and just like any other emotion, it shouldn’t be suppressed. It should be acknowledged as what it is. That being said, sudden outbursts due to frustrations at work should not be condoned, whether from a senior manager or a rank-and-file employee; moreover, it should not lead to verbal or even physical altercations where one or both parties end up getting hurt. While anger in the workplace is just something that everyone has to deal with at some point, it should neither become habitual nor a regular part of any company culture, as it can cause immense stress not only to the person who can’t manage his or her temper, but also to members of the team. A negative workplace can trigger mental health issues including anxiety and depression, among others.
If you often find yourself on the verge of an outburst (trust us, we’ve been there more times than we can count, too), then maybe this can help: according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology featured on Inc., people with high EQ are actually able to stretch their patience by detaching themselves from the moment.
“The current findings highlight how people can neutralize aggression while focusing on their emotions and the situation at hand—by adopting a self-distanced perspective. This is noteworthy because distraction is often not feasible in the heat of the moment. In daily life people often must continue to interact with people who provoke them and cannot easily divert their attention away. Thus, understanding how people can reflect deliberately during such situations is an important issue…”
The key to managing your temper is learning how to see the signs and the triggers, and being able to distance yourself from them. Here are a few ways you can learn how to move away from sticky situations while still acknowledging your frustrations:
Don’t fight it, but don’t allow it to overflow.
Actually acknowledge that you’re mad and that what you’re feeling is justified. Trying to avoid the fact can lead you to pass the responsibility of your emotions to others. (“He’s why I’m like this!” or “She made me do it.”) As coach, speaker, and writer Melody Wilding writes on Forbes, “The next time you feel yourself getting angry, understand that trying to simply avoid it won’t help. Find a way instead to release or disarm your anger in a healthy, self-respecting way.” Once you acknowledge it, you’ll find that you’ll be more focused to actually do something productive to resolve the issue that has been bothering you.
Find a distraction.
If, for some reason, you can’t really handle the rage, find something that will immediately take your mind off it. Stop what you’re currently doing and do something else—play a game on your phone, take a walk, or even just go to the restroom and wash your face. Even momentarily focusing on something else can help take the edge off your anger and make you think more logically.
Pinpoint the real reason behind your anger.
Is it just the situation, or is it because you and your colleague already have a history of disagreements? Keynote speaker and author Scoot Mautz notes on Inc.: “Conflict often arises from tension in an underlying relationship, not from the point at hand… It’s easy to let how you feel about another’s personality seep into what they’re saying/doing, thus coloring it in an unfair way. High EQ people separate church and state here.” If your issue is entirely work-related, don’t let your personal feelings color the situation as it will only cause unwarranted stress for you.
Think before you speak.
Whether online or offline, it’s important to think about what you’re about to say, especially in the heat of the moment, before actually saying it. You can’t take back words once you’ve expressed them, and some may actually create irreparable damage.
See where the other person is coming from.
Distance yourself from the situation by adopting an “observer” attitude: picture yourself as if you’re a third person watching things unfold. This way, you can open your mind to where your colleague is coming from. It’s easier said than done, but as with everything else, it can be learned. Be conscious of your rising temper, acknowledge it with intention, and take a step back—you’ll find that accepting what you feel as legit while knowing that you have power over your own reactions can make things easier for you not only professionally, but personally.