8 Practical Tools for Anger Control

With 8 simple tools, you can learn to control your anger!  Seriously. These 8 tools will surprise you because they are both simple and practical.  If you use them, you will find yourself quickly being able to maintain better control of your anger.

Read the skills below and make a commitment to practice these skills daily. Like most things they need to be practiced over time in order to master.  Remember, if you put in the effort you will see results!

Step 1 – Pause: Pause for a moment to begin the slowing down process. Reflect on your anger and the primary emotions behind it.

Step 2 – Timeout: Sometimes we need to take a longer pause, also known as a “timeout.” By doing this we are able to activate the part of our brain (the frontal lobe) where logic and impulse control are formed, rather than just reacting with the “fight or flight” primitive part of our brain (the amygdala). Once we activate our logical thought process, we can begin to problem solve and compromise.  It is very difficult to use any of the other skills without taking a timeout first.

Step 3 – Listen: After taking a timeout, we should be ready to return to the situation and to listen to the perspective and concerns of others. Furthermore, we are able to listen to our own negative thinking and begin to reframe those thoughts into more positive thoughts. Remember, listening can be the most challenging part of communication, but it is also the most important.

Step 4 – Empathize: During step 4, we work to try to understand the perspective, needs, and emotions of others.  We attempt to truly “put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.”  We don’t have to agree with the other person’s perspective, we just have to understand it in order to resolve the issue.  Remember, someone’s perspective is their truth, if we can’t understand another person’s truth then we are missing key components of a situation.

Step 5 – Identify Feelings: Anger is a secondary emotion, and another feeling always precedes it. As we increase our sense of control, we can identify the feelings that come before our anger, or the feelings that are “buried underneath” our anger. Anger is a defense mechanism, but it gives us a false sense of control and protection.  When we feel anger, it should serve as a signal that we are actually feeling something else.  Try and identify which feelings come before your anger. 

Step 6 – Communicate Emotions: Once we have a clear understanding of our feelings, we can begin to communicate them in a safe and effective way.  Through the use of assertive communication, we can quickly resolve our challenges.  This is because a listener is more receptive to this non-aggressive communication style, and they are more likely to listen to your needs and emotions.  Practice expressing your emotions and needs in a non-aggressive manner.

Step 7 – Accept Responsibility: During this step, we accept responsibility for our actions and understand our role in escalating the situation. By accepting responsibility, we step back from blaming others for our stress and frustration, and instead focus on our own role.

Step 8 – Reevaluate Situation: Once we have accepted responsibility, we can evaluate what we have control over, and can let go of the things that we do not have control over.  Often times the things that cause us the most stress and anger are the things that we cannot control.  The “Serenity Prayer” is a useful reminder to help reframe our focus: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In our book Managing Our Anger, Managing Our Lives we have developed these 8 simple and effective steps to serve as anchors to our programs. If you have tried therapy before and it hasn’t helped you manage your anger, try our practical skills-based program. We are sure you will experience a positive result!

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