People show their frustration and anger in different ways. Some shout. Some sweat. Some grow deadly silent. Some cry. Some become biting with their words. Regardless of how your anger manifests during conflict situations, there are some tried and true ways to de-escalate things for yourself. Here are a few simple ways to manage your anger:
Take a Brain Break: Take a minimum of 20 minutes to allow the emotional flooding to reside. The key here is to do something else. Don’t use the break to keep replaying the conflict conversation in your head, as that usually just increases the heat. Go for a walk and think about your weekend plans. Do the crossword puzzle in your daily paper. Pick something that makes your brain think about anything other than the conflict situation.
Neutralize by Naming: Naming the behavior that’s contributing to your anger can help take its power away. This is particularly true in difficult negotiations. For example, you might try, “When you said you have other candidates who would be happy to accept the job with that salary, it appeared you were suggesting you’re ready to hire someone else instead. I’d hate for a comment made in a difficult moment to get in the way of what could be a great partnership here.
Use Reminders: Reminding yourself of your goals can help re-stabilize you during difficult moments. Write them on 3×5 card and bring the card with you. When you feel yourself heating up, look down at your card and remind yourself what you really want from this conversation. Keep in mind, though, that your goals shouldn’t be contingent on getting the other person to do something. And they should long-term oriented: Strengthen this relationship. Improve customer service in the department. Get a better handle on my workload.
Identify the Threat: Anger is often caused by the perception that something important to us is threatened, often something related to our identity. For example, you may feel angry if you believe the other person is challenging your competence, trying to control you, exclude you, or questioning your worth. You can manage your triggers by identifying the threat and reminding yourself it’s not “all or nothing.” If a boss let’s you know that there’s a part of your job you didn’t handle well, that’s not the same as being incompetent. It means there’s probably a lot of work you do well and a few things you don’t do so well. Don’t get swept away.
Create a Stopper: Stoppers are mechanisms for reminding yourself to stop doing something. Stoppers might include a spot on the back of your hand that you pinch to get your own attention. Or a meditation breathing technique you learned in yoga class. You get the idea. You’ll need to practice using your stopper a number of times before it’s truly effective, because you need to help your brain learn the connection between the stopper and the behavior you want to cease doing.
Keep in mind that these "simple" ways only become so with commitment and practice. Very few ingrained behaviors change with just a casual try or two.
Don’t let heated moments leave debris in your wake.