Anger / Conflict
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Anger is the unannounced visitor that keeps dropping by, again and again. Some people hide, hoping this troublesome guest will go away. Others let it take over, turning their homes into a nightly rage-fest. Thankfully, there is an alternative.
Anger is one of the most powerful emotions, and one of the most difficult to deal with. It’s also probably the least understood. We get angry at our partners, our children, the man at the dry cleaner’s, the woman cutting us off on the freeway, our boss who just doesn’t understand, our dogs for barking too much. We get angry, but we rarely understand why.
There’s widespread agreement that expressing anger is much healthier than suppressing it. However, giving free rein to anger has its dangers. Recent studies on anger indicate that venting our rage doesn’t bring resolution, but can just fuel the flames. Left unchecked and unconscious, anger can destroy everything we care about—our friendships, our intimate relationships, our children, our jobs and our health.
The idea of controlling our anger has lost favor in recent years, yet there’s much to be said for stopping, taking a deep breath and waiting before blasting the world with self-righteous indignation. Sometimes it can be as simple as Thomas Jefferson’s advice: "When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred."
The newest research on anger is turning the volatile emotion upside down. Anger just might not be real, the thinking goes, but a way to cover the real issue—our pain. We react in anger because we can’t bear the pain underneath. Byron Katie, author and popular motivational speaker, takes it one step further: underneath the pain is a thought or story that is causing us to lash out in rage and frustration. If we investigate the story, the anger often just dissolves.
Confidence and Self-Respect Through Conflict
Most people would rather go to the dentist for a root canal than confront a colleague with something that bothers them. But conflict doesn’t have to be a negative experience.
Not only is conflict a normal part of life, it can be managed and even made into a positive jumping-off point for becoming a stronger and calmer person. Confronting someone—be it a business partner or a family member—and feeling that both of you “won” can be as exhilarating as jumping out of a plane. And in the case of conflict, your life-saving parachute is a set of tools that help you survive any encounter or conflict situation....
It’s not unusual for most people to hate confrontation; in fact, it’s difficult for most people to skillfully handle any kind of conflict—at home or in the workplace. And yet, the benefits of doing so include more self-confidence, less anger, greater self-respect and more intimacy, according to Tim Ursiny, author of The Coward’s Guide to Conflict: Empowering Solutions for Those Who Would Rather Run than Fight. His book outlines practical tips for dealing with conflict with family members, friends and co-workers, including the following:
• Focus on the upside. Conflict avoiders often perceive only the downside. They need to see the positive side of confronting someone.
• Start by finding something that you both agree on (even if it’s only 1%).
• Admit your role. If you are even partly at fault, be sure to acknowledge your mistake up front.
Conflict: How to Make It a Creative—Not Destructive—Force
Turn conflict into an opportunity for growth, intimacy, and freedom from fear.
Conflict is as natural to the human experience as thunderstorms are to springtime. When left unchecked, conflict can generate heat and discomfort, disrupt interactions and destroy relationships. Between a couple, discord can lead to divorce. Between countries, hostilities can lead to war. But when differences are openly acknowledged and addressed, conflict can be a powerful source of energy and lead to creative solutions that encourage growth, deepen intimacy and strengthen bonds between people.
The world is made up of individuals with different ideas, wants, needs and beliefs, and conflict may occur when our differences meet. Like so many other aspects of human interaction, it’s how we deal with controversy that affects our relationships—with others and ourselves.
Some relationships appear to be without conflict. This can mean that everyone is in tune with everyone else. But what’s more likely is that some people are not being honest and real with others, or that some individuals regularly and routinely acquiesce to others. This is true with a couple, in a family, or in any group. When conflict appears to be totally absent, it is best to take a look under the carpet.
Do You Fight Fairly?
If we learn to fight fairly, conflict can actually serve us; guidelines on how to do that.
Most of us would avoid fighting if we could. After all, it’s not very comfortable. However, personal growth is often attained through some kind of challenge. Fighting fairly and skillfully is the key to allowing conflict to serve us rather than do harm. Answer the following questions to discover if you are fighting fairly:
1. When people hurt me or make me angry, I’m likely to fight back or be defensive.
2. If someone brings up a subject I don’t want to discuss, I ignore him or her, or refuse to talk about it.
Facing conflict, and emerging from the other side of it, can boost one’s self-esteem as well as deepen one’s relationships.
Conflict shows up when what we want or think clashes with what someone else wants or thinks. Our primal instincts get threatened, and we try to protect our territory—our version of what is right and wrong, our opinion about what should happen next or our sense of entitlement to get what we want.
Because conflict taps into those deep instincts, it can feel like a personal attack. Depending on how situations were handled in our family of origin, our default response to conflict may be to fight, flee or hide.
Those responses may feel comfortable to us, because they’re what we know, but they’re no fun. And so we may do just about anything we can to avoid conflict. We may agree to something we don’t want to do, give up something we want or avoid taking risks.
The Benefits of Conflict
Conflict may feel uncomfortable but it can be positive. It can clear the air of resentments that have been poisoning your relationships. It can also highlight things, people or situations in your life that it’s time to let go of.
How to Keep Your Cool in the Summertime
For all the talk about summertime and the living being easy, it may not be as easy as it seems.
Along with longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures, summer brings on its own stress. Here’s a list of ten summer stressors.
Tempers can flare along with the temperature. Heat can also bring on lethargy. It may be difficult to feel energized to get the work done. Air conditioning may cool you off, but it may affect you in other ways, too.
Longer daylight hours means more people out, going places. The streets and freeways are crowded with more tourists and travelers. Drivers are irritable, quick-tempered; it takes longer to get anywhere, and traffic jams are the norm.
More home chores
Seems like the number of projects to do increases directly with the length of daylight hours. What with the garden growing, and all those weeds — and what do you do with all those tomatoes and squash?
NEW! How Well Do You Express Anger?
A quiz that explores effective ways to safely release and express anger and how well you do with that.
Not only does pent-up anger not feel good, but it’s bad for our health, potentially leading to depression, high blood pressure and other stress-related conditions. Learning healthy ways to express anger can help us feel better physically and emotionally and bring more authenticity and intimacy into our lives.
Answer the following true/false questions to discover how well you express anger.
1. I build up resentments over time, and then let them all out in one big blow-up.
2. I sometimes cut people out of my life when they make me angry.
3. It’s unsafe to express anger. I internalize it and then end up feeling depressed.
How Well Do You Handle Conflict?
A person’s approach to conflict resolution can make life easier or tougher. This questionnaire reveals how one responds in conflict situations.
It’s a fact of life in our world today: Conflict, like taxes, is inevitable. This isn’t all bad. Naturally people are going to have differing points of view. Sometimes conflict and the resolution that comes from it, can result in a closer bond between two people or more complete understanding of a situation by a group....
The bullies of the world seem to enjoy conflict, coming at it head long, They’re aggressive on the freeway, surly to service people and argumentative with co-workers. Other people avoid conflict at all costs, never speaking up for themselves, always backing down. They are the doormats everyone walks upon.....
Take a look at the following questions to find out how you respond in-conflict situations.
1. When confronted by an angry or hostile person, I take a moment and consider my response, rather than reacting in kind or defensively.
__Always __ Often __Sometimes __Never
2. When conflict occurs, I clam up and become non-communicative, quiet and passive, hoping it will dissipate.
__Always __ Often __Sometimes __Never
3. I try to see my part in the situation and am willing to take responsibility for it instead of blaming others or denying any responsibility.
__Always __ Often __Sometimes __Never
How Well Do You Handle Workplace Conflict?
Like taxes, conflict in the workplace is inevitable. That isn’t all bad. Handling conflict well leads to many benefits.
Handled well, conflict can strengthen communication, spark new ideas and generate new levels of performance. Handled poorly, however, workplace conflict can damage important relationships and drag down productivity. In fact, many agree that the ability to manage conflicts can make or break a career. Take this Self-Quiz to discover how well you handle conflict in the workplace.
True or False
1. If the conflict is escalating, I offer to set the subject aside and address it later, possibly in a separate meeting.
2. Because good decisions are sometimes reached when everyone gives a little, I keep myself flexible and open to compromise.
3. I do all I can to NOT get defensive. I listen to what others have to say and honestly evaluate whether their opinions might be valid.
How Well Do You Manage Anger?
Anger can lead to destruction or construction. It’s all in how one handles it.
Like other emotions, anger itself is neither bad nor good. It’s the behavior that follows the feeling that can be harmful or destructive. And, while anger is typically associated with aggression or violence, anger can be constructive, too. It can be the wind that blows a needed change through your life.
Take the following quiz to find out if you use your anger to help or harm yourself. You won’t be scored at the end, but answer true or false to the following questions, and elaborate a bit on those that feel especially relevant.
T /F 1. When I’m feeling anger, I’m aware of certain physical responses in my body and mental signals in my mind.
T /F 2. Rather than striking out verbally or physically when I feel angry, I take a few deep breaths and pause before I react.
One-Liners to Avoid in an Argument
They slice and dice, cutting wounds not easily healed by pacifying words. They inflame like a lit match near gasoline. They suck the life out of all that they touch. What are they?
They’re the zingers we fling at each other during arguments, the cruel and aggressive wisecracks or retorts that escalate a fight like nothing else. And when the zingers begin to outnumber the kind words spoken to each other, it may be too late to fix the relationship because the love has dried up and blown away.
Learning how to communicate well in a conflict—how to argue without hurting and insulting each other—is possibly the most important relationship survival skill ever. Doing so reduces divorce and domestic violence rates—and increases personal happiness, relationship satisfaction and peace of mind.
Here, then, are a few one-liners you’d do well to avoid:
“That’s not what’s happening here!” This is just one of many versions of the line: “I’m right and you’re wrong!” And whether you say it or just think it, the only thing “You’re wrong!” creates is a lose-lose situation.
Stopping Verbal Abuse in Its Tracks
Sarah’s husband yells at her for muting a commercial then greets her apology with more yelling and bizarre accusations. What’s going on there?
Like many people in verbally abusive relationships, Sarah thinks that if only she changed, she communicated more clearly, she explained things better, her husband wouldn’t get so mad at her.
But as Patricia Evans, author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship, explains, abuse victims don’t realize that the problem isn’t theirs: it’s in the abuser’s need to dominate and control. When Sarah’s husband yells at her for no reason, she thinks he’s misunderstood her. She doesn’t realize that he’s not looking for understanding, he’s establishing his power over her.
Sarah’s story exhibits several of the hallmarks of verbal abuse:
• It’s hostile.
• It’s unpredictable and even bizarre; the attack comes out of the blue.
• The victim feels confused and surprised.
Test Your Temper
How does one determine if anger is a problem? And if it is, what can one do about it? The quiz will help.
People who “fly off the handle” easily may be at greater risk for heart attacks or other illnesses—not to mention the risks of damaged relationships, unfulfilling lives, feelings of worthlessness, even trouble with the law. Test your temper with this Thriving quiz, to see how much risky business there is in your life.
True or False
1. I feel infuriated when I do a good job and get a poor evaluation.
2. When other people’s mistakes slow me down, it can upset me for the whole day.
3. When I get mad, I say nasty things.
4. I feel like hitting someone who makes me very angry.
5. I feel stupid and inadequate in challenging situations, and I hate that.