How to Control Your Anger and Keep Conflict at Bay

The next time things get stormy, try these smart strategies for restoring the peace from five experts—including a hotel concierge and a Buddhist teacher—and presto! Your sunny mood will return.

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Photo by Leif Parsons

1. Watch the movie Crash

To handle contentious situations better in the future, view this 2005 Oscar-winning film. In many scenes, the characters fail to control their emotions. They are unable to see their own biases and manage their fears. Each time someone erupts on-screen, ask yourself: What led to this explosion? What could he have done to avoid it? Do this when you see other fictional depictions of rage, too. Thinking objectively about how and why other people experience anger can help you recognize your own feelings when they arise—and defuse them.



D. Douglas McKenna, Ph.D., is a psychologist, an executive coach, and the CEO of the Oceanside Institute, in Seattle.

2. Agree With Your Opponent

If you take the opposite side in a discussion, you automatically create conflict that’s difficult to overcome. Instead, neutralize a potentially combative interaction by finding a point that you and your opponent agree on. For example, if your spouse accuses you of leaving a mess in the bathroom, simply say, “You’re right. I apologize for not cleaning up. However, I think that we both contributed to it.” Once somebody expresses regret, an argument starts to lose steam.

David A. Hoffman teaches the mediation course at Harvard Law School, where he is the John H. Watson Jr. Lecturer on Law. He is the founding member of Boston Law Collaborative, a firm that focuses on conflict resolution.

3. Get Some Oxygen

Anytime you feel as if you’re about to spiral out of control, go ahead and excuse yourself for a minute or two. Find a quiet place and focus intently on your breathing until you calm down. Concentrate on every inhale and exhale. This simple act relaxes your mind, so you can identify what triggered your anger and deal with it productively.

Lodro Rinzler is a Shambhala Buddhist teacher at the New York Shambhala Meditation Center, in New York City, and the author of The Buddha Walks Into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation ($15, amazon.com).

 

4. Talk About the Weather

If someone is agitated—say, a guest in our hotel is upset about her room—I immediately start chatting about something ordinary: where she’s planning to go for dinner or if she’s enjoying the sunny day. Of course, I will try to fix the guest’s problem. But by finding an inoffensive subject to discuss in the meantime, I distract both of us from the source of the negativity.

Karen Giobbia is the concierge manager at the Park Hyatt Chicago.

5. Yell at an Empty Chair

You need to let your emotions out. But instead of engaging in an argument, imagine that the person you’re frustrated with is sitting in a chair in front of you. Give yourself 10 minutes to say heated, irrational things to “him.” This will get the pent-up anger out of your system without creating any consequences. Let’s say your husband is always late and you’re just sick of it. Yell, “You drive me crazy because you’re never on time! I’m tired of waiting for you!” When you’re done venting, you’ll be able to think of constructive things to say to the actual person.

Mary Hayes Grieco is the training director of the Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training, in Minneapolis, and the author of Unconditional Forgiveness: A Simple and Proven Method to Forgive Everyone and Everything ($15, amazon.com).