Getting Comfortable With Anger
An Everyday Occurrence
It happens every day. While driving, you put on your turn signal in plenty of time before you slow down to make the turn. The driver behind you, who has been riding your bumper the last few miles, becomes irate and honks. It leaves you both incensed and wondering if you did something wrong.
While on the phone with an unhappy customer at work, you are trying to stay afloat in a sea of anxiety. Your thoughts are racing. You try to communicate what you think the customer wants you to do to make sure you understand, only for them to become angrier when you misspeak or get it wrong.
It does not matter how good your intentions are or how much you want to be good at everything you do. Someone is always going to find fault and be unhappy. This is something we start hearing as small children with hurt feelings. No matter how much it is repeated, we still become upset when others feel anything other than happy with us. Despite knowing that people-pleasing does not provide any long-term satisfaction of our personal goals, we hold on to those tendencies. We feel a need to please everyone else before ourselves.
Don't Try to Fix It
When someone is upset with us, we feel like we must fix it, even if we did nothing wrong. This may be truer if you have empathic abilities. You feel others’ emotions like they are your own, so the sense of urgency behind self-correction is stronger for you. Nobody enjoys customer service when they deal with irate people on a regular basis. Some of us are hit harder by these types of jobs when we have the empath switch or social anxiety.
I remember, as a child, I often asked my mother, “Are you mad at me?” Even if I recalled nothing I had done that might anger her, whenever she was quiet or did not seem her usual self, I jumped to the conclusion that I had done something wrong. Exasperated by the question, one day she asked me, “Why, what did you do? Is there something I should be mad about?”
Nowadays, people are more forthcoming with me about their ire. On the bright side, it is nice to not guess what I must have done. Unfortunately, they are often angry about things I cannot change – the speed of traffic and how fast I feel safe going, how quickly a task at work can get done when I do not have control over all the factors influencing its completion.
“If you are too afraid to offend anyone, then I'm afraid you may not be able to do anything remarkable." - Bernard Kelvin Clive
It's Going to Happen
People get angry when they assume you will act a certain way and you fail to read their mind. People get angry because they don’t like you or feel jealous of you.
When this is the case, you can live in a never-ending spiral of anxiety and stay in “fix-it” mode if you cannot learn to be comfortable with anger or displeasure directed toward you.
It is not necessary to feel completely unaffected by it. Of course, you can’t change that you are human. We are social creatures. We feel best with an underlying sense of approval, both our own and that of other people. It also doesn’t mean you should treat your customer service job with apathy or start flipping the bird at everyone who honks at you on the freeway. These actions can feel gratifying in the moment. This feeling is as short-lived as that of appeasing people when you are not being true to yourself.
Personal relationships are a bit different – for instance, if your partner or someone you are close to seems unhappy, it can be good to talk it out. For the types of situations mentioned above, the best thing to do is accept how people are feeling and not bend over backwards to change it. In the case of a customer service job, do what you can, but don't hold on to what happens at work while you are off the clock.
Comfort may not come right away. It soon follows after realizing you are doing the best you can, and the only variable you have complete control over is yourself. It comes after you experience enough people getting angry over factors you could not change.
It is a fact of life, just like death and taxes; not everyone is going to be pleased with you.
And that's okay.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2020 Holley Hyler