Anger is often viewed as overwhelming, embarrassing, and scary. But what if it were seen as a valuable guide and trusted advisor, bringing important messages?
Ira Leppänen, a workplace emotional intelligence coach, helps individuals develop not only their performance but also their well-being and resilience. According to Leppänen, anger is one of the most misunderstood emotions and can often be under-utilized in self-leadership.
With the current internal turmoil and contradiction, many people are facing a crisis of identity as their work and home selves blend together. Leppänen encourages approaching suppressed emotions, such as anger, with curiosity and compassion rather than letting them surface in overwhelming forms.
“Anger itself is neither good nor bad – what is most meaningful is the way you handle it. Think about why anger arises in yourself, in your clients or even in your team members? And what does it tell you?”
Change from Suppressing Anger to Consciously Handling It
Leppänen admits that she has been fiery and impatient by nature since childhood, and did not have very constructive ways of dealing with anger.
“I used to believe that the only way to deal with anger was to suppress it. I did this for so long until my internal pressure cooker finally erupted – sometimes in a rage,” Leppänen says with a laugh.
Eventually, Leppänen came to understand that she needed to learn how to effectively manage her anger. The first step was acknowledging and accepting its existence. From there, she could learn how to use it constructively. A key realization came from a conversation with her therapist, when she understood that it was not fair to expect others to be able to read her mind and interpret her emotions.
“We cannot expect even our closest loved ones to be able to understand our emotions just by reading our facial expressions or guessing what we want or think. It is my responsibility to communicate my emotions and make conscious choices.”
She knows that being open and vulnerable about feelings is not easy.
“It’s much easier to sulk and vent your disappointment when the other person doesn’t understand the message of my frustrated sigh. In addition to civilian life, you come across this with constant input in working life as well: what a disappointment when that colleague can’t read my thoughts.”
It can be tempting to dwell on disappointment and express frustration when others don’t understand our cues, but it’s important to remember that anger can also serve as a tool for setting boundaries and managing our own emotions.
Many times, one’s own schedule is so full that one starts looking for the fault outside. In both personal and professional settings, it’s easy to blame others when our own schedules become overwhelming, but using anger constructively can help us prioritize and take control of the situation.
“Ultimately, we ourselves are responsible for how many meetings we have packed into our day, which leads to a constant feeling of inadequacy. In this case, the feeling of anger that rises to the surface is an important message that something should be done differently.”
The feeling of anger can help with prioritization.
If every meeting annoys you and you feel that there is no time for employees’ problems, it is often a matter of failing to set your own boundaries. Rushing kills empathy – towards yourself and others.
Could you make better use of your irritation in managing your own time and clarifying your priorities? How could you harness the power of anger and set your own boundaries?