Posted by eireland 2 years, 11 months ago


You’re being rude.

That’s the statement I heard from my fiancé upon leaving dinner after our political banter turned hostile by me. I was horrified by my behavior and have done a lot of soul searching ever since. I’d let my emotions get the best of me. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I never use the red face emoji!

I read how we respond to emotional upset isn’t simply based on emotional intelligence, our bodies can trigger it as well. Stress chemicals can actually shut down our cortex, the thinking part of our brain, and activate the limbic system which is all about fight, flight, freeze or faint. That made me feel better — I’ll blame my flying off the handle on my complex nerve system! Better though, is learning how to control conflict before the physiological response kicks in “ready to rumble.”

I ate dinner with a friend on Friday night and we laughed about all the hate people spew on social media, especially around the 2016 election. He brought up a term I feel is so important: anger literacy. It felt timely because of my own misstep. It was the night before Orlando.

You know the incomparable pain that happens next. Anguish so far beyond political theater that my laughter on Friday night feels like it happened years ago.

The universe is telling us that it’s absolutely essential we cool our jets when communicating regardless of form or function. As communication professionals we should take the lead as experts in anger literacy. Teaching others how to handle negative situations as they arise.

Here are a few strategies I’m reading about to handle the line between annoyed and enraged. We’re going back to the basics here folks. This isn’t rocket science, but sad we need this solemn reminder.

Strategy 1. Listen.
There is an amazing interview making the rounds with a former CIA officer who said her secret life taught her one thing: listen to your enemy. She said the only real way to disarm your rival is to hear them out. If you’re brave enough to listen to their story you can see that more often than not you might have made some of the same choices if you’ve lived their life instead of yours. Typically, the less secure the person - the more they have to prove so by listening you’re exhibiting confidence. Be present. We have grown far more isolated from ourselves and others by hiding behind our electronics. 

Strategy 2. Self-regulate.
I recently read a parenting tip that definitely applies to this situation. The question posed by the parent is how to stop a child from ruminating and exaggerating a problem? In the moment, rather than mirroring their energy and telling the person to “calm down” the expert suggested modeling what it looks like to calm yourself down. Practice self-regulation and acknowledge how you’re feeling in the moment. If it’s anger - take a breathe, hit delete and shift your train of thinking. 

Strategy 3: Don’t feed the beast.
There is a lot of commerce associated with anger. Fights on Facebook tend to see a lot of engagement, Twitter rants, violence as entertainment, etc. You make time for what you value and I urge everyone to think critically about where you’re allocating your time. Think about profit motives and if they are worth your investment. It’s an exercise in “life auditing” to rearrange some priorities to make way for more goodness.

Now I jump down from my soapbox...


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