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We all have our triggers — circumstances that transform us from reasonable, calm human beings into fed-up, raging lunatics in the span of just a few seconds. At home, you might lose your temper at your spouse or children over dirty socks scattered in the bathroom or a dishwasher no one seems to want to unload. At the office, you might feel unbelievable frustration when your newest employee makes an accounting mistake that takes hours to fix or your co-workers all get vacation time approved during your busiest time of year.

Anger is a natural emotion that we all experience from time to time, but it is important to know how to manage it. Flying off the handle or speaking harsh words to your colleagues may damage relationships and your professional presence in the workplace. The next time you get mad, try these tricks to calm yourself down and not say or do anything you’ll regret later.

Managing Your Anger in 4 Quick Steps

1. The Pause

Productive conversations rarely happen when both parties are feeling upset. Suggest you both take a minute to grab a glass of water or a breath of fresh air before returning to the discussion. Take the time to lower your heart rate, defuse your anger and collect your thoughts.

2. Calm Expression

When you’re upset, your words can spill out fast and furious, giving you less control over how they are received. Slow down. This is a simple but important part of managing your anger. Consider how the person you are talking to will best respond to your message, and try to tailor your words accordingly. Formulate calm and careful sentences using “I” statements describing the situation you are unhappy with and how it is affecting your work or the office as a whole. Resist the urge to criticize, accuse or belittle; these approaches will not help you reach a resolution. For example, “I’m upset that you didn’t finish your part of the project because I ended up staying late to finish it” is more effective than, “You are such a slacker, and you never do your work!”

3. Next Steps

What do you want to happen next to fix this problem? Identify several possible solutions and bring them up for discussion. How can you avoid conflicts like this in the future? What do you need from the other person? What can you commit to do yourself? Come up with specific next steps and a plan of action that can start immediately.

4. Moving On

After an intense conversation, you may want to lighten the mood with a bit of humor (though not snarkiness or sarcasm) or small talk as well. Make it clear that you want to forgive and move past this argument. Don’t hold a grudge or let one incident poison a working relationship.

What are your personal tips for keeping your cool and maintaining professionalism in the workplace?

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