Why You Lash Out — Sometimes for No Good Reason

Do you slam doors? Throw heavy objects? Give in to road rage? If you overreact or get defensive very easily, these anger-management tips can help.

Hit the Pause Button

Another client, Karin, who was sweet and personable during her visits, surprised me when she told me she had problems managing her anger at work. Karin was furious with a coworker who frequently blamed her for something that wasn’t her fault.

Instead of talking with the coworker or her immediate supervisor, she acted impulsively and went to the boss to defend herself. “Knowing that everyone thought it was my fault that the company lost the contract made me so angry,” says Karin. “I felt I had to let Mr. James know that it wasn’t.” Karin’s supervisor was livid about

We talked about a strategy that would let her indulge her anger without acting rashly. I suggested that she set a timer and let herself be angry for five minutes. After the time was up, she had to move on. I also had her place a visual cue next to her phone that would remind her to pause before taking rash action — like calling the boss. She rummaged through her photos and found a snapshot of herself and her kids making sand castles on the beach.

“Looking at the photo does two things for me when I get angry,” says Karin. “It reminds me that my job is not as important as it seems. What counts most is my relationship with my family. It also reminds me that my happiness doesn’t come from my job but from within—and that no coworker or boss can take it away from me.”

Karin still gets angry at work, so she has expanded her cuing strategy: She keeps a draft folder for e-mails labeled “Wait On.” If she thinks she is sending e-mail out of anger, she lets her message sit for 24 hours and re-reads it before hitting the send button. “Many of these e-mails never leave that folder. If I decide to send one, I edit out rude or inappropriate remarks before doing so.”

And when she does slip up and says something that she regrets later? “I own up to my mistake and apologize.” Not all of her apologies are accepted graciously, but saying she’s sorry makes her feel better about herself. As a result, her relationship with her coworkers has improved dramatically.

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TAGS: ADHD and Anger, ADHD and Anxiety, ADHD Social Skills,

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