Emotional resilience at work - Articles

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« 25. How to self-calm anger at work »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions".

People with high levels of emotional intelligence still get frustrated and angry. These emotions are neither good nor bad, it's what we do with them that matters.

Frustration and anger can creep up on us unawares or suddenly seem to explode inside us.

How do we manage anger? Is it best to scream and shout and get it out or to quietly push it away? Or are there other methods to manage anger and frustration that draw on high levels of emotional intelligence?

Yes there are. 

There are three pillars of emotional resilience. All of them are relevant to your ability to manage anger and frustration, and relevant to your levels of emotional intelligence.

The first pillar is your ability to keep your cool.

What this means is that you can stay calm and cool in frustrating situations and not feel angry, frustrated or irritated. We have discussed ways to keep your cool elsewhere.

The second pillar is the ability to calm down your emotions if they arise. In other words, if you do feel angry or frustrated can you use self-calming techniques so that your anger reduces quickly?

When does anger rear up?

I am not talking about pathological rage here, I am talking about the normal types of frustration and anger that everyone can experience at work.

  1. The photocopier breaks down just as you need an extra document for an important meeting, and you get angry that it should break-down now.
  2. Your request for an extra member of staff is put on hold, and you are indignant.
  3. You are under-resourced and experiencing higher than average customer calls, and get frustrated at having to deal with so many irritated customers.

When you feel angry, frustrated or irritated in these kinds of situations, can you calm yourself down quickly, when you want to or need to?

This article will focus upon self-calming techniques to help you do this.

The third pillar of emotional resilience and emotional self-management, is your ability to create positive emotions, irrespective of how you are feeling. Can you, for example, generate emotions such as joy, delight or serenity on a daily basis.

When you can do this you automatically reduce emotions such as anger and frustration. When you are feeling kind and loving you are not feeling angry. This is also covered elsewhere.

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Emotional intelligence skills 1: Choose kindness and generosity

Frustration and anger can be fuelled by negative thoughts and critical comments about other people or situations. It is so easy to become frustrated by someone when you label them selfish, mean, bossy, difficult, stupid, a loser, or something else equally harsh.

Realise you may be completely wrong in your interpretation of what is going on.

Notice when you are being negative and shift your thinking and feelings to those of kindness and generosity. Be kind to others and your frustration will ease. If in doubt judge people kindly.

For example, when someone is yelling at you, or doing something frustrating that you don't like, if you think, "How dare you yell at me, who do you think you are, I don't get paid enough to put up with this" ... you are likely to get and stay angry. In contrast, if you stop thinking like that and instead feel kindness towards them, such as, "This woman is having a lousy day, I'll help her" or "I'll turn this man around and make his day", it may be easier to calm down your own anger.

The skills of emotional intelligence include being able to shift from one emotion to another.

When we can all judge each other more kindly the world will have far less anger in it.

Emotional intelligence skills 2: Laugh - it's the antidote to anger

Laughter is a good antidote for frustration, anger and irritation.

One of my clients in Local Government told me a wonderful story some years ago about a time when he was being abused by a ratepayer and how he defused his anger with laughter.

Following a big outburst, the ratepayer finally demanded, very angrily, that he see someone higher in the organisation. Thinking quickly, my client responded, "I'm so sorry, unless you've got a direct line to God, there is no one higher than me!"

The ratepayer cracked out laughing, his anger dissolved and they sorted out the problem between them happily! It's not that I suggest you say this but it worked for him and shows how useful laughter is.

When you can make up a funny story about what has happened and laugh at the situation you are angry about then your anger may calm.

The old saying that "laughter is the best medicine", still rings true in these days of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence skills 3: Write down the anger

There are many ways to express your anger, and once it is expressed you may find you calm down quite quickly.

I find expressing my anger and frustration in writing very therapeutic, for example. If I am at work and I have got angry, by quickly writing down what has happened and my reactions to it, I can calm down and continue with my work.

It means I don't have to keep going over it, or worry that I may forget what happened. It is written down so I can return to it whenever I wish.

At a later time, say when I am at home, I can re-read what I have written, if I still wish to sort through the issue.

Emotional intelligence skills include the ability to defer an emotion so it can be dealt with later. This is not the same as repressing or ignoring it. It is simply being intelligent with it.

Emotional Intelligence skills 4: Know why you are angry

Emotional self-awareness is a crucial competency in emotional intelligence. Part of emotional self-awareness is knowing how you feel and understanding why.

Emotions such as anger, frustration and irritation can be triggered by our history even though it seems as if it is being triggered by a current event.

You need to know the difference. When you become angry about a trivial event and realise your reaction is connected to something else which is irrelevant it can be easier to calm down.

Are you angry because of something that has happened in your history? Are you adding your history to the present moment and therefore adding fuel to something small and making it appear bigger?

For example, if your CEO has looked at you in a certain way today, and your mother used to look at you in the same way when you had been naughty - do you react because of the way the CEO looked today or the way you were looked at when you were a child?

If it's the latter, try reacting as if this was the first time you'd ever seen the look! Understanding the causes of your anger and reflecting on them may help you to calm down. Emotional intelligence considers all emotional causes, not just the ones in the present moment which seem to trigger your anger.

Want to develop your emotional resilience, our unique 2 DVD set, plus ebook, plus MP3s are here to help you.

Emotional resilience premium bundle $317 $189. Add to Cart

                   Save $128. Free shipping worldwide

Emotional Intelligence skills 5: Allow 6 minutes of drama

One of the best self-calming techniques for me, is to set myself a time limit during which I will express the anger in the loudest and most dramatic way possible, (but please note this is to be done safely and away from other people).

I will give myself six minutes in which I let rip at the top of my voice, stomp around, and be a right drama queen. I can't keep the anger going for long, I release it, and I end up feeling free of it. I usually end up laughing at my antics too!

It means I don't get stuck in the anger. Emotional intelligence does not say that anger is right or wrong, what it does say is that it's not intelligent to become stuck in it.

This drama method will not suit everyone nor be possible for everyone, so choose wisely. However, it is important to say that expressing the anger can be useful for some, and it doesn't have to be calmed down immediately without accepting and expressing its existence!

How high is your emotional intelligence & emotional resilience?

There is so much that you can do to develop your emotional resilience and the E.I. Institute has a number of options to help you:

Worried that you don't have enough emotional resilience and that you need to develop your emotional intelligence more? Our unique, practical, 5-star emotional intelligence coaching package is available for you and includes the opportunity to have your emotional intelligence assessed. Boost your resilience now. Find out more here.