Anger is a natural byproduct of the body’s fight or flight mechanism. When something happens that we don’t like, our body starts preparing itself for a confrontation or a long run. This worked out great for us when we were scavengers with limited protection from the elements; it’s less ideal when working with a difficult customer. Conflict resolution in the workplace uses a similar strategy to solving an argument at home, but with limitations. You can’t exactly go for a three mile run during your shift. So what can you do? Let’s talk about a strategy.
This information comes from our Workin’ It Out class that has been taught at IowaWORKS-Southern Iowa.
Know Your Warning Signs
Next time you get mad, jot down what made you mad and what physical response you had to getting angry. Normal answers to this would include clenching a jaw, turning red, or noticing that your voice is louder than it was before. Take that information and monitor yourself for it. If you know that you feel warmer when you get angry and then catch yourself feeling toasty after a conversation with a rude coworker, you know you’re angry and that you need to deal with it. Let’s do that in the following steps:
The first step to handling your anger is to STOP talking. This will keep you from doing or saying something that you might regret. This is the hardest step because you have to keep yourself from lashing out at someone when all your anger wants is to put them in their place. Work on keeping your mouth closed when you notice the anger warning signs.
This is where you slow down physically. This will take some planning, because you need to know what you can do to calm down. Maybe it’s being alone, thinking about something pleasant. It could be cleaning something. Remember the constraints of the workplace when planning, because you will need to be able to do something that won’t get you in trouble. Maybe just breathing deep and time not talking will do the trick. Just find what works and do it!
The last step is to stop the negative talking that’s going on inside your head. We all have the little voice on our shoulder that’s keeping us fired up and angry. It’s time to shut that person down and interrupt his rant with some positive thoughts. How are you going to fix the situation in a constructive way? Think about how the anger “almost got you”, and praise yourself for doing well in the situation.