How to quell workplace rage

Before you let loose with an angry email, regrettable tweet or insulting Slack message, try these eight tips to keep a level head.

How to quell workplace rage

Have you ever gotten so worked up at work that you’ve experienced a fit of scorching hot rage? I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some point.

We’re only human, after all. However, unchecked anger can have dire consequences when you can’t express your anger in a safe, productive manner.

The next time you see start seeing red, take a beat. And try these eight ways to quell your rage:

1. Recognize the warning signs.

To effectively manage your anger, you first must recognize the warning signs with a clear head. When you do, you’ll be able to avoid your worst initial impulses. Or, you may even be able to defuse tense situations involving family, friends or co-workers.

While not an extensive list, the most prevalent warning signs to be aware of include:

  • Your heart starts pounding
  • Rapid and shallow breathing occurs
  • It feels like your face is flushed
  • You suddenly feel hot or cold
  • Teeth grinding
  • Clenching of the jaw and fists
  • Fidgeting or pacing
  • Pain in the neck or head
  • Tension in the arms, back, neck and shoulders
  • Stomach discomfort

Avoiding a costly fit of rage starts with recognizing the fact that your anger is rising.

2. Count to 10, and focus on your breathing.

Counting to 10 might seem like a cliché, but it is effective. Why? Doing so interrupts the immediate reaction and allows you to reflect before responding.

You’ll feel more relaxed and in control if you take a few slow, deep breaths. Using this technique, you can break the cycle of anger and avoid lashing out when you feel like a volcano that’s about to erupt.

3. Adopt a mindset that people are doing the best they can.

A little bit of empathy goes a long way toward preventing an avoidable fit of rage.

“We’re all trying our best to handle what the world is throwing at us, with the skills we’re able to access at that moment. None of us wants to be losing it,” psychologist Stuart Ablon told HBR. “Think to yourself, ‘This person I’m interacting with isn’t giving me what I want, but this person is doing the best they can right now.’ If you can exude that, you will help regulate them,” he adds.

“It’s incredibly contagious — the same way a parent who stays calm can soothe a crying baby, or a kindergarten teacher with supreme calmness can regulate a whole class.”

4. Keep a journal or log of your feelings of anger.

Anger can be much easier to manage if you know what’s making you angry. And if you write it all down.

There are times when people feel irritable just because they’re stressed, sleep-deprived or for another personal reason. More often than not, the anger is due to an identifiable cause or an amalgamation of stressors. In any case, keeping an “anger journal” will help you understand what’s behind your anger and provide a cathartic, healthy release.

This doesn’t have to be complex. Just describe your feelings, what caused your anger, and what steps you took to deal with it. Then, when calm, think about the thoughts you had at the time, and jot these experiences down. You can then reflect on them to see if there are any anger patterns that require more attention.

5. Move your body.

Engaging in physical activity is one of the best ways to put bad energy to good use. The next time you feel anger rising, go for a walk or hit the gym.

Exercising regularly can help you decompress as well, which helps prevent rage or frustration from spiking in the first place.

6. Stick with “I’ statements.

“To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use ‘I’ statements to describe the problem,” advises the Mayo Clinic.

Describe the problem precisely and with respect. As an example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” in place of “You never do any housework.”

7. Use humor.

A lighthearted comment or thought often defuses rage. Humor helps you maintain perspective, and it can snap you out of a bad mindset. You can get creative with this tactic. “When you get angry and call someone a name or refer to them in some imaginative phrase, stop and picture what that word would literally look like,” notes the American Psychological Association.

If you’re at work and you think of a co-worker as a ‘dirtbag’ or a ‘single-cell life form,’ for example, picture a large bag full of dirt (or an amoeba) sitting at your colleague’s desk, talking on the phone, going to meetings,” they add. When a name comes to your mind about another person, do this.

“If you can, draw a picture of what the actual thing might look like,” the APA suggests. “This will take a lot of the edge off your fury, and humor can always be relied on to help unknot a tense situation.”

8. Know when to stop.

If you find yourself in a heated conversation, don’t say or do anything that you might regret later. Even though every one of us has uttered hurtful or inappropriate words in the heat of the moment, remember that just one outburst can permanently sever a relationship. Or cause grave harm to your career and reputation.

Make no mistake about. If you’re careless about actions or words, there can be far-reaching effects. That’s why it’s essential to know when to stop and just walk away or delete the email. You can always circle back to difficult conversations when everyone is more levelheaded. And, in the scheme of things, not all issues are worth getting worked up about.

You’ll never regret taking the high road.

John Rampton is the founder Calendar and Due

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