The German army won’t let a soldier tile a complaint and, make a criticism immediately after a thing has happened. He has to sleep on his grudge first and cool off. If he files his complaint immediately, he is punished. By the eternals, there ought to be a law like that in civil life too – a law for whining parents and nagging wives and scolding employers and the whole obnoxious parade of fault finders.Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People
It isn’t easy to control anger, but we know that it is not good to engage in discussions while our emotions are riled up. You’ve probably given this advice to your friends! But, when we get upset, we often struggle to control anger.
A particularly challenging time is when we disagree with someone else’s opinion. We want others to recognize our point of view. We defend our argument with passion and get worked up when we find resistance. Often, we push until one person in the debate finally gives up, but usually not until we have pushed it too far. We can get angry and defend our point of view while offended and say things we later regret. Is it worth it to be right if it hurts your friends?
If we control anger successfully, you won’t feel the need to deny the other person’s argument and will be more likely to influence the other person’s thinking. It is more comfortable in this state to learn from each other, and have a productive and cooperative discussion. This can help you to forge new friendships instead of upsetting current ones.
Taking the time to cool down is a difficult lesson to put into practice. When our anger is present, the amygdala reacts without really giving you enough time and space to think clearly.
How to control anger? Take the time to cool down your mind.
Use these two tips to your advantage to learn to control anger. As soon as you realize you’re getting upset, don’t push the conversation and do one of these instead. Later, you can come back to this.
- Option 1: challenge your brain to think. Your emotional responses, such as anger, are triggered by the amygdala. The amygdala is a part of your brain that’s very primitive; think of it as the “lizard’s brain.” We’ve talked about it when discussing how to control our emotions. Very emotional, not the smartest. When the amygdala is triggered, it puts you in a “fight or flight” mode that is rarely productive unless you must fight. You can take power off the amygdala, and cool it down, by directing your energy to the smarter side of your brain. To do this, force your mind to reason! Try to solve a puzzle, think of a complex problem, do some math. Anything that requires you to stop and think carefully. This will help you avoid anger while solving a problem, which is doubly productive!
- Option 2: Take a nap or a full night’s sleep. If you’re angry, don’t keep thinking about the same things. Give your mind a break. Get some rest and create some distance from the problem. You can repeat to yourself, “I’m sleepy,” over and over as a mantra. Or use any other technique to distract your mind and fall asleep – maybe read a scientific paper? If you do this, chances are you’ll fall asleep. After having slept, your mind will be clearer and more rational.
Next time you start feeling that you need to control your emotions, take a break, and wait until the feelings dissipate. It’s an exercise of self-control that will help you preserve good relationships and solve problems better over the long term.
Last Updated on January 14, 2023 by Omar Eduardo