If your response to frustration becomes destructive, you hurt yourself, family members, friends, and coworkers. After emotions get out of control, it’s too late. You can’t take back whatever you’ve done. This section has strategies and steps to take to defuse anger.
One strategy is to try to control your response using the E + R = O formula. E stands for Event, R stands for Response, and O is for Outcome. You may not have control over an event or situation, but you can control your response. See the Problem Solving section for a brief video about this.
Another strategy is to know the situations that trigger feelings of anger beforehand so you can plan your response before you get angry. It’s similar to Event + Response = Outcome. For example, if a particular person at work rubs you the wrong way, think about how you want to react to that person the next time before you get angry.
A third strategy is to speak from the heart. Try to talk openly and honestly about the things that stress you or cause anxiety before your emotions get involved. This conversation can be very difficult to have, especially if the other person isn’t willing to talk honestly. Sometimes the only person you can have the conversation with is yourself.
4 Steps to Defuse
Step 1: Remove yourself from the situation. You can do this by leaving before you lose control, or you can do it by saying something like, “Okay, I’ll get back to you” if you’re on the phone. This gives you time to remove yourself long enough to control your response.
Step 2: Consider the other person’s perspective. Is she under a lot of stress? Does he have mental or physical health problems? Sometimes it helps to consider the other person’s situation, even if he’s being a jerk.
Step 3: Clear your mind and body. Anger causes a physical response in your body, which you feel in the form of heat or an adrenaline rush. It takes time to flush the body of anger. If you’re at work, go outside for a few moments, or go to the bathroom if that’s the only place you can get away to. Breathe deeply and slowly. Count to ten. Afterward, when you have more time, take a walk, go to the gym, play with your kids.
Step 4: Don’t take things personally. When other people act in a disrespectful way, it’s probably much more about them and not you.
Your life experiences and belief systems affect how you respond to unpleasant events; making changes to this learned behavior can be challenging. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to effectively change behaviors such as social skills, relating to other people, and self-control. Studies also confirm that CBT reduces recidivism.