Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why Getting Angry Isn’t Always A Bad Thing?

Someone else took credit for your efforts?  Boss took away the opportunity you deserved? No one paid attention to your opinion? Any of it sounds familiar? These are some situations that can cause disappointment at workplace. But what happens if it occurs repeatedly? It has potential to turn into “Anger”.

Losing temper at workplace is nothing new. I have experienced it in self, seen it in others. I’m sure most of you would have felt it too. We have always been told to not get angry, right? It is termed unprofessional, immature and in some sense bad. What if I say it’s not bad? At least not all parts of it are bad. What if I say getting angry can get you better results? I know it sounds crazy but let me explain.

When I reflect on recent situations where I lost my cool, I realize it did two things to me. First, I was disappointed with the way I reacted, which could potentially impact my relationship with others. On the other hand, I was furious to prove my point and in a way preparing for the next encounter. It was a mixed feeling. In some sense, I was worried. What if I’m unable to control my anger? What if it impacts my professional image? As always, I started digging for answers. In the process, I read some stuff which gave me an interesting perspective about anger.  It helped me uncover & improve on things which helped me both professionally as well as personally. Let me share some of my learning & conclusions.

Before I begin, it is important for me to explain what Anger is? According to the American Psychological Association, "Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion." Ok, so anger is normal, it is healthy and above all it’s natural. If it’s normal and natural then why do people dislike it and why is it bad? Read on…

Anger is not just a mental state of mind, it triggers an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and levels of adrenaline. When we react to criticism, threat or frustration we may become angry.  But when anger becomes a full-blown rage, our judgment and thinking can become impaired and we are more likely to do and say unreasonable and irrational things.

I was always taught that the only way to lead effectively is to eliminate, or at the very least swallow and hide, emotions like anger and frustration. Go professional or go home, right?  Wrong. Let me quote Henry Evans and Colm Foster, emotional intelligence experts, “the highest performing people and highest performing teams tap into and express their entire spectrum of emotions”. Evans and Foster say anger is actually useful when harnessed and controlled because it fosters two useful behavioural capabilities.

Anger creates focus - Get mad and you tend to focus on one thing--the source of your anger. You don't get distracted. You're not tempted to multitask. All you can see is what's in front of you. That degree of focus can be extremely powerful.

Anger generates confidence - Get mad and the automatic rush of adrenaline heightens your senses and reduces your inhibitions. Anger--in small doses--can be the spark that gets you started.

All of this made sense but there's still one major problem with getting mad. When you're angry, it's easy to do and say things you later regret.  I’m not going to preach anger management. But I do know this; it’s ok to be upset, but be intelligent while you're upset." That way you sustain your professional relationships as you work through challenges.

Next time you are about to get angry, try what I have tried. Identify your triggers that get you angry. Be aware of them. Think about a time when you found yourself starting to lose it. You felt your heart rate increasing, your breathing changing, and you felt like you can’t stop yourself from blurting out whatever was on your mind – even though you knew, in that moment, it was going to cause relationship damage. In moments when your blood is boiling, the key is to manage your physical (including verbal) reaction so you can manage your emotional response.

So, we have a choice to make in these moments about how we’re going to respond to this emotional surge. We all feel them at some point: Is it going to control you, or will you control it?

Let me conclude with one of my favourite movie quotes: In the movie “X-men First Class,” Erik cannot unleash the full extent of his power except when he is swept away by emotion — specifically, anger and sorrow. Charles Xavier instructs him on how to control his mind and his emotions in order to control his power and to unleash it’s brilliance upon the world. Charles says “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity”. Imagine if you can find that balance within yourself!!