Do your clients tend to get upset at every little annoyance and stressful experience they encounter? Do their conversations seem to be focused on how incompetent, disrespectful and stupid other people are? Are their significant others threatening to leave them because of their temper? Are they complaining that their friends no longer want anything to do with them? If the answer is yes to most of these questions then you likely have an angry client that is causing significant disruption in multiple areas of their lives.
Anger is a strong emotion that can plague even the most grounded and well-intentioned person. If left unchecked, it can grow into a destructive process that negatively impacts interpersonal relationships, job performance and mood. It can also lead to or worsen a variety of health conditions like high blood pressure, migraines, and heart disease.
However, if effectively harnessed, anger does not have to be all bad. If expressed in a controlled and appropriate manner, anger can actually be useful. It can lead to increased productivity at work, better communication skills and good mental health.
Therefore, you do not need to help your clients rid themselves of their anger, but rather help them control it.
Specific Tips for Helping Your Clients Control Their Anger
Gaining control of one’s anger is not as difficult as you may think. Historically, clinicians would tell their clients to “let it loose” and vent until their hearts were content. Well, unfortunately, research has shown that this highly emotionally charged, cathartic release approach to anger may make things worse. Below are a few techniques you can share with your clients that may help.
Teach your clients to ask themselves “what am I really angry about?” As a culture we have not taken the advice of “don’t sweat the small stuff.” In fact, we often get angry over very small and inconsequential things.
We have also lost, to a degree, the ability to effectively communicate. Miscommunication is the cause of a lot of unnecessary anger. Teach your clients to take a step back, analyze the situation, and decide whether the issue is worth getting angry about. Chances are, it is not. Once they can do that then they can more effectively choose those things that may be more deserving of their angst.
Help your clients change the way they think. Humans are great at jumping to conclusions. We often latch on to an idea, “fact” or grip without knowing the full story. Help your client learn to look for the evidence that supports their thoughts in all areas of their lives. Instead of being “certain” that their boss is out to get them or that they “know” their spouse is being more than friendly to the neighbor, encourage them to identify the specific facts that supports their conclusions.
If they do an honest, thorough, and emotionally disconnected review of the situation then they are likely to come up with a different set of beliefs.
Teach them the art of leaving. If your client finds that their anger is about to reach its peak, give them the simple tool of knowing when to go somewhere else. Maybe it is a friend’s or relative’s house, the park or simply going for a stroll in the neighborhood. In most cases, taking a little break will allow your client the time to regroup and handle their situation better.
Breathe. Relaxation is a great way to control anger. And, it is a very simple technique to learn and use. All your client needs to do is close their eyes, take several deep breaths, and feel their body become less tense. You can also teach them to quietly repeat a calming word or phrase such as relax. If they do this for 10 minutes, their anger will most certainly decrease or completely go away. Furthermore, the extra time will potentially allow the original anger trigger to lessen or go away.
Avoid situations that make them angry. This tip is the easiest one of all. If something or someone makes your client angry, instruct them to try and stay away from that something or someone at least until their irritability and frustration wear off. If it is something or someone that they cannot stay away from, then have them use one of the other techniques above.
*This article is based in part on a chapter in Dr. Moore’s book titled, “Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life After Deployment.”