Anger is a Choice

by Ron Potter
Image source: Patrik Nygren, Creative Commons

Image source: Patrik Nygren, Creative Commons

In some ways, anger can be the antitheses to patience. At least I notice that when my patience runs out, it is most often replaced by anger.

We’ll explore the patience element a lot in other blogs because patience is one of the cornerstones of great team building, but for now let’s look at anger all by itself.

For the most part, people mistakenly assume that anger is induced by outside circumstances, and more importantly, other people. You’ll hear them say, “That person makes me so angry!”

Interestingly enough, we can’t make people smile, cry, feel remorseful, or even be motivated.

Smile:  I can think of several instances of that child that just wants to be upset, push out that lower lip and pout.  Regardless of your efforts they’ll refuse to smile.  We adults do the same think only in a more “socially acceptable way.”

Cry:  My wife will say, “Doesn’t this movie just make you cry?” No, sorry.  One of my favorite movies scenes occurs in Sleepless in Seattle where the Tom Hanks character and his buddy are “crying” over scenes from the Dirty Dozen.

Remorseful:  Guilt ridden?  “No, I don’t want to feel guilt ridden, they deserved it.”  When you try to make me feel remorseful it pushes what is probable genuinely remorse even deeper into hidden spaces.

Motivate:  Even the definition relates to desire.  I have desires for lots of reasons but not because you’re able to make me.

Learn: I truly believe I can’t teach anybody anything if they’re not ready and willing to learn. I can only help them learn.

All of these things are internal. They happen from within. We aren’t made to learn, we choose to learn. We aren’t made to cry, we choose to cry.

So if we take this perspective, what would happen if our anger triggered curiosity?  What if instead of reacting (losing patience) we begin to ask ourselves why are we angry?

By learning to understand why we choose to become angry in certain circumstances or situations, we can begin to gain control of ourselves and the situation.  This in turn will become a very powerful tool for being more productive and for accomplishing greater results.  If open and honest patience (meaning we can talk about the issue) our teams have a much better chance of being productive rather than bogging down in an angry environment.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we should never be angry. That would be unhealthy. It’s even healthy to acknowledge your anger. But… examine the target or cause of your anger. If you’re blaming the other person for your anger—“they make me so mad”—then you have no ability to work through, diminish, or gain some control or productivity in the situation. If you however realize you have chosen to be angry, you can then become curious and begin to gain some control, insight, and value from the situation.

It’s okay to choose to be angry in some circumstances, but it’s a wasted opportunity if we don’t learn, grow, and develop from the opportunity.

Anger is a choice. Choose wisely!

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