“A” Is For Attitude
By Leeza Carlone Steindorf
“Don’t you raise your voice to me, young lady,” was the forceful mantra that echoed through my childhood. I was never good at being quiet and anger was my only defense for a lot of what I faced. There was no other way of dealing with life than getting angry and raising my voice. Or so I thought. As an adult, I quickly recognized that my anger caused more problems than (I thought) it solved. So, I committed myself to change that habit and was diligent in learning to manage my anger. Success! I learned to deal with setbacks calmly, respond to attacks reasonably, and express my upset constructively. I had mastered my worst weakness… until I had kids. It seemed my children were born each with their own unique ability to trigger my anger within a millisecond. It was fascinating, and infuriating. I asked how I could have come so far and be back at step one?
The way we learned to deal with our anger as children impacts how we are as adults and how we parent. In this, the first of a four-blog series on The ABC’s of Managing Anger, we will explore our attitude toward and relationship with anger. Sounds odd. But knowing our relationship with anger is the first step to managing it, since it directly sculpts our experiences, actions and interactions.
Shut it down, hide it with a smile or let it fly…
There are as many variations of attitudes toward and expression of anger as there are people on the planet. However, there are three key relationships that best explain how we engage our anger.
Shut it down. Maybe anger was forbidden in your family, or there was the attitude that it is bad and must be squashed. Perhaps it was a cultural norm, as in countries where strong emotions, especially those deemed negative, are not permitted. Or maybe it was your family heritage that feelings or subjects are simply not discussed. The taboos are known but not addressed. Whatever the source, kids learn early on to shut down what is not allowed. Whenever anger boils up, it is squashed. Over time, that process has far reaching impact, including suppressed feelings, inauthentic relationships, and even health issues.
Hide it with a smile. Another way you may have learned to deal with our anger was to cover it with a smile, the proverbial passive aggressive pattern. The attitude that only if we sugar coat is it acceptable. Covering anger with a smile is especially challenging since we not only confuse others with what we are trying to express, but we confuse ourselves as well. Many of my clients who cover their anger with pleasantness have the hardest time letting go because they first need to acknowledge that they are angry at all.
Let it fly. For some people, no matter what your upbringing, expressing anger freely is how you most feel comfortable in relationship with anger. The attitude is let it out and use it. As strange as it sounds, getting outright angry is the easiest pattern to change because it is the most obvious. On the other hand, expressing anger directly can be deeply hurtful to others and can lead to escalation far too easily when it is not expressed in a healthy, fair manner.
When you discover your attitude toward anger and how you have learned to deal with it, you are ready to transform it into healthy expression and effective action. Getting clear on the patterns you have when anger bubbles inside you is the first step to changing your pattern. Understanding where the pattern came from, without judging, will be of use to you as you move forward in learning to manage your anger. Stay tuned for the beliefs that fuel our anger and how to change them.
What to do. Keep a log for the next seven days. Without judgment of right or wrong, observe yourself when you feel angry. For example, what is your first reaction when your catch your child lying? Do you want to shut it down it, hide it with a smile or let it fly? What is your impulse when you kids rush through homework to get onto social media or games? Do you avoid the situation, smooth it over, or erupt? Keep notes on the situations and what your reactions are. At this point, just notice. Tracking is an effective tool in being a student of yourself and of your behavior. The resulting awareness is the first step toward transforming what you do not want into what you do.
Leeza Carlone Steindorf is a parenting educator, parenting coach and the award-winning author of Connected Parent, Empowered Child. She delivers a powerful message and practical tools to individuals and organizations worldwide who are ready to break through limitations and create radical permanent change. As an acclaimed international thought leader in organizational transformation and personal development in 35+ cultures, her coaching, trainings and talks inspire and empower. Leeza is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, a Canfield Success Trainer and former Tony Robbins Results Coach. Her certifications include ICF Executive and Life Coach (ACC), Trainer and Group Facilitator, NonViolent Communication Trainer and Mediator. Connect with Leeza at www.LeezaSteindorf.com.