12 Steps to Using Anger Constructively
Through appropriate anger management techniques, you can use your anger as a motivator to make positive changes around you. Constructive anger involves these two things:
Deciding where it is you want your anger to take you
Arriving at that destination through a step-by-step process
Before you begin, remind yourself of the following things:
I need to reason through my anger.
I need to put my anger into perspective.
I can’t do a thing about what has happened to provoke my anger.
The situation that made me angry should be rectified.
I need to find other ways to express my anger.
Step 1: Decide how you want to feel after you get angry
How you use anger is a choice. If you choose to use anger constructively you’ll generally expect that, after you finish expressing your anger, you will:
Have a better understanding of the person with whom you had the angry exchange.
Feel better about that other person.
Feel closer to resolving issues between you and the other person.
Realize that things were never as bad as you initially thought they were when you first became angry.
Feel that both parties came away feeling like something good happened.
Have less conflict in the future.
On the other hand, if you choose to use your anger destructively, you should expect the opposite outcomes — more conflict in the future, more tension between you and the other person, and so on.
Step 2: Acknowledge your anger
A simple statement will suffice. What you want to do is give a heads-up to the other party in the conversation, letting him know that emotions are in play here and that the emotion you’re feeling is anger.
It’s not enough just to acknowledge to yourself that you’re angry — you have to articulate that feeling to the person you’re angry with.
Step 3: Focus your anger on the problem, not the person
Focus on the issue that triggered your anger, not the person on the other side of that issue. When you begin to personalize anger, your anger will invariably turn vengeful.
Step 4: Identify the source of the anger
This step is an easy one. Why? Because the source of all your anger is you! All your emotions are a reflection of yourself.
Right away, as you internalize the source of your anger, you begin to feel more in control of your anger. Now, the question is: Do you alter your expectations of that other person or do you clarify for them what those expectations are and what will happen if your expectations aren’t met?
Step 5: Accept that the problem that made you angry can be solved
Fixing problems is much easier than fixing people. What you have is a problem situation. Try to remain optimistic. Be open-minded. Don’t be afraid to try new solutions when the old ones don’t work.
If you can’t think of any new possible solutions, talk to someone else about it and see what that person suggests. After you come up with a new strategy, use it the next time you’re in this situation.
Step 6: Try to see things from the other person’s perspective
Anger is so subjective that it’s hard to see past it, to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. But seeing the situation from the other person’s perspective is one of the most essential steps in using anger constructively.
The easiest way to understand why the other person thinks, feels, or acts the way she does is to invite their input. If you don’t give the other person an opportunity to tell you where she’s coming from, you’re left to speculate — and odds are, you’ll guess incorrectly.
Step 7: Co-op the other party
Enlist the cooperation of the person you’re angry with in resolving the problem. The minute you begin to share the responsibility of resolving an anger-producing problem, the intensity of your anger decreases.
Step 8: Keep a civil tone throughout
What you say in anger isn’t what causes problems — it’s the tone in which you say it. If you can keep a civil tone to your conversation, you’ll find that actively listening to the person with whom you’re angry is easier — it’s also easier to get your message across to that person. Lowering your tone will in turn cause him to lower his.
Step 9: Avoid disrespectful behavior
Clearly, there are some things — gestures, behaviors — you need to avoid if you’re going to use anger constructively.
Step 10: Don’t be afraid to take a timeout if you start to feel angry and resume the discussion later
Don’t be afraid to say to the other person, “I think we’ve gone as far as we can with this issue right now, but I really think we should continue our discussion at a later date. Do you agree?” Some issues take longer to solve than others.
This strategy only works if you actually do resume the discussion later. Otherwise, all your constructive efforts were in vain!
Step 11: Make it a two-way conversation
When it comes to addressing your anger in a constructive way, you have to let the other person have a turn, too. Vengeful anger and simply “letting off steam” don’t involve the other party except as the object of your wrath. You’re trying to do something different in this case.
Step 12: Acknowledge that you’ve made progress
Old bad habits like vengeful anger die hard. So, if you’re trying to begin using anger more constructively, it’s important to acknowledge when progress is being made anywhere along the way. Then ask the other person if she agrees that progress has been made.
You hope, of course, that she says yes. But if she doesn’t, that’s okay. Maybe she’ll change her mind in the future. (Most important, don’t get mad just because she doesn’t agree with you!)