Friday, January 9, 2009

Temper, Temper, Temper

Shots ring out in someone's home over the holidays. Someone dies from an argument on what channel to watch on television.

It's really hard to get anyone to control their temper. I've tried lots of different ways and none of them worked very well.

The issue is getting what you want from other people effectively. None of us are very good at it. Those who are good at it are almost dangerous to be around because you never know if they're manipulating you.

Unable to get what we want, we raise the stakes: first by frowning, then by yelling, then by violence. None of this necessarily increases the chances we'll get what we want, so, why do we do it?

Psychologists tell us the culprit is the fight or flight reflex. The tendency to lose our temper is born into us. This fight or flight reflex causes enough problems that I almost wish we were born without it.

They also say you're more likely to lose your temper if you are or have been around people who also lost theirs, which is why the propensity is more common in some cultures and some families than others.

Stress is also a factor. The stress doesn't even have to be related to the issue at hand. Stress in any part of a person's life can lead to losing their temper in others.

Here are some steps that might help to control your temper:

Access the threat: You may not be getting what you want, but are you in danger? If you're not, then realize you're not and adjust your response accordingly.

Break the cycle: Your boss loses her temper with you, her husband lost his temper with her and his mom lost her temper with him when he was a child. If we lose our temper with the next person then the cycle continues, if not then it's broken. It's that simple.

Deal with stress: Stress in any part of your life puts stress on every other part of your life. Deal effectively with stressful situations as they happen to prevent it from spilling over.

Change your perspective: Look at your behavior from the other person's perspective. Are you dealing with them the way you'd want someone to deal with you? If not, why not?

Don't spin your wheels: Losing your temper actually makes it less likely you'll get what you want. What would you rather do, lose your temper or accomplish your goal?

I can't promise that any of these ideas will work for you, but if you've read this article, then at least you're thinking about it and thinking about it is the first step toward controlling any problem.

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