Anger is the response we have to a problem we feel unable to solve, whether it’s a problem in our relationship, at work, or some other aspect of our lives. But anger is almost always an unconstructive response that escalates the problem, rather than solving it. Learning strategies for problem solving instead is not only constructive, but will also help you to manage and avoid using anger altogether.
Next time you start to feel yourself becoming angry at a particular situation, try some of these strategies for problem solving instead of giving in to your anger:
Change your thinking: This is a great way to address problems from a different perspective. Sometimes the way we think can create barriers between the solution and us. Our brains are hard-wired to find and focus on threats as part of our in-built survival instinct. This lends itself to negative thinking, where we only focus on the problem and nothing else. By actively changing your thought process – focusing on goals and the steps you can take to achieve them, rather than always focusing on the problem – a more positive result is likely.
Work on communication skills: Communication is the key to good problem solving, especially if the problem is a relationship or social problem involving others. Anger disrupts the open flow of ideas, because the focus shifts from solving the problem to either criticising the other person, or defending yourself from criticism. Neither position is particularly conducive to clear communication. Think about what you’re saying – and how you’re saying it – is a good way to avoid conflict with another person. If you can communicate your feelings clearly, you’re less likely to become frustrated and angry – and the other person is less likely to react with anger as well.
Change your environment: Sometimes your environment may not be a pleasant positive place to be, which can have a negative affect on your mood and cause you to become stressed, frustrated and ultimately angry. If your anger stems from a negative working environment, it might be time to look for a new job. Most of the time, however, the situation isn’t that dire. It might just be that you’re overworked, tired, and need a break. In which case, take some time off – have a holiday – and when you return, remember to change your thinking, and work on your communication skills.
These may seem like small, easy changes to make, but that’s why they work. Anger usually stems from a small issue that grows into a bigger problem over time. By addressing the issues head on when they appear, and with a willingness to problem-solve and communicate positively with those around you, you’ll have a better chance of solving the problem without anger.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.