Annoyed & Angry? Try these quick questions to diffuse your mood...
How to stop yourself from reacting with emotion when you're annoyed and angry? Follow these 4 simple tips and remain professional at all times.
As someone who travels frequently for business cutting my lawn is low on my priority list of how to spend my free time. In fact 99% of things in life come higher on my list so I hired a gardener to do it for me.
It was a small company, pretty informal. No contract, no hassle. Not that unusual. Unfortunately we don’t keep cash in the house and every time he came for his payment I’m either travelling, on the phone or have none in to give him. I know how important cash flow is to a small business and I feel terrible about it every single month so I asked him could we do it by direct bank transfer or PayPal? His response? Cash only, “It’s not that much to ask.”
I saw red (which actually is quite unusual for me!). This felt incredibly rude and inconsiderate. I was the customer after all and I was trying to pay him. Who was he to know how much of an ask this was? I spent the rest of the morning storming around the house muttering “how dare he?”, “what happened to the customer is always right?” and “who ever uses cash these days anyway?”. As a result I was so preoccupied that my whole morning plan was thrown out of whack. I felt anxious and irritable. I was halfway through drafting an email telling him that it would be the last time he cut our lawn, to start operating in the 21st century and to rethink his attitude if he wanted to attract and retain customers when I stopped and closed my email without sending it.
As a manager and coach I’m exposed to situations and people that can be a tad infuriating more than most. Over the years I’ve learned ( the hard way and with advice from mentors) a few key questions that can steer things in a more positive direction. What are the magical questions that stop my rage in its tracks? Below you’ll find my 4 standard fury quenching questions for you to try.
The tricky part can be stopping yourself fast enough to ask Hafizul Rasydan Yaacob trick in the beginning was printing them out and having them in my eye-line at my desk (the place I got mad most often). In time you won’t need the prompt any more but it’s hand to have something to remind you in the beginning.
1. Does it need action now?
I’m an impatient person. It is both a strength and a weakness. My impatience means that I rarely suffer from procrastination, I work hard in an aim to get results quickly and look for the simplest solution to most problems. On the flip side it does make me want to resolve issues immediately and react straight away. The first question I ask myself not only when rage descends but when I receive a request for any action is “Will the world end if I do nothing right now? Can this wait?” An emotional state is no time to be making decisions or taking action. Your thinking is often clouded and biased. Take a walk, go get a coffee, sleep on it. Just take some time away from the problem to let the emotions settle before deciding a clear course of action. Don’t put it off indefinitely – set yourself a definitive time to deal with it, set yourself a reminder and walk away. The positive side effect is that sometimes when you revisit the situation has already resolved itself.
2. Can I do something to make myself feel better without making it worse?
Emotions can be all encompassing and sometimes the rage just needs releasing before you can get on with your day. The trick is to find a positive way to do it.
I have three default actions when I’m annoyed: Take a walk outside, hit the gym or write it out. The fresh air of the walk, the daylight and context change helps to remind you that there’s more to life.If the weather isn’t up for a walk I’m lucky enough to work from home where I can step into my home gym and bash out a few angry sets of weights – pushing the angry energy into something positive. If all else fails I will open a blank email put in my own email address and write out exactly what I would like to say to this person, no holds barred. I then send it to myself using a 2 hour delay on delivery. This gets the fury out of your system and since you’ve sent the email to yourself no harm has been done. When the email arrives in your inbox 2 hours later, read it back as if someone had sent it to you. You’ll often realize how this response would only make the situation worse and so now can look for a better way to respond in a calmer frame of mind.
What can you do to release the feelings in a positive way?
3. Is it worth it?
Sometimes there are situations that you do have to tackle immediately. Sometimes you do need to deal with an uncomfortable, negative and tense situation. Sometimes you just can’t hold it back. That is where this question comes in handy.
For me the thought of sacking the gardener simply over the method of payment and a rather gruff email did not outweigh the fact that I would then either have to do it myself or find a new company to do it.
Consider the consequences of your actions. Consider what will happen if you do this, what will happen if you don’t do this. Will this have longer term implications? For example, are you going to need this person’s help or cooperation on something else later?
4. Do you know all the facts?
This is often a hard question to ask, you are after all annoyed/insulted/under a red cloud of self-involved rage at the time. Consider though whether you really know the full facts of the situation before taking action.
For example, I didn’t know my gardener very well- maybe he was going through some personal circumstances and sending me bank details was the least of his worries. Maybe he has 12 kids, 3 dogs and 2 elderly parents to look after on his own and so his short reply wasn’t an angry one just a reflection of his lack of time to go out of his way to do business the way I would prefer. Maybe he had been a victim of cybercrime or identity theft and was cautious about giving out personal details as a result.
Take a moment to do some research or at least think about what other fact you don’t know that might have an influence on how you respond.
One final tip:
Try a more personal communication method
Email is a blessing and curse. Instant free global communication has revolutionized the way we do business and have relationships. Unfortunately, email and the written word is subject to the interpretation of the reader and their present emotional state, something we have no control over. We have all experienced how easily this can lead to miscommunication and make a situation worse. If the topic is highly emotional or sensitive then call the person, Skype them, face time them, meet them for coffee to talk about it but don’t use email. If you need a record of what is said then follow-up afterwords confirming what was agreed. Sometimes just being in front of someone can help to diffuse tension. After all often we aren’t as brave in person as we are in an email!