When you vent your anger, you simply open the energy that is feeding your anger. ~Thich Nhat Hanh
a guest post by leah mcclellan of Peaceful Planet
Even the most calm and level-headed among us gets angry from time to time. It doesn’t mean we’re backsliding in our quest for happiness, and it doesn’t mean we’re bad people or that there’s something “wrong” with us. It just means we’re like everyone else.
For some, anger rears up fast and furious in loud arguments and harsh words. Others don’t like to admit they’re angry but it leaks out anyway in sarcasm, complaints, and cutting remarks. Still others become short and snappish at the end of a long, difficult day or when overloaded with any kind of stress. Anger—along with its cousins aggravation, irritation, and frustration—can be sneaky because it often hitches a ride without our permission or even knowledge. It’s only when our attitudes become uncaring and our words unkind that we realize we have company—unless we’re intentionally mindful of anger.
But what can you do to avoid angry words?
Here are some tips for keeping your words peaceful.
1. nurture compassion by living it
Consider the movies and TV shows that you watch, the things you talk about and listen to with friends and family, and your choice of attitude toward others. If your lifestyle “diet” is filled with angry things, consider eliminating or reducing some.
2. take good care of yourself
Sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and meditation or yoga reduce stress which helps you to have more patience and tolerance for others. When you feel good, it’s easier to feel good about others.
3. know your limits
Avoid over-scheduling and constant multi-tasking. Turn off the TV, the computer, the cell phone. Take breaks from work, noise, and distraction. Make your home or office a sanctuary of peace instead of a hub of frantic activity. Consider a 15-minute nap when you come home from work.
4. resolve conflicts
Initiate constructive discussions as conflicts arise. Focus on issues, alternatives, compromises, and resolutions. Express your needs and make requests rather than announcing what’s “wrong” with the other person.
5. let it go
If a conflict or difference of opinion can’t be resolved right away, let it go. Don’t dwell on unfairness and injustice, and don’t bring it up in an unrelated conversation. Consider rescheduling a talk for another time or reevaluating the issue’s importance in your life.
6. know your triggers
If certain challenging people or situations can’t or shouldn’t be avoided, then prepare for them. Decide how to handle the situation calmly and what to do if you’re unable to stay calm. If you do lose your cool, consider it a learning experience. Figure out why certain people or things make you so mad, and find different, more empathetic ways to think about them.
7. take a break
If you feel irritation and anger rising up during a discussion, tell your loved one or friend that you need a break. Go for a walk. Stretch. Breathe. Get in touch with that calm, peaceful part of yourself and remember how much you care about and love the other person.
8. make choices
Remind yourself that you are not your anger, and you are not your thoughts. You don’t have to react to your anger with more anger. Remember that you can choose kind, calm words and avoid using words that hurt. Choosing caring words can help your anger dissipate, but angry words feed the fire in yourself and in other people.
9. cultivate compassion intentionally
Instead of thinking about yourself and what you must get from someone, reflect on what you can give to other people. When we shine our light of love into other people’s lives, that light is reflected back to us.
10. reconsider venting
If you like to “vent” or complain with friends or family, think again. Asking for advice can be helpful. But angry words about the person you’re having a conflict with (or punching a pillow or kicking something) only feeds the fire. It doesn’t really get it out.
When we use angry, unkind words we not only hurt others, we also hurt ourselves by damaging our relationships with people we love and care about. And the only good thing that might come out of angry words is an apology.
But an apology can’t undo damage, and it can’t change the fact that our words have hurt someone. Accepting our anger, understanding it, and knowing we can make choices that are healthier and more compassionate for ourselves and the people we love is a wonderful step on the road to a happier life.
Leah McClellan is a freelance writer, part-time English instructor, gardener, vegetarian, and animal lover who dreams of world peace and writes about communication at Peaceful Planet.