Tag: Anger Management

Dealing with Anger in the Team by Separating the People from the Problem

Anger is not just personal. It can be relational as well. When managing anger that involves the team, it helps to have a problem-oriented disposition, setting personal matters aside. This way the issue becomes an objective and workable issue.

In this blog post, we will discuss ways to separate people from the problem. Specifically, we will discuss the difference between objective and subjective language, ways to identify the problem, and how to use I-messages.

Objective vs. Subjective Language

One way to make sure that a discussion remains constructive is to use objective rather than subjective language.

Objective language involves stating your position using reference points that are observable, factual, and free from personal prejudices. Objective references do not change from person to person.

This is the opposite of subjective language, which is vague, biased, and or emotional. You are using subjective language when you are stating an opinion, assumption, belief, judgment, or rumor.

The use of objective language keeps the discussion on neutral ground. It’s less threatening to a person’s self-esteem and therefore keeps people from being on the defensive. More importantly, objective language can be disputed and confirmed, which ensures that the discussion can go towards a solution.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Here are some guidelines in the use of objective vs. subjective language:

Subjective: You’re an inconsiderate supervisor. 

Objective: You approved the rule without consulting with us first.

  • Avoid vague references to frequency. Instead, use the actual numbers.

Subjective: You are always late!

Objective: You were late for meetings four times in the past month.

  • Clarify terms that can mean differently to different people.

Subjective: You practice favoritism when you give promotions.

Objective: The employee ranking system is not being followed during promotions.

  • Don’t presume another person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.

Subjective: You hate me!

Objective: You do not talk to me when we are in a room together.

  • Don’t presume an action you did not see or hear.

Subjective: She stole my wallet. 

Objective: The wallet was on my desk when I left. It was no longer there when I came back, and she was the only person who entered the room.

Identifying the Problem

You can’t separate people from the problem if you don’t know what the problem is. A good way to move forward, in a discussion where anger is escalating, is through identifying the problem.  

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Identifying the problem focuses all energy on the crisis at hand rather than the persons involved in a conflict. The two parties focus their energies on a common enemy that is outside of themselves, a move that puts the two opposing parties back in neutral ground.

There are many processes you can use to identify the problem. Here is one of them:

STEP ONE:  Get as much information as you can why the other party is upset.

STEP TWO: Surface the other person’s position. Reframe this position into a problem statement. Example: “I can hear how upset you are. Am I right in perceiving that the problem for you is that you weren’t informed of the account being sold?”

STEP THREE: Review your own position. State your position in a problem statement as well. Example: “The problem for me is that I don’t have the resources to contact you. The phone lines are not working because of the storm.”

STEP FOUR: Having heard both positions, define the problem in a mutually acceptable way. Example: “I hear that you’d like to be informed of any sales. On my part, I’d like to inform you, but for as long as the phone lines are dead, I can’t see how I would do it. I think the issue here is about finding an alternative way to get the information to you on time while the phones are being repaired. Do you agree?”

If the two parties agree to the problem statement, they can now both work at the surfaced problem and take the focus away from their emotions.

Using “I” Messages

An “I-message” is a message that is focused on the speaker. When you use I-messages, you take responsibility for your own feelings instead of accusing the other person of making you feel a certain way. The opposite of an I-message is a You-message.

An “I-message” is composed of the following:

  • A description of the problem or issue.

Describe the person’s behavior you are reacting to in an objective, non-blameful, and non-judgmental manner.  

“When … “

  • Its effect on you or the organization.

Describe the concrete or tangible effects of that behavior. 

“The effects are … “

  • A suggestion for alternative behavior.

“I’d prefer … “

Here is an example of an I-message:

 “When I have to wait outside the office an extra hour because you didn’t inform me that you’d be late (problem/issue), I become agitated (effect). I prefer for you to send me a message if you will not be able to make it (alternative behavior).”

The most important feature of I-messages is that they are neutral. There is no effort to threaten, argue, or blame in these statements. You avoid making the other person defensive, as the essence of an I-message is “I have a problem” instead of “You have a problem”. The speaker simply makes statements and takes full responsibility for his/her feelings.



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How to Deal With Angry People in Your Team

How to Deal With Angry People in Your Team
Image Source: ashishjjn

In this article we will be looking at how a team leader should deal with angry team members. We will be discussing the Energy Curve, de-escalation techniques and knowing when to back away.

The Energy Curve

One of the most important keys for dealing with a team member’s anger is finding a way to react that will not escalate the anger. The Energy Curve shows the pattern commonly found in angry responses and how angry reactions progress in stages. In order to deal with an angry team member, it is essential that the team leader knows what the appropriate response is for each stage of the curve.

Stages of the Energy Curve:

  1. The baseline of the curve is the rational behavior. This stage allows for reasonable discussion about the cause of the anger and takes place before the angry reaction.
  2. The point where the reaction builds momentum and anger is gaining momentum, is called the take off stage. The anger then continues to build energy until it reaches its peak. Arguing with the team member at this point will be futile. At this stage the team leader should respond and not react.
  3. At the slow down stage the team member’s reaction is the most intense. This stage is the turning point where the reaction stops gaining momentum and begins to steadily decline.
  4. Next stage in the Energy Curve is the cool down stage. The reaction has reached its height and, unless provoked, the team member will run out of steam. Once the anger has slowed down you can introduce supportive behavior.
  5. Once the team member has returned back to rational behavior, you can begin to talk about the problem reasonably. Whilst the person is angry, it is best to let them just vent.

De-escalation Techniques

De-escalation techniques are designed to:

  • Facilitates a person’s cooling down process.
  • Reduce the possibility of getting verbally or physically hurt.
  • Gain control of the situation.

Active Listening
One of the most effective de-escalation techniques involves active listening. Often an angry team member only needs an opportunity to tell someone how they feel, and have their anger acknowledged. The intensity of the angry reaction can be lessened when the person sees that you are genuinely listening to their grievance.

Active listening includes:

  • Showing through your body language that you are listening by establishing eye contact and speaking in a soft, non-threatening tone of voice.
  • Re-stating what you hear from the person.
  • Clarifying any confusing or illogical statements.

Increasing Personal Space
Create distance between you and the team member and make sure your body language is non-threatening.

Help the Team Member Recover a Sense of Control
The angry team member may feel victimized by a situation. You can help them recover even a small sense of control by:

  1. Giving them choices.
  2. Seeking their permission to speak.
  3. Focusing on immediate solutions.

Invite Criticism
Ask the angry team member to voice his or her criticism of yourself or the situation more fully. Agree where possible, otherwise agree to disagree. Emphasize your willingness to help.

When to Back Away

Not all situations can be effectively dealt with. The following are situations when it is more advisable to back away:

  1. When you are too affected by an issue to view it objectively.
  2. When there are warning signs of verbal and/ or physical violence.
  3. When there is influence of mood-altering substances.
  4. When no amount of rational intervention seems to work.
  5. When there are signs of serious mental health conditions.


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How to Deal with Anger

Anger can be an incredibly destructive force, and since everyone experiences anger, it is crucial to have constructive approaches to manage it effectively.  The following are some of the methods that can be employed to manage anger effectively.

How to Deal With Anger

Admit that you are angry
In order to deal with anger you need to admit that you are angry and not keep the anger inside. People often think that they are effectively dealing with anger by ignoring their feelings of anger. This is a defense mechanism and includes methods such as laughing-off an issue off, distracting one’s self from the problem and trivializing the impact of the feelings. You need to recognize that you are angry and give yourself permission to feel the anger. In order to control something successfully you first need to admit it exists. The process of admitting you are angry can be as simple as saying to yourself “I am angry”.

Calm yourself before you respond
Aggression, which can be verbal or physical, is never an acceptable way to express your anger. It is necessary to calm yourself before saying anything or responding to the situation. When we become angry, our body becomes engaged in a fight or flight response. At this stage, you need defer any reaction until you have returned to a more stable biological state. Count to ten or, if possible, remove yourself from the situation for a moment before responding.

Avoid becoming passive-aggressive
Passive-aggressive behavior usually results when a person keeps silent over a matter that is important to him/her. Passive-aggressiveness refers to indirect and underhanded means to get back at a person that made you angry. It includes behavior such as gossiping, tardiness and backbiting. If keeping silent results in physical and mental symptoms because it is so important to you, it is better to let it out. Speak to the person concerned or, if that is not possible, at least speak to a trusted friend or a mental health professional.

Take ownership and communicate your feelings constructively
Avoid the use of indirect attacks and unproductive statements such as blaming, labeling, preaching moralizing, ordering, warning, interrogating, ridiculing and lecturing. Get the anger within your control by taking ownership and responsibility for your feelings. You cannot control other people, you can only control yourself.

Use relaxation techniques to control your anger
An effective way to manage your anger is to intentionally induce yourself to a state of calm. This can help particularly in addressing the physical symptoms of anger. Relaxation techniques you can do include: breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, music, arts and craft.

Anger Management Training Course


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