This post has been taken from my book The Resilience Coaching Toolkit.
QUESTIONS YOU CAN ASK YOURSELF
The following are some questions you can ask yourself when you notice you are getting angry:
Where is the evidence? Is there sufficient evidence to back up the interpretation you have made of the event that is angering you? Example: Someone is late for dinner and you say to yourself, that selfish bastard doesn’t care that I have made dinner. Where is the evidence? Is this person selfish?
So what? Rarely are things as catastrophic as they seem. So your friend is a bit late. Will it amount to anything three hours from now? Has your dignity as a host been damaged? Example: So what if he’s late? Let’s say he’s twenty minutes late. Is it worth ruining the whole evening by assaulting him right when he comes in?
Is there another way of looking at this event? Identify other explanations for what you’ve interpreted as deliberate provocation. Often this is enough to decrease anger to the level of mild frustration. Example: Could there be a reasonable explanation for lateness? Is there traffic? Could something have come up, which will become known when he arrives? Have I sufficiently told him that being on time is important to me and to please call if late?
What will the outcome be? See if you can coach yourself to step into the future in the heat of the moment. Example: Could getting uptight with anger end up ruining the evening? What if you verbally assault him for being late? What could happen? Could it put a damper on the evening? How would you respond if you had a legitimate reason for being late and were nonetheless attacked?
When you’re angry, thinking becomes exaggerated and overly dramatic. Cognitive restructuring means changing the way you think. For instance:
- Instead of telling yourself, “It’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined”, tell yourself, ”it’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it.”
- Be careful of words like “never” or “always” when talking about yourself or someone else. “This damn machine never works,” or “you’re always forgetting things” are not always accurate. They serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there’s no way to solve the problem. They alienate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.
- Angry people tend to demand things: fairness, appreciation, agreement, and willingness to do things their way. When these demands aren’t met, their disappointment becomes anger. As part of cognitive restructuring, there needs to be an awareness of this demanding nature and to translate these expectations into desires e.g. “I would like” something is healthier than saying, “I demand” or “I must have” something.