During these uncertain times, anger can easily become our initial reaction to the challenges we face with COVID-19. Anger is often a secondary emotion because we tend to use it to protect ourselves from, or deny, other vulnerable emotions such as fear, anxiety, and frustration. These primary feelings, frequently at the root of anger, can play a significant role in the way we respond to the environment and others around us. That being said, dealing with anger is a skill we can grow.
As a rule, we become defensive when someone reacts to us in anger. Frankly, we want to fight back as our own anger boils to the surface. However, heated verbal battles too often leave both parties feeling misunderstood and hurt. Consider these three powerful tips when you detect anger as an initial response in any circumstance.
Tips for Dealing with Anger
Take a breath. When provoked, it is easy to jump into the conversation, presume the other person is entirely at fault, and decide he or she needs to calm down or stop overreacting. Countering this way only conveys to the other person his or her feelings do not matter. The goal is not to change, or fix, someone else’s emotions. The most practical goal is to get to a mutual understanding.
Blocked goals often prompt anger. Identifying conscious or unconscious obstacles such as frustration, insecurity, or disappointed expectation gives insight into what often underlies anger. For example, unexpressed appreciation, lack of communication, or a simple misunderstanding may contribute to anger as a first reaction. When appropriate, tactfully probe. The right questions can reveal the root of the issue and provide space to work toward a solution and reconciliation.
Consider the other person’s perspective. Extend empathy.
The ability to keep from taking anger personally requires highly functional emotional intelligence. Your choice to relinquish the “right” to be angry and defuse the anger with empathy gives you advantageous perspective, fosters quicker resolution, and gives anger on both sides a chance to subside.
The bottom line: we feel angry for a reason, but we cannot allow anger to control us in any situation. During a pandemic, anger surfaces readily. Anger, a valid emotion on its own, nonetheless often involves other important emotions as well. Acknowledging what may contribute to the anger we feel or someone else expresses gives us decisive choice in the way we respond; the relationships we build; and, ultimately, the outcomes we achieve in overcoming challenges together.