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By Rhoberta Shaler, Ph.D.

What Do You Mean, “I'm Angry”?

When you reach your boiling point, what do you do with the steam? This makes all the difference in your relationships at home, at work and with yourself.

Do you know when you're angry? Many folks don't. Not only are they not aware they're angry, they're not aware how they come across to others when they are angry. This is a big problem . . . for everyone else. You would be surprised how few folks actually understand how they behave or how other folks see them. Unfortunately, they are not sensitive to their own attitudes, feelings emotions and communication style.

Do you have high self-awareness? Do you have an accurate picture of your behavior, tone of voice, facial expressions? If you're unsure, sit down with the person you most trust, and ask them to paint an honest picture for you. Yes, that may be difficult to ask and to hear. It must be done, though, if you want to improve your relationships.

I recently heard a story about a manager whose employee brought her a requested proposal for a new office system. After reading the proposal briefly, the manager went up one side of the employee and down the other. Using language such as "This is absurd." "What were you thinking?" "How long have you been with us?" "You're making me wonder why I ever hired you." All this was delivered from a standing position in a loud voice with harsh eye contact. The employee, completely taken aback and intimidated, went back to her cubicle furious. Her colleague asked her about the meeting and she described the reception. Soon, the story made the rounds of the department.

The next week, the manager met a colleague who said to her, "Wow! You were really hard on Michelle. Are you planning on letting her go?"

The manager was stunned. "Why would you ever think that? She's important to our operation." As they discussed the incident, the manager realized that she had no perception of the way she had delivered her blows to Michelle. She thought she had been simply responding to the ideas brought to her. No idea of the effect of her behavior on the employee. This manager needs to increase her self-awareness.

Do Your Own Work First
Before you go telling others what they need to improve within themselves, look in the mirror. What are you doing? How are you delivering your messages? Is your communication 'clean'?

Begin with yourself. How do you express your anger? Do you express your anger or does your steam escape in inappropriate ways at the wrong people, having been bottled up for too long?

Improve Your Skills
You likely have heard the old story about the husband who has been chewed out at work, who comes home and yells at his wife, who screams at the kids, who kick the dog. If the husband had good communication and conflict management skills, he would have handled the issue at work in the first place, right?

If you feel intimidated, or you avoid conflict at all costs, you need skills. Take a community college course and read some books. Seek out good ideas to increase your self-awareness and your skill set.

Conflict is not a four-letter word. It simply means to have divergent ideas, needs, drives, wishes or demands. That's OK, but it is how we express those differences that takes the toll. Learn to express them in ways others can hear. It will build your self-confidence.

Begin Simply
Pay attention to how you think, feel and respond in different situations. Make a mental picture and rehearse how you would like to respond. Use your new skill set. Then, step out into the world.

Listen well when there is conflict. Look beneath the words to the pain. For example, when someone is angry with you because a piece of paper is missing, by listening carefully, you may realize what is underneath the anger. You might then say, "I understand that not finding this piece of paper right now might make you late for your meeting and you may look inefficient." That's the pain. By giving it a name, both you and the other person deepen the understanding of the situation. When you get really good at this, you'll also deepen your relationships.

Taking the time to build your self-awareness and your skill set is well worth the effort. Everyone in your life will benefit. You will benefit most of all.

. . . . . . .

Expert facilitator, Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, makes it easier to talk about difficult things. As an international speaker, facilitator, author and coach, she works with organizations and entrepreneurs who want to master the 'people skills' that grease the wheels of business and life. Visit her website for ezines, teleseminars, books & CDs, free articles, online community, and a half-hour free coaching consultation. 



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Last Updated 06/30/2004