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Dealing with anger the right way

by HARVEY MACKAY
| January 1, 2023 1:00 AM

One day, a wise monk was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. The monk continued his walk, paying no attention to the insults, and the young man grew enraged at being ignored.

"Why don't you say something?" he demanded. "How can you keep walking as if I were silent?"

The monk stopped and asked the young man, "Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?"

"It would belong to me, because I brought the gift," the young man said.

The monk smiled. "That is correct. And it is the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself."

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "For every minute you remain angry, you give up 60 seconds of peace of mind."

An angry person is seldom reasonable; a reasonable person is seldom angry.

We all feel angry at times. It's a normal emotion when we feel frustrated, attacked or unfairly treated. Feeling anger can help people identify problems and motivate people to create change, achieve goals and just stay safe.

The problem with anger comes from how people deal with it. Anger in business situations is especially tricky. As damaging as an angry response can be, family and friends tend to be more forgiving. In business dealings, it often spells the end of the relationship.

The natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively and defend yourself when attacked, even becoming verbally abusive toward others or physically threatening. Others prefer to sulk and ignore people or refuse to do work or do a poor job. Then there are those who internalize anger, start hating themselves and cut themselves off from the world.

Some view anger as an emotion that triggers part of the fight-or-flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively and physiologically when a person opts to take action to immediately stop a threat.

The American Psychological Association (APA) lists three main approaches to dealing with anger: expressing, suppressing and calming. It states that "expressing your angry feelings in an assertive — not aggressive — manner is the healthiest way to express anger. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others."

The APA describes the suppression of anger as holding it in, not thinking about it or focusing on something positive. The problem with this approach is that anger can turn inward and cause hypertension, high blood pressure or depression.

The third way is to calm yourself, control your outward behavior and let your feelings subside. I have always found that the greatest remedy for anger is delay, which is why U.S. President Thomas Jefferson said, "When angry, count 10 before you speak. If very angry, 100."

Other ways to manage anger include getting enough sleep, because sleep deprivation makes it harder to control angry impulses. Take deep breaths, or go for a walk or get some other exercise. Distance yourself while you think about how to solve or improve the situation.

Here's a final story to illustrate my point. A young lion and a cougar, both thirsty, arrived at their usual water hole at the same time. They immediately began to argue about who should satisfy their thirst first. The argument became heated, and each decided he would rather die than give up the privilege of being the first to quench his thirst. As they stubbornly confronted each other, their emotions turned to rage. Their cruel attacks on each other were suddenly interrupted. They both looked up. Circling overhead was a flock of vultures waiting for the loser to fall. Quietly, the two beasts turned and walked away. The thought of being devoured was all they needed to end their quarrel.

Don't let your anger devour you. Instead, take the bite out of your anger.

Mackay's Moral: It is better to choose what you say than say what you choose.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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