Angry–Do I Really Want To Sink That Low?

If You Have the Power–It's Only Because I Gave it to You

Several years ago I worked in a small management consulting office with a woman named Stephanie. When I came on board John, who I had worked with for years previously, expressed concerns about she and I getting along; which I thought a bit strange.

The first few months were fine; laughing, joking and helping each other out with various tasks we were working on. About 3 months in she stopped talking to me, totally out of the blue. There were no unpleasant words exchanged, no arguments, no nothing. I asked John if he knew what was bothering her – no. After a week I approached her and asked if I had done something to offend her; she told me she was busy, turned her back and picked up the phone. This was a small office and the tension was not conducive to what I consider a healthy working, team environment. A month later, I approached her again “Stephanie, if I’ve done something to upset you I apologize (I had no idea what) can we just please talk?” Evidently not.

I have no problem making or keeping friends. My close circle of friends include several relationships that have delightfully stretched over 30 years.  I’m no doormat either, I could have easily torn Stephanie apart if I had wanted to, and been completely justified in doing it – like I had something to prove.

He who angers you conquers you

But here’s the thing – is that who I want to be? A vindictive, passive aggressive, angry and bitter woman? Call it the proverbial “high road” or whatever, I saw it clearly as an opportunity to make a better choice, not for her benefit - for mine.

If you have the power, it’s only because I gave it to you.

By giving her the power to anger me, I would be giving her control of my emotions and that just isn’t something I wasn’t willing to do; especially with someone who made little or no difference in my life.  She was the one with the problem and she chose to be upset, and that’s ok. I think people like Stephanie are basically miserable and looking for a place to put it. I started feeling sorry for her.

Make It About You

Angry Road Rage

Do not allow yourself to become angry by people or things, they are powerless! Your reaction is their only power.

So next time someone angers you; be it someone who cuts you off driving, a rude checker at the grocery store or a coworker – and you just want to get revenge, ask yourself “Is this who I want to be?”.  In other words, make it about YOU not  about them. Be the person you want to be, not the puppet on a verbal string. Be the person who doesn’t take it personally and recognize that they probably create all kinds of similar problems in their lives. Is that what you want? Picture a pinball machine with the steel ball bouncing all over the place nonstop with absolutely no control of its own. That’s what these people remind me of – being at the effect of everyone and everything. It must be exhausting.

So loose the I’ll show them attitude, and be the person you want to be - the more you do it the easier it becomes.

And trust me, you’ll feel great afterwards.

About the Author

Sarah’s latest book published by McGraw-Hill is titled Business Improv. It includes 75 activities on all aspect of business from Leadership skills to Emotional Intelligence. Sarah’s Business Improvisation based approach to learning has transformed work environments, changed lives and moved organisations forward. Her experience with the challenges leaders face allows her to help develop strategies and implementation plans that transform leaders into storytellers that move people to action. Her work with front line employees helps them communicate in a way that builds trust and collaboration. Sarah has taught Business Leadership to Executive MBA students at UCLA Anderson School of Management, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, Columbia University and the American University Cairo.

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