Monday 2 November 2015

Reasons to be angry part 2 - mirrors

Last week I said I'd explore another source of anger and so here it is - reasons to be angry part 2 *
Anger comes in many shapes and sizes, and its sources are as numerous. That said we each have a choice what emotion we respond to another person with. In other words:
  • It is not true to say that a person's behaviour made us angry.
  • It is true to say we chose to be angry as a result of the other person's behaviour.
A subtle difference, and yet one that changes the responsibility for the anger from the other person to us. Something we often don't like to take responsibility for - preferring instead to continue to blame the other person.

When we feel anger it certainly feels as if our anger is justified - of course we believe we're right to be angry about the person doing this, saying that, or not doing something else. However consider these 2 different reasons for anger:
  • Anger that is appropriate, and ensures we take action to distance ourselves from the source of the unacceptable behaviour. That is situations where most people would agree with us about the unacceptableness of the other persons actions. These situations are often supported by the law, codes of conduct and ethics, or human rights.   
  • Anger that arises when one of our buttons has been pressed - ie other people might not necessarily agree with us about the unacceptableness of the other person's actions. 
It's this latter form of anger I want to explore.

Last week I discussed the situation where our anger arises from compromised values. That is we value a behaviour so much we get angry when other people don't meet our expectations in that regard.

Today I want to look at anger when its source is the disowned parts of us that we see in other people.

I'm sure we can all recall times when someone has said of another "they're so arrogant" or "rude","selfish", "lazy", "critical", "aggressive", "dishonest", "competitive" and so on - when our response to them would ideally be "and so are you".

The key is remembering if we can say "and so are you" when someone judges another person - then the same can be said of us. That is we too can judge other people simply because it's a fault we don't accept in ourselves. The key to recognising this is happening is that anger or irritation is often involved.

Consider the following list and rank the level of anger/irritation (0/10) you feel when people demonstrate the behaviour:
  • Arrogant
  • Rude
  • Selfish
  • Lazy
  • Critical
  • Aggressive
  • Dishonest
  • Competitive
  • Controlling
  • Passive
  • Manipulative 
  • Talkative
  • Negative
  • Positive
  • Unethical
  • Resistant
  • Analytical
  • Uncompassionate
  • Apathetic
If non of these have pressed your buttons then write your own list of what behaviours do press your buttons and that illicit an angry / irritated response. To do this you may want to remember when you've been irritated with someone, and identify the behaviour they were demonstrating that triggered your reaction.

For any of the higher scoring behaviours you may want to consider if any of the following are true:
  • Does everyone agree with your assessment of the other person's behaviour? and if you say yes - are you sure? and what evidence do you have? (When we get angry, and there's no budging us on our opinion, others may find it difficult to disagree with us and simply just nod, or change the subject, believing quite rightly, its easier to acquiesce than disagree.)
  • Are you irritated every time everyone demonstrates this behaviour or just some people - what's the difference between those whose behaviour you accept, and those that you get angry about?
  • Do you get angry when you demonstrate this behaviour - and what excuses differences are there between you demonstrating the behaviour and other people?
  • Is the behaviour compromising a value you have?
  • Is this a behaviour you perhaps need to learn how to do more of - for example we could get angry about someone being selfish because a part of us knows we need to learn how to think of ourselves more than others sometimes.
  • Is this a behaviour you demonstrate that you don't like nor accept in yourself.
The clue we're onto something useful for this last point is the discomfort we feel when we 'agree' we too can be seen by others to demonstrate, some of the time, some aspects of, that behaviour - but we don't like it. 

Another clue we're disowning that part is the ease with which we can run down the rest of the list and say "yes I can be like that sometimes" with no emotion nor discomfort accompanying the statement.

Yet when we get to a disowned behaviour we resist acknowledging that this behaviour is also a part of our repertoire. We get uncomfortable and try to qualify our behaviour.

To take the anger out of our judgement of others requires us to own, acknowledge and appreciate that behaviour in ourselves. Oddly as it sounds it's this ownership that takes the heat our of our own behaviour - it's as if when we don't own it - the behaviour controls us. As soon as we own it we have choice about how we demonstrate the behaviour - enabling us to utilise all its best qualities rather than only show its more challenging sides. 

Easier said than done and may include considering one or all of the following:
  • The benefits to be gained from that behaviour (e.g. we may resist selfishness because we can't see any benefits from doing it)? or what's the positive energy behind the behaviour?
  • What other terms can be used to describe this behaviour (e.g selfishness might be described as having courage, supporting well being, assertiveness, ensuring sustainability and survival. Another way to get at the benefits)?
  • How can you demonstrate this behaviour more usefully?
  • What situations does this behaviour come up in for you - with specific people, in specific places, in reaction to specific behaviours? 
  • How does, or has, this behaviour set you back in the past - ie think of a specific instance (sometimes we're holding on to a specific event, and therefore acknowledging the pain (setback) we're still holding on to allows the behaviour to become just like the other behaviours). 
  • How might you deal with these situations differently in the future?
  • What action can you take to no longer be setback by this behaviour (I remember one example where the antidote to superiority was coming in sooner with a solution in meetings rather than holding back in a very superior way. It's certainly easier to identify an antidote if you've identified and described a situation where you've been setback by the behaviour.)  
I'd love to know if you've had any ah-ha's as you've read this.

I realise as I've been writing this that much of the insight shared here have arisen as I've used the Frameworks for change Coaching Process with clients to address many of these sorts of behaviours (see ** below for more on the process). If you're interested in finding out more about the coaching I do please call me +44 (0)7770 538159 or email

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

* Every time I read 'Reasons to be angry part 2' I think of Ian and the Blockheads Reasons to be Cheerful part 3 and remember seeing them at the Victoria Hall, Stoke on Trent in 1978! Oh dear - with my birthday approaching - that does make me feel old!

** Frameworks for change coaching process (FCP)

I've been successfully using the FCP in my coaching and group facilitation work with clients since 2005
  • FCP - applied to improving relationships at work
  • Youtube - a playlist with a couple of video blogs on the subject

*** I do like Johnhain's pictures (as shown above) and found in Pixabay - I've used his images a few times on this blog. I must buy him a coffee very soon.

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