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Do Anger Professionals Get Angry?

Posted Jul 27 2011 2:22pm

This is a common question that my clients either ask me, or want to ask me as they sit either in anger management class or in private consultation. The short answer is that yes, of course, anger management professionals get angry, like everyone else. But, hopefully the anger management professional uses his own teachings to manage his or her own personal anger. In fact, part of teaching anger management skills to others involves being a good role-model for your clients.

As you may have guessed, I had  an experience once in one of my classes in which a client did everything in his power to argue with everything I was saying, contradicted almost every point I made, and generally was being a major irritant to me and to the other class participants.  This client ( a professional person) in effect was competing with me, much to the detriment of everyone else who wanted to hear what I had to say, not the opinions of a class-mate.

I struggled internally with how to handle this person while being a good role model. This is a similar struggle many of you probably have, when forced to deal with a difficult person such as your child, a spouse, or a coworker. I could feel myself slowly becoming angry inside until I made some decisions to handle the situation differently.

What did I do differently? Instead of logically presenting more “research evidence” to back up my points and proving that I was “right,” I decided to de-fuse it by saying things like  “there are many ways to view this issue” and “thanks for your input,” and let’s have a talk about that after class,” etc.

This acknowledgement worked beautifully both for myself and for him. It immediately de-escalated the subtle “power struggle” going on between us. This participant needed acknowledgement that her viewpoints were perhaps valid too (even though, I obviously still not agree with her viewpoints). The other class members saw what was going on and hopefully acquired a new tool to learn how to deal with conflicts.

The lesson here? Direct confrontation often escalates anger while acknowledging the opinions or feelings of another person de-escalates anger, even if you don’t agree with them.

Do you remember the old adage: Would you rather be “right” or be “happy”? I would modify that to: “Would you rather be right or create peace?”

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