What I’ve Learned About Anger: Pause Before Response

by Enoon Gnihton

creates more problems than it solves. Even “justifiable” anger can lead to unwanted consequences unless we take the simple action of pausing before we act. I recently had an opportunity to test this approach during a phone call with a rude customer service agent.

It began when I called my bank to discuss an issue with my account. The service representative who answered the phone interrupted me several times during the course of getting my information and was not at all responsive to the questions that I was asking. As the discussion progressed I found my voice getting louder and more strained. My body became tense and I could feel my heart pounding. At one point the representative yelled “You need to stop interrupting me and let me do my job”.

I was sure then that this person was being argumentative and was probably in the wrong job. This person could lose a lot of business for the company if they treated all of their customers with the belligerence that I had encountered.

My stomach was churning as I prepared to vent my anger. I suddenly stopped and realized that venting my anger would not solve the issue about which I had called. I felt quite justified in being angry about what I considered to be rudeness and insensitivity on the part of the representative.

Justified or not, anger was not going to create the best solution to the problem. I paused to consider my next option as my anger lessened a bit. I decided to see what would happen if I allowed the representative to do his job as he saw it, which consisted of asking a list of scripted questions that I had previously answered. I calmly answered the questions again and the issue was resolved within a few minutes. I hung up the phone with a new sense of how I could avoid future stomach churning and anger.

I realized that at the true root my anger was a feeling of being mistreated. I ultimately discovered that when I had let go of my mistreated ego the anger subsided and I was able to accomplish my original objective.

The lesson for me was that I could not allow myself to continue to be victimized by my own anger. I realized that my self esteem does not depend on being treated well by others and that when I encounter “difficult” people or situations the best course is to let go of anger and focus on achieving my objective.

It is important to remember that most anger is an emotional reaction to a perceived injustice. As real as that perception might be, acting out anger can feel satisfying in the short run but it is destructive over the long haul. The best response to anger is to pause.

A short pause is all that is needed to realize that we have choices. We can vent our anger and suffer the consequences or we can choose an alternative response that gives us the best chances of getting a situation resolved favorably.

It is easy to feel that anger is justifiable, but hazardous to accept anger as a viable response to perceived (or real) affronts. I am learning that taking a pause that lets the anger subside allows me to choose to respond in new and different ways. Instead of just reacting with anger I can respond assertively, constructively, and forcefully if necessary but I can do it without getting angry.

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