Is it always wrong to express my own anger?

No. Sometimes, controlled anger can make clear how important an issue is. I know a manager who doesn't get angry at any of his employees when they make a mistake. Rather, she focuses on the situation itself, shouting about the problem the mistake has caused, demonstrating how important the error is and thereby encouraging more care by her employees in the future.

This isn't to say that you can't get angry at an individual. If you think that seeing your anger will serve your relationship well, then expressing anger, in a controlled manner, may be helpful. It communicates your displeasure about something.

The key is to sustain control over your anger. You can yell and scream—but such behavior will only make you look overly emotional and unprofessional. Ideally, rather than lose your temper, express your feelings of anger: "I feel angry because. . . ."

Controlling your temper involves four steps:

1. Recognize that you are angry.

2. Identify the cause of your anger.

3. Understand why the situation produced anger.

4. Deal with the anger realistically.

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If you let yourself get out of control, and exchange angry words with either a customer, your manager, or one of your employees, you only make those parties uneasy. Your angry words won't change the minds of these parties. You aren't listening to what they are saying, nor are they listening to you.

Better to become analytical during such situations. Everyone has what he or she believes is a good reason for behavior that looks irrational, childish, or worse. Ask yourself what the other person's justification might be. Still, if you think you can blame another for your loss of control, forget it. You are the only person who is in control of your emotions. And you only injure yourself when you relinquish your control over your emotions. Which means you aren't as likely to win. Anger will get in the way of your rational thinking; it will keep you from seeing the picture more clearly— maybe, even recognizing some positive points that the other person is making.

If you do lose your control, consider what happened. Evaluate your reaction. Learn to be an observer in your own life, and make a commitment to do better the next time. If there is someone who can get your goat, no matter what you do, and—worse—this person seems bent on doing it as often as possible, then learn to distance yourself from him or her.

How can I recognize my hot buttons?

Since shouting matches take two, you need to be alert to the hot buttons that can anger you—that can make you a party to a shouting match. What situations or individuals trigger feelings of vulnerability or helplessness, or the desire to defend yourself against them and others? What individuals or situations ruin your day, add to feelings of stress, and leave you feeling angry with the world? Ask yourself, "When I am having a good day, which of my colleagues or employees can turn my outlook from upbeat to gloomy or, worse, antagonistic?" Or, "Who would I like to give a piece of my mind to and why?"

Be honest with yourself. If there are others in your life—in the office or at home—who don't appreciate everything you do for them, and that fact always gets to you, recognize that this is one of your hot buttons. If your own manager is demanding work from you and continually makes corrections, often unnecessary ones, that is one of your hot buttons. If there are situations or individuals about which we regularly complain, they represent hot buttons.

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If there is no workable solution to a problem, you need to learn to laugh at the behavior or event rather than obsess about it. Learn to flow when your hot buttons are triggered—don't let them make you tense or irritable.

Awareness of your hot buttons will give you extra control over your emotions. You can assertively tell the other party how he or she has made you angry, move on to discuss the problem—and, if possible, find a solution to which the other party would be amenable, and prevent a recurrence of the situation since its effect on your emotions was made clear. The person may not agree with you about the seriousness of the disagreement or even accept your recommended solution, but he or she should respect your honesty about your feelings.

Win or lose about the issue itself, expressing your feelings can have a more healthful effect on you than either smothering them or blasting them out.

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