Rule number 1. Take personal responsibility for everything you do, think, and feel.
Rule number 2. Stop blaming others for your bad behavior.
Is it really that simple? Well, yah, it is. It’s true that there are numerous coping skills to better manage and control anger. I have taught these techniques to anger management students for years. Communicating better, that’s a no brainer that most people need a little help with. Becoming more emotionally intelligent. Sounds easy, but in practice, angry people struggle with this. Just getting control of our stress. These are some basic skills that are routinely taught in most anger management programs and by therapists across the country.
I believe that before we start gaining skills we must first embrace these two simple rules. Let’s explore rule one. Taking personal responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. No one makes us behave badly nor controls our feelings or thoughts. Controlling thoughts, feelings and emotions is a choice, a very conscious choice we all make. One of the wonderful things that sets human beings apart from other animals on the planet, other than our apposing thumbs, is our large brains and high IQ. What comes with a high IQ? It is our ability to make choices and not act on instinct every time we get upset.
Let’s take a look at an example of this. Lets say someone you don’t like insults you and you feel angry and decide to insult them back. Then they apologize and you feel better. Who was in control of your thoughts, feelings and behavior? Sadly, it wasn’t you. If others can make you angry and just as easily make you feel better, then all the power is handed over to them. Taking responsibility gives us the freedom and control over ourselves and we can make smarter and more intelligent choices. The simple rule of taking personal responsibility might sound simple, but it does take practice.
Now, I’d like to examine rule number 2. Stop blaming others for our bad behavior. It’s really easy to blame others for our actions. There are several fundamental problems with this mentality. The first is that other people don’t really have that control over you (as mentioned above) and the other is that when we behave badly the focus now moves to our behavior and not the topic at hand. Blaming others is really easy. When we do this, we shift all the responsibility on to them and its give us license to say or do as we wish. The problem, of course, is that when we do this, the recipient will often focus on the bad behavior and not the problem. This can be incredibly frustrating for someone that is looking to get respect for blaming others.
Here’s a case example: Your wife comes home an hour late, without calling or texting you. During this hour of waiting you’ve grown angry, insulted, worried and feel disrespected. As the door opens you launch into yelling at her, expressing your anger. Your voice is raised, yelling some non-flattering explicative. She storms off into another room and tells you to leave her alone. Now your upset even more thinking “she’s the one who showed up late without calling and I’m the bad guy?”. Sound familiar?
Well, you are the bad guy. Why? Because instead of taking control of your emotions and behavior, you allowed yourself to blame her for being upset and hostile. She is now focused on your swearing and yelling rather than your justifiable complaint of her being an hour late.
Stop the blame game and do the right thing, by taking control of your own behaviors and stop giving yourself permission to behave badly. Following these two simple rules might just be the game changer to happier and healthier relationships.
Ari Novick, Ph.D.
AJ Novick Group, Inc.