How to Deal With Anger - Making Effective Requests
Experiencing anger is part of being human. We sometimes don’t like to talk about our anger because we think it’s wrong or bad or unattractive, but if you are anything like me, you find yourself feeling anger more often than you might like to admit.
Emotions (such as anger) are phenomena that we experience in our bodies, and our bodies have a lot to teach us. So when I find myself angry, I have two choices. I can either stuff my anger down and try to ignore it, in which case it will often build up inside of me and come out in a way I don’t like. Or I can observe my anger and use it as a bridge to learning by asking myself what my body might be trying to tell me.
When I am angry, I often find that what is really going on with me is that I am living in some EXPECTATION (usually an unspoken one), and that expectation has not been met. The Latin root of the word “expectation” literally means “to wait.” We wait around for something to happen, for someone to change, or for the world to be different. But it’s not very powerful to just sit around and wait. I often say in workshops: “Anger is an ineffective request.” How often do we make a more powerful move and actually make a REQUEST instead of just living in our unspoken expectations?
To alleviate our anger, a good start is to learn to make effective requests. There are five essential components of an Effective Request:
- The job of a committed speaker is to make a clear request and to generate a committed listener.
- Sometimes we make requests but we are not very committed speakers, so our requests are not very effective. For example, instead of making a request face-to-face or over the phone, we will shoot someone an email or a text. We have not generated a committed listener because we do not know for sure that the listener has received our request or is really paying attention.
- For me, when I do something like this, it is often because I am afraid the listener will say “NO” to my request, and I believe that if the listener says “NO,” this means that they have rejected me. Recall from our previous blog post, “How Do You Ask For What You Want?,” that “NO” does not mean rejection. It simply means that the listener declines my request, but not that they are rejecting me as a human being. Also recall that the types of language we use in our requests speaks volumes about how committed of a speaker we are, how afraid of rejection we are, and the way we hold the balance of power in the relationship. (“I request that you be on time.” versus “Would you please try to be on time?”)
- Conditions of Satisfaction
- We often make sloppy requests and do not clarify the conditions of satisfaction or the time frame that we expect. When I ask my four-year-old to clean her bedroom and she simply stuffs all of her toys under the bed, she has fulfilled her own conditions of satisfaction, but not mine, and I might find myself angry because my request was ineffective and my expectations were not met.
- I also often say: “The right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation.” Even if all four of the elements above are accounted for, a request is still not likely to be very effective if either the speaker or the listener are in an ineffective mood to have the conversation.
Learning to make effective requests can help us move more peacefully and powerfully in the world. We can free ourselves from our anger (and free the people in our lives from our unspoken expectations) when we practice this skill.
If you want to learn more about how to deal with anger, register for our next Effective Living I Course.