Tag Archives: anger

Converting Anger to Laughter

Leigh Anne JashewayThe name of my newsletter has always been Don’t Get Mad, Get Funny. This is also the title of my first book on using humor to lighten up about stress and the topic title of my most popular keynote presentation. I’m not trying to say that anger isn’t a valid and valuable emotion—it’s just that too many of us go there far too often and for tiny little stressors that don’t deserve our anger energy.

I once saw a billboard alongside I-5 that read, “Anger is one letter away from danger.” I believe when we overuse anger, we do endanger ourselves and others. A mind (and body) in a constant state of fight or flight wears out more quickly than a mind (and body) that find ways to lighten up and let go.

The good news is that we humans naturally turn our anger (and frustration, annoyance, irritation and other lesser forms of being disturbed by circumstances around us) into laughter. Eventually. Some of the funniest stories we tell on ourselves were things that got our goat (or llama or alpaca, whichever you choose) when they happened, but by virtue of the passage of time, we’re able to gain a better perspective and see the humorous side of things. The problem is that eventually is too long to wait. If you’ve recently been to the DMV or tried calling your cable company, you know what I mean. You don’t want to burn out by the time your natural sense of humor replaces your angry feelings.

The question is, how can you speed up the process? Here are my five best tips:

  1. Distract yourself!In one study, two fake traffic jams were created (because there aren’t enough real ones out there J). In one, drivers were left to fuss and fume on their own. In the other, the researchers created three distractions—warm & fuzzy (a puppy being walked alongside the vehicles), sexy (a good looking man and woman walking by), and funny (someone doing stupid human tricks nearby). Researchers studied both groups and counted how often they showed outward displays of anger (honking, yelling, stomping around outside their cars, shooting the finger, etc). In the group with the distractions, angry responses were significantly reduced and the type of distraction that worked best was humor. That’s right, humor beat puppies!Have plenty of silly, stupid, funny distractions in the places where you know your anger response gets turned on the most—your car, your office, at home next to the phone for those times you need to call to complain about things that don’t work.
  2. Count on basic math. If you decide to spend 30 more minutes a day laughing (by inviting funny friends to lunch, watching a funny TV show, reading a funny book, etc.), basic math dictates that there are now 30 fewer minutes available for you to be angry (unless, of course, you set your alarm for 2 a.m. so you can have more time to fume. If that’s the case, you may need more help than this newsletter can provide).
  3. Google it. The next time you feel your head is about to blow up with rage over some issue you know intellectually is not worthy of your anger energy, look online for funny stories and videos that relate to this same issue. I recently broke my nose by walking into a plate glass door (yes, I’m that cliché!) and when the bleeding finally subsided, I found four really funny videos of other people doing the same thing. The value of this exercise is that is allows you to find the humor in your specific situation faster by removing you from the equation. We always find it easier to laugh at others mistakes and problems than our own.
  4. Be angry funny. No, this isn’t like Tyra Banks’ concept of Ugly Pretty on America’s Next Top Model. Rather than expressing anger in your usual way, find more laughable options. Instead of shooting the finger, make up a silly hand or arm gesture (Chicken Dance, anyone?) Curse in pirate or a foreign language. By circumventing your usual responses, your brain will start to acknowledge the silliness of your negative emotions quicker.
  5. Write three jokes about it. As a comedy writer, if I didn’t get frustrated, annoyed, confused, and embarrassed all the time, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. When people are trying to be funny on purpose, they almost always rely on negative emotions as the source of their comedy (think of your favorite comedy TV show or movie and ask yourself what it’s really about). The next time you’re unnecessarily upset about something, take five minutes to write three jokes. They don’t even have to be good—it’s the process that’s important.  1) I hit that plate glass door so hard, local seismologists reported an earthquake. 2) I didn’t mind the embarrassment and the bleeding, but the pointing and laughing bothered me. Of course, it was me who was pointing and laughing, so I could have stopped it if I wanted to. 3) For a week afterward, I had two black eyes. Everyone thought I had “work done.” Now they tell me how much younger I look.

Try these simple tips and see if you don’t let go of some of the unnecessary anger in your daily life.

© 2012 Leigh Anne Jasheway

Teen Anger Workbook – Book Release

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The Teen Anger Workbook

Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts

By John J Liptak, EdD and Ester Leutenberg

Whole Person Associates announces publication of The Teen Anger Workbook: Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts by John J Liptak, EdD, and Ester Leutenberg. Teaching teens to handle their anger is one of the most challenging tasks of counselors, therapists, teachers, and parents. The Teen Anger Workbook provides tools to help young people engage in self-reflection, examine their thoughts and feelings that lead to anger, and learn effective tools and techniques to effectively manage the inevitable feelings of anger they will experience throughout their lives.

Divided into five separate sections, The Teen Anger Workbook provides a myriad of tools to guide teens through the exploration of a difficult topic and to learn more about themselves and now anger impacts their lives.

  • Teen Anger Triggers Scale helps individuals explore what triggers feelings of anger within them.
  • Teen Anger Intensity Scale helps individuals identify how prone they are to anger and how strong their feelings are of anger.
  • Teen Anger Expression Scale helps individuals identify their particular ways of expressing their anger to other people.
  • Teen Anger Consequences Scale helps individuals explore the adverse effects of uncontrolled anger on their relationships and life.
  • Teen Anger Management Scale helps individuals better understand their skills in managing the anger in their life.

The Teen Anger Workbook: Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts is one of a series of 12 books covering mental health and lifestyle issues familiar to all professionals working with teens. Being released concurrently are: The Teen Friendship Workbook and The Teen Aggression and Bullying Workbook.

The Teen Anger Workbook

Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts
Written by: John J Liptak, EdD and Ester Leutenberg
No. of pages: 122
Softcover:  Price $49.95
ISBN: 978-1-57025-250-1
Publication date: 2011

About the Authors

John J. Liptak, EdD, frequently conducts workshops on assessment-related topics. He has written three books on career-related topics which have been featured in numerous newspapers including The Washington Post, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Associated Press. His work has also been featured on MSNBC, CNN Radio, and on the PAX / ION television series, “Success without a College Degree.” John has many years of experience in providing counseling services to individuals and groups in a variety of settings including job training programs, correctional institutions, and colleges and universities. In addition, John has ten years of teaching experience as

an assistant professor. With Kathy Khalsa and Ester Leutenberg, he has written three other comprehensive books for teachers and counselors to use with their students and clients: The Self-Esteem Program, The Social Skills Program, and The Stress Management Program:  Inventories, Activities & Educational Handouts. John and Ester Leutenberg continue to co-write books to add to their Mental Health & Life Skills Workbook series, published by Whole Person Associates.

Ester A. Leutenberg has worked in the mental health field for many years as a publisher, author, and advocate for those suffering from loss. She personally experienced a devastating loss when her son Mitchell, after struggling with a mental illness for eight years, died by suicide in 1986. Soon after, as a way of both healing and helping others, Ester co-founded Wellness Reproductions & Publishing with her daughter Kathy Khalsa and began developing therapeutic products that help facilitators help their clients. Ester is the co-author of the SEALS series for teen-agers, Life Management Skills series for adults and Meaningful Life Skills for older adults, as well as a variety of therapeutic card games, board games, and posters. Ester has co-written GriefWork —Healing from Loss, The GriefWork Companion, and Creating a Healthy Balanced Life.

Ester and John have co-written the Mental Health & Life Skills Workbook Series, the Teen Mental Health & Life Skills Workbook Series and are currently working on a Coping Workbook Series, all published by Whole Person Associates.

About the Illustrator

Amy L. Brodsky, LISW-S, has worked assisting children and adults in psychiatric crisis. She is well known for her creative illustrations of the Emotions product line, over 35 therapeutic books, including the Life Management Skills and SEALS series, the Teen Relationship Workbook, Crossing the Bridge, GriefWork—Healing from Loss, The GriefWork Companion, Creating a Healthy Balanced Life, and the Liptak/Leutenberg Workbook series.

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Assess your emotions before a confrontation

Let Your Body WinYou swear you’re prepared to speak calmly and professionally to a coworker you believe is intentionally sabotaging you. But the second you open your mouth to say something, BAM! you’re practically yelling at him! The first moments of an encounter set the stage for the entire conversation and you know you’ve blown it. But how can you control your aggression?

Use advice from the great book, “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler (McGraw-Hill, 2002.)

Defensive emotions once engaged are difficult to turn off. And the more defensive you are the more convinced you are that you’re right, giving more fuel to your emotions. If you’ve blown it you may want to apologize and arrange to talk later after you privately take responsibility for your emotions. Here’s how.

Last week I wrote about the book’s advice to identify the other person’s behavior and ask yourself why s/he is behaving that way. Your answer is what actually causes your emotions, not the other person’s behavior. It’s vital to understand this so you can move beyond your defensiveness.

For example, you and I are working on a project together. I discover that you’ve met privately with our boss. Plus, when we both attend meetings you “hog” the time, making it seem like you’re in charge of the project, which you’re not.

“Why” do I think you’re hogging the limelight and excluding me from meetings? My answer: “Because you want all of the credit.” Doesn’t this assumption fuel my anger and resentment?

But just because I believe this doesn’t make it true. If my “why” answer is defensive and judgmental, which it is, I need to identify your behaviors and the facts of the situation before speaking to you.
* Fact/behavior: you had two meetings with the boss that I wasn’t notified of so couldn’t attend. You didn’t inform me later either.
* Fact/behavior: when we presented our idea together you spoke for several minutes while I spoke far less.

Separating the facts and your behaviors from my assumption that you want all of the credit balances me emotionally. I feel more in the driver’s seat of my own life, which decreases my stress therefore my defensiveness. I can assertively speak to you by using this formula:
1. State the facts from my point of view;
2. My interpretation of their meaning;
3. How I feel about it;
4. Ask if I understand correctly.

E.g., “Tom, you didn’t inform me of the meetings you had privately with the boss. This makes me think excluding me was intentional. I felt resentment and was hurt by this. Was I purposefully excluded and if so, why?”

Substituting my assumptions (“hogging” and “wanting all the credit”) with the facts of the situation including your behavior plus using this formula to address my concerns can help balance me so I’m less likely to become instantly defensive.

Next week we’ll look at additional ideas to improve your ability to handle your “crucial conversations.”

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.

Anger may be an emotional castle built on sand

The Importance of Crucial Conversations
Jacquelyn Ferguson, MS

Do you avoid difficult workplace (or personal) conversations where you fear the outcome will be uncomfortable? If so, read “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler (McGraw-Hill, 2002.)

According to these authors an organization’s effectiveness is strongly determined by its employees’ willingness to have crucial conversations. They found in the worst organizations poor performers are ignored then transferred. In good organizations supervisors eventually handle problem situations. In high performing organizations’ employees willingly and effectively speak to someone who fails to deliver on promises. Everyone is held accountable regardless of their level.

Difficult conversations usually trigger your stress cycle; therefore defensive behavior (my words not theirs,) bring out your worst behavior (their words). What’s your worst behavior? It’s not pretty, is it? You’d probably be as embarrassed as I to have people you respect see you behave that way.

To move beyond your automatic, defensive reactions and your worst behavior determine what – or whom – is actually causing your problem. Is it really that co-worker who aggravates you so, or might it your own interpretation of that person?

I’ve frequently written about how negative judgments of others trigger your worst behavior. These authors approach this formula differently, which may help you see that your own interpretations determine your emotional reactions and behavior.

Their advice is to ask yourself why the other person is behaving as he is. A simple example from a program I recently presented, “Collaborative Communication.” During our lunch break an attendee had to wait a long time at a Subway shop where there was only one employee working. He was doing his best and actually, according to my attendee, was doing quite well. He waited on four people at a time, taking each sandwich through the same steps together. All four customers had to wait for all four sandwiches to be made together.

Upon his return to our classroom, my attendee explained his own impatience was because the employee was disorganized (negative judgment). In my attendee’s mind, it was the employee’s disorganization that made the attendee impatient. Another attendee offered a different perspective. She suggested that the Subway employee probably didn’t want to take off and put on his plastic gloves repeatedly, so he made multiple sandwiches together. My attendee thought this seemed a likely explanation and said he probably wouldn’t have been impatient if he’d looked at it that way.

In other words, the label “disorganized” is what caused the attendee to become impatient, not the Subway employee’s system.

Who drives you the most nuts? Why is that person doing what he’s doing? Your explanation, your “why,” triggers your emotions therefore you reaction. The other person doesn’t make you feel as you do, therefore cannot be responsible for your reaction.

To have an important conversation that you’re now avoiding, prepare for it by asking yourself, “What’s your problem person’s behavior and why is he acting that way?” Next week I’ll address how to handle your negative why.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.