So far, you have learned a lot of things about anger. We are going to take time now to boil it down to one simple word, “Stop.”
No, don’t stop reading. STOP is an acronym for four basic things you can do when you are face-to-face with a conflict.
- Slow down
- Take a deep breath
- Observe objectively the situation, yourself, and the other party
- Proceed to resolve the conflict, being open to acceptance if it is not exactly what you desire
Consider the following:
Miles is arguing with his wife, Audrey. He has forgotten to do the laundry even though he promised he would do it yesterday. It is now Sunday and Audrey feels she doesn’t have any clothes for the kids or herself for Monday.
Miles feels himself getting defensive. He says, “I’ve been stressed out at the office. Of course I forgot! How could I remember such a useless task!”
He realizes after shouting out that he is being reactive. He stops himself from saying anymore and slows down. Miles takes a deep breath and shifts his perspective, trying to be as objective as possible. Audrey is correct that he did not do the laundry as promised He acknowledged that while there are still clean clothes available for the family to wear, his decision to not do laundry will limit his family’s choices for clothing to wear the following day.
He expresses this knowledge to Audrey and proceeds with a solution, “I can help pick out clothes for the kids for tomorrow.”
STOP in Depth
Slowing down gives you time to reflect, to increase your awareness of your thoughts and feelings, to increase your awareness of the situation. It allows you the time to act versus react. When you slow down you have time to scan your body for anger, feel where it is being held, and work to decrease its intensity through relaxation. It also creates the space to be able to bring yourself into the present, bringing your attention to the situation at hand.
Taking a breath activates the relaxation response we have been discussing. It also acts as a buffer before you say anything mindlessly. Taking a breath can also bring about self-awareness.
Observing objectively allows you to empathize with the other party. You can also use the situation as a learning experience, translating their criticizing words into useful feedback for yourself. This also allows you to start separating facts from opinions, as well as to start to identify any rigid thinking that may be getting in your way.
Proceeding, with caution, resolves the conflict instead of avoiding it. The most important part of this step however, is accepting the results. Have you been presented with a possible solution? Maybe you can take this time to come up with a solution together.
The next time you feel yourself getting angry, think, “STOP!” How does following this method manage your anger? Are you more able to resolve conflicts? Write down your experience.
Take time to relax and to sit with your breath. Make sure to get enough exercise and proper nutrition. Communicate assertively.
Track your anger and rate it. Imagine this rating as a graph. How does it look today?