How To: Turn Off Your Anger

Anger can be caused by the big things in life (family rifts) or the small things (you get cut off in traffic), but how it affects you and how you respond is within your control.  Living in a city will give you a quick lesson on how to deal with unprovoked anger from a complete stranger (an un-airconditioned subway car will do that), but what about those confrontations with co-workers, friends, acquaintances or family—the relationships you will lose sleep over? Leonard Scheff and Susan Edmiston’s The Cow in the Parking Lot explains how to take your anger and manage it. And then turn it off.  Who couldn’t use a little extra serenity in their lives?

Try out these steps from from Shosan Victoria Austin of the San Francisco Zen Center when confronted with someone else’s anger:

1. Make space before speaking or responding.  Take some deep breaths.

2. Check the face and body of the person in front of you to understand what’s going on.  Watch for changes in the trust level. When a person becomes more relaxed, their eyes will be open and they will lean slightly toward you.

3. Consider the consequences of not doing anything—whether something that might be helpful in the short run may lead to harm later.

4. Ask yourself: What assumptions am I making? Ask the person what the problem is. Consider your involvement in causing it.

5.  Respect and empathize with both your own boundaries, values, and limitations and those of the other person.

6.  Speak from the right attitude. Check for self-indulgence, ill will, potential harm in one’s own words and actions. Ask yourself not only what must I say, but how must I say it.

7. Deliberately, do not take revenge.

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