Managing Your Anger: Recognize Your Anger

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

When leaders are confronted about their anger, their most common response is, “I’m not angry.” This dismissive conviction is usually pronounced in an angry tone. Listeners are both amused and dumbfounded. How could a smart person be so clueless? Any instinctual response when indulged in regularly becomes normal. Emotional habits are habits just the same. And leaders who feel they have every right to become angry when they are thwarted or annoyed don’t view their anger as anything abnormal. Not seeing the problem is their problem.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You cannot manage what you do not recognize. As a leader, you have hopefully matured to the point that you realize you still have some shortcomings you have not yet recognized. Reflect on whether you have redefined anger as so extreme an emotional state that you seldom if ever reach that level of arousal. This realization will help you see that becoming annoyed, irritated or aggravated are just anger in its milder forms.

How can you do it?

  1. Assume you have a problem with anger. Anger is one of the universal human emotions. You may become angry less often or less intensely angry when you do, but the odds that you never become angry are pretty slim. It is more likely that you just don’t realize you are angry when you are.
  2. Ask your colleagues to inform you when you appear to be angry. While it’s true that their perceptions may be inaccurate, their perceptions are their reality. Your colleagues are almost always better judges of how you are coming across to others than you are.
  3. Pay attention to your physiological arousal. Watch for your breathing to increase and your heart to start racing.
  4. Note your mental arousal. You may feel the need to interrupt, raise your voice or talk over others. You may find your thoughts racing or realize you are repeating your point needlessly.

How have you learned to recognize your own anger?

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