Learning how to control anger is a challenge. In this guide, I share some of the top strategies I use to help my clients in our anger management coaching sessions.
1. Set Goals for How to Control Anger
Before starting on your journey of learning how to control anger, it’s really important to take some time to set some goals and expectations.
It’s important to know exactly what you want to achieve before starting work on any anger management strategies to measure your progress and avoid giving in too early.
One of the first things I always tell my clients is that you need to lose your temper to learn how to control anger, and it’s completely okay.
You’re never going to be able to just completely stop losing your temper.
Everyone loses their temper, so accept that it’s a normal human emotion.
So, set your expectations on controlling anger rather than trying to stop losing your temper completely.
Some of my clients like to get specific about their goals and aim to achieve goals, such as to stop shouting at people when they get angry or being able to walk away from confrontations.
It’s also good to give yourself a flexible timeline for when you’d like to see some progress. This might be a few weeks, months or maybe even in time for an upcoming event.
Always be prepared for relapse and be flexible in your approach to achieving your goals.
It’s better to allow yourself more time to achieve your goals than to set ambitious ones that don’t leave room for setbacks.
2. Uncover Your Strategy for Getting Angry
You might not know or accept this initially, but everybody has a strategy for getting into a particular state, such as anger.
This strategy includes multiple steps that can start minutes, hours, days or even weeks before you lose your temper.
For example, your strategy might start with you feeling irritated about something or someone but bottling it up and not saying anything.
I always work with my clients to help them uncover these steps to gain a better awareness of their strategy
As a result, changing some of these steps makes it easier for them to manage their anger.
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3. Work on the Root Cause of Your Anger
When I ask my clients what causes them to lose their temper, I frequently hear answers such as “My partner’s behaviour” or “Just lots of small pointless things”.
In reality, what causes most people to lose their temper is deep-rooted and often has nothing to do with the events of the present time.
If you lose your temper with a particular person, it is likely because you associate that person’s behaviour with a past negative experience.
Trying to fix the ‘surface issues’ such as the people or factors causing you to feel angry might work in the short term, but to overcome anger issues, you need to figure out the root cause.
Some people discover that they associate their partner’s behaviour with someone from their past like a parent, bully or something else, whereas others discover the root cause of their anger can be another mental health issue such as stress or anxiety.
4. List Your Anger Triggers
Writing down all of your ‘triggers’ to learn more about your anger issues is an excellent place to start.
Triggers are small details that cause you to lose your temper and become angry.
By writing down and thinking about your triggers, you may begin to spot trends in precisely what it is that gets you angry.
For example, you may notice that only certain types of people cause you to be angry or that you only get angry when put in specific situations that make you feel a certain way.
This detail is essential in the long run and will get you closer to understanding your root cause, so spend some time on this area.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is also very useful when working on your triggers, too, as it will give you a deeper understanding of them.
5. Quit the Self-Punishment
When you struggle with anger issues, it can devastate your life and ruin your relationships with others.
9 out of 10 clients that come to me for anger management coaching also suffer from low moods and sometimes depression, which is usually a knock-on effect of their anger outbursts.
If you suffer from a low mood or depression after an anger outburst, it may just be part of your strategy for getting angry.
Most people feel really bad after an angry outburst, especially if it has caused someone they love unintentional physical or mental pain.
But what value does punishing yourself have for anyone?
By punishing yourself, you are potentially creating a continuous cycle for your anger, thus making it even worse.
What’s done is done.
You can’t change the past, so accept it, learn from it and move on.
There is zero value in you feeling bad about losing your temper.
Naturally, you should show empathy to others you have hurt and apologise for your behaviour, but self-punishment needs to be removed from your cycle instantly.
6. Get to Know Your Physical Warning Signs
Think about the last time you got angry and rewind to the minutes or moments before losing your temper.
How did you feel physically at that point?
Did you feel hot, cold, or dizzy?
Did you maybe feel yourself growing in size or feel the waves crashing inside your stomach?
Awareness of how you feel before, during and after anger outbursts can help you control your anger.
One of the anger management strategies I used on myself years ago was associating the build-up of anger with the physical feeling of waves inside my stomach.
I learnt to use the feeling of the sea waves inside my stomach as a warning signal, which enabled me to control my anger before the waves started crashing into the rocks.
You may find the same anger management strategy helpful, but you may also find others that work better for you.
I worked with a client recently who was able to associate his feelings with him being like the Incredible Hulk before he does his Hulk Smash.
He described the feeling of getting physically bigger and bigger before he eventually saw red and lost his temper.
This enabled us to work on a strategy where he could spot the classic Hulk build-up but avoid the Hulk Smash.
The above examples are just a couple of the anger management strategies I have used with my clients and require more context to be used effectively.
In short, the more aware you become of the physical signs your body shows before you lose your temper, the more chance you have of being able to control your temper.
7. Get Feedback from Others
Another great anger management strategy is to ask for feedback from others, such as your loved ones or honest friends.
The more open and honest you are with others about your anger management challenge, the more people will be open to support you.
If you lose your temper with a loved one, your family or trusted colleagues, ask them to describe their experience of your anger outbursts.
Ask them what they think triggers it and how severe they see it, and ask them to describe their experience in as much detail as possible.
Feedback might be hard to swallow at first, but it’s better to get honest opinions rather than white lies that can mislead you.
Before you approach people for feedback, it’s a good idea to let them know why you are asking so they have some context.
You should also be sure to let them know they have nothing to fear by being brutally honest with you.
8. Work on Your Communication Skills
The majority of all anger outbursts are the result of poor communication in one way or another.
People tend to either not communicate at all and bottle things up or they react without thinking and communicate aggressively.
Either way, the ending is bad.
Recognising the flaws in your communication strategy and learning how to improve them can greatly impact how you control anger.
If your anger issues are often related to your partner or someone close to you, learn how to listen and process before responding.
And when you do respond, focus on controlling your body language and tone of voice.
It’s a well-known fact that your body language and tone of voice are much more important to control than your words.
Just hear and feel the difference in your body and tone when you try saying the words ‘I’m not happy’ with a sad face and then with a mad face.
And now try saying ‘I’m not happy’ in an angry tone but with a sad or happy face.
Not too easy, is it?
So spend a little time to reflect on your communication strategy and remember that being open is better than bottling things up.
9. Accept that All Behaviour has a Positive Intent
One of the most challenging anger management strategies to learn and apply is accepting the behaviour of others.
Other people are often not the main cause of anger in most of my clients.
Sometimes it’s a loved one and sometimes it’s a random Joe on the street.
To progress in your fight against your anger issues, you need to accept that everyone’s behaviour is done with positive intent.
That means accepting that people never have a deep-rooted intent to do things to annoy or hurt you.
Learning and understanding this normally needs a deeper explanation than what I can give in this guide, but if you can try and live a day with this rule it will serve you well.
It can often be helpful to think of your behaviour when you get angry and ask; Do you intentionally mean to shout, scare or hurt people?
10. Learn about Human Needs Psychology
One of the most powerful anger management strategies I use with my clients is to teach them about human needs psychology.
To understand your behaviour and the behaviour of others, you need to understand what drives you and others to do what you do.
Each and every one of your actions on a daily basis is done in order to meet one or more of the following 6 human needs that drive us all:
- Uncertainty (Variety)
- Love & Connection
I am working on a detailed written guide on the 6 human needs at the moment, but until then, you can read Cloe Madanes’s guide to human needs over on her blog.
Work with Me on How to Control Anger Today
I work with people daily on how to manage their anger. You can read more about my anger management coaching here or use the form below to book a free consultation call with me.