Taming Your Temper

taming-temperStress, anger and low self-esteem are all issues that get in the way of effective communication and none of them are easy to deal with. Last week we talked about dealing with stress and self-esteem when we communicate. This week we’re tackling the temper monster.

ANGER is a battle that most of us have to fight from time to time. I have to admit that learning to control my quick temper has not been an easy battle for me. Nor have I won it. It’s ridiculously easy to pop off quickly and say things we’ll regret later. It’s also easy to misinterpret what others are saying when we’re ticked off. You know what I mean… when you’re really good and angry and anything that anybody says puts them in the line of fire.

The good news is that like stress, anger reactions are emotional responses and we CAN learn to control them. Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques are easy solutions that calm emotions, relax muscles, and slow our heartbeat. The challenge is making the time to calm down when you’re smack dab in the middle of a situation that has your temper rising.

Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Whenever possible, find a way to give yourself a few minutes. Walk away, go to the bathroom, get a drink, reschedule… whatever you need to do. Give yourself time to think logically about the situation, consider how it affects you and how best to handle it BEFORE you respond and ensure that you come across like the mature, responsible, professional you are.

Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. – Laurence J. Peter

Of course, that’s not always possible. Sometimes we just have to deal with the issue while we’re angry. Like most things, mastering our responses requires practice and intention… and, I think, is a lifelong work in progress for most of us. However, a lot of it does become second nature as we work at it. It also makes you feel good and you’ll find that others respect you more for your ability to respond well under pressure. Here are some tips to work with:

  • Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. When a co-worker comes to you on Friday at 4:00 – again – needing help with a report that’s due Monday morning, instead of saying, “you should have had that done last week!” try saying, “I’m really sorry this is just getting done. Please explain to The Boss that the deadline will have to be pushed back.”
  • Avoid over-generalizations. Keep words like “always,” “never” or “everyone” out of conversations. Instead of saying “you always do this” try “I can’t help you with this right now. I have too much on my plate today.” Keep the discussion on the issue at hand.
  • Make the most of your non-verbal behavior. Use a calm and authoritative voice. Stand straight and look the other person in the eye. Keep a neutral expression on your face. Be aware of your hands and don’t wring them, make fists, cross your arms or pick your nails. (Also – don’t throw things.)

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. – Mark Twain

Taming our tempers isn’t easy. It takes work to master this element of communication. However, the rewards are huge. Don’t try to do it all at once. Choose one tip at a time to work on and put into practice.

Don’t have temper issues to deal with personally but get stuck dealing with angry people? Tune in next week…

Have a tip to add to this list? I’d love to see it in the comments!

As always, if we can help you communicate to your audience, online or in person, we’d love the opportunity to help you grow.

Marie Mallory, Communication and PR Specialist, Irons Media Group




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