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Most of us prefer to avoid feeling angry at work (and, really, in any other area of life, such as relationships, family, sports, and even social media).
However, this doesn’t help us in achieving that goal.
In fact, unless you are not human, you will find that there are many situations that can trigger your anger, including some that seem absolutely justified: unfairness, provocation, the realization that people are trying to take advantage of us; not to mention incompetent drivers, bad bosses, annoying work colleagues, and, of course, a slow internet connection.
Psychologists have studied anger for over 100 years. Like any universal behavior, it is clear that there must be at least some rational reasons, and even justifications, for anger to be so pervasive and dominant in every society, and across all walks of life.
From an evolutionary perspective, anger is best understood as a neuro-cognitive adaptation “designed to bargain for better treatment.” In other words, anger is a demand for help, change, and action.
Anger is both a common defense tactic, as well as a universal offense strategy. We get angry to show power, status, and to intimidate, even if this also shows we are unable to manage a situation well. In many ways, anger is an attempt to gain control when we have lost self-control.
Anger is cathartic, which is why repressing or suppressing it has been linked to a wide range of psychological and physical well-being deficits.
As Mark Twain famously noted, “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.”
Anger is a signal that the status quo must be changed, and it can fuel moral outrage, which is often a force for good.
And yet, there’s no question that anger is also corrosive.
Everybody can learn to manage their anger more effectively, and that there are clear benefits to doing so.
Here are some tools and approaches that can with anger management:
There are many ways to self-coach and get better at managing our anger, and they will generally pay off. The point is not to eliminate it from our lives, which would not make us human, but to learn to control it and even display it in strategic ways, so as to mitigate its downside and leverage its upside.
Ultimately, the best way to judge anger is by its particular effects, both on ourselves and others.
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