In the days of broadswords and chain mail, anger was a simple concept. In the BlackBerry and e-mail age, rage is often disguised. “Identifying your own anger style could be the key to eliminating it,” says Ron Potter-Efron, M.S.W., author of Letting Go of Anger.
Men with chronic anger are six times more likely to suffer a heart attack by the age of 50—not to mention high blood pressure, muscle pain, headaches, and depression. Here’s our anger management guide.
The Triggers: Performance reviews, wives, girlfriends
Don’t Become: The Cornered Dog
“Let’s say a guy is at work and his boss says he’s going too slowly. If he thinks he’s being attacked, then he’s feeling shameful anger, and he’ll lash out,” says Potter-Efron. This tips others off to your insecurity, which makes you look weak—and validates the criticism.
Instead: Slow down your reaction time. If it’s an accurate critique, accept it and focus on improvement. If it’s bunk, hold your punches. Whether it’s by e-mail, by phone, or in person, the best way to respond to an unwarranted kick in the crotch is to let the pain fade before delivering a calm, well-considered reproach.
The Triggers: Red tape, the DMV, late fees
Don’t Become: The Crazy Hothead
Venting your anger feels satisfying, but it doesn’t find a way around the problem, says Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., author of Transforming Anger.
Instead: Breathe. This simple move can override your anger/stress response. “Note how your breath is going in and out of your chest, and focus on a replacement attitude, like compassion or appreciation,” she says. After about 10 breaths, your heart rate will shift and signal your brain to express your more rational side.
The Triggers: Incompetent coworkers, bureaucrats, in-laws
Don’t Become: The Redirector
Anger is like Whack-a-Mole: Slam it down in one spot and it’ll pop up in another. Men who shun the urge to rage, says John Lynch, Ph.D., author of When Anger Scares You, often experience it in other ways, including anxiety, fatigue, or destructive behavior (such as drinking or cheating).
Instead: Talk it out, even when you can’t see what good can come of it. Start by saying something respectful to the person who lit your flare. “You can only feel angry when you feel threatened,” Lynch says. Then explain what bothered you and create a plan to avoid a repeat occurrence in the future.
The Triggers: Everything
Don’t Become: The Pessimist
Chronic, recurring anger without cause is a signal that something beneath the psychological surface is out of alignment.
Instead: Undergo screening for depression; habitual anger is often a symptom. Then find something that makes you feel better about yourself—hit the gym, go for a jog, clean up your office. This will give you less opportunity to get angry and will help eliminate negativity.