What’s Your Anger Style?
Sixteen ways to manage your frustration, whether you have a quick temper or a biting sense of humor.
Anger Style: AvoidanceWhat it looks like: "I'm fine. It's fine. Everything's fine." Even when there's a fireball of rage burning in your gut, you paste on a happy face and dodge any display of irritation. This isn't passive aggression; it's buried aggression.
Why you might do it: "Women in particular are told over and over again to be nice no matter what. Get angry and you could lose your reputation, marriage, friends, or job," says Potter-Efron. If you grew up in a volatile or abusive home, you may not believe anger can be controlled or expressed calmly.
The damage: The primary function of anger is to signal that something is amiss and encourage resolution. By ignoring that warning sign, you may end up engaging in self-destructive behaviors (overeating, excessive shopping). You're also basically giving the green light to other people's bad behavior or denying them the opportunity to make amends. How can they apologize if they don't know you've been hurt?
How to Turn It Around
- Challenge your core beliefs. Ask yourself, "Is it really fine for my employees to leave early whenever they want? For my partner to go golfing every weekend?" If you're honest, the resounding answer to these questions is probably "You know what? It's not fine." Recognizing that something is wrong is the first step to setting it right.
- Step outside yourself. Imagine that a friend is the one being abused, overworked, or neglected. What would be the appropriate way for her to respond? Make a list of actions she might take, then ask yourself why it is OK for her, but not you, to react that way.
- Embrace healthy confrontation. Someone ticked you off? Tell the person―in a positive, constructive way. Yes, he or she might be surprised, possibly even (gasp!) angered, by your words. And you know what? He or she will get over it. "Avoidance often does more damage to families and friendships than any expression of anger," says Potter-Efron.
Anger Style: SarcasmWhat it looks like: "It's OK that you're late. I had time to read the menu―40 times." You find a roundabout way of getting your digs in, with a half smile.
Why you might do it: You were probably raised to believe that expressing negative emotions directly isn't OK, so you take a more indirect route. If folks get mad, it's their fault, not yours. After all, you were just kidding. Can't people take a joke?
The damage: Even though couched in wit, your cutting comments can damage your relationships. Although some people insist that mockery is a form of intellectual humor, the very word sarcasm is related to the Greek word sarkazein, meaning "to tear flesh like dogs." Ouch.
How to Turn It Around
- Give it to them straight. "Sarcasm is passive-aggressive communication," explains Todd. Find words to express how you feel head-on. You might explain to a tardy friend, say, after you're seated, "I wish you would try to be on time, especially when you know we have limited time."
- Be firm and clear. This is especially true with children, to whom a gentle "Jumping on the furniture is not acceptable" sends a much clearer message than the snarky "Don't worry―we just happen to have $2,000 set aside for a new sofa."
- Speak up before you get bitter. Exercising assertiveness prior to arriving at your breaking point can help prevent a sarcastic streak from popping out.