Anger--On Line

Anger--On Line

Date: 4/8/2008

Today there are many programs that teach people "anger management". However, to learn how to "manage" anger may not be enough.

Often the approach  should be to  discover what triggers the anger and deal with that issue. This way one is doing more than just "managing" the anger;   one is understanding the sources of the anger. Then one can reduce and even eliminate the angry outbursts that cause so much damage.  After that, we develop alternative, more effective ways of communicating and relating to people.

There are many reasons why people get angry. The following is one common example and how I would deal with it.

A friend told me recently that when someone cuts in front of him on line it  can be a trigger for strong feelings of frustration and anger.  And, these feelings often linger for hours afterward.

I think that most of us empathize with him.  It can be very annoying to be waiting on line at the bank or at Kupat Cholim (Israeli public health clinic) when someone suddenly shows up and announces "I was here earlier" as they casually slip into line. 

But, when a group of us were impatiently waiting our turn at the Macolet (a small grocery store) one morning and a neighbor walked in, pushed his way up to the front (totally ignoring everyone standing there), and blurted out his order, I was definitely quite annoyed"!

Why should this bother him--and the rest of us who have similar reactions?  Perhaps the following may help us begin to understand and deal with this and similar phenomena.

Sometimes we forget that we each have personal ways of understanding the world, beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, and values about what is important and what is not.  One of the categorical distinctions (in NLP these are known as "Metaprograms") we can make is: are you an options person, a procedures person, or a combination of these two?  In other words, do you have a predisposition to look for alternative ways to do things?  Or, do you prefer to follow established procedures?

If you are bothered by someone cutting in front of you in line to the extent that the fellow described above is bothered, chances are you are primarily a procedures person.  Your thinking is along the lines of  "It is 101% WRONG to cut in front of someone who is standing in line!" 

 Procedures people strongly believe that there is a "correct" way to do something.  Therefore, procedures people tend to get very upset when someone breaks the rules; they may feel that the person has violated them.  It goes without saying that what the person did is an inexcusable chutzpah!  They will often try to correct the options person which may frustrate and anger them more if the options person refuses to accept their view on the matter.

I used to live in an apartment on the ground floor.  Just behind our apartment was a hilly piece of land which was not used for any specific purpose.  Some of the tenants in the building would dump things there that they did not feel like carrying out to the garbage.  This bothered me a lot.   The main issue  wasn't  that I did not like looking at the junk they had discarded.  Rather, I had a strong sentiment of  "How can anyone dump their garbage here--this is not the right place;  the right place is across the street in specially designated bins."

Options people relate to the world very differently.  There is no one "correct" way of doing things. They love doing things in different ways;  variety is the name of the game.  If procedures people are cheering "Rules are Rules", options people are responding "Listen, sometimes you just have to break the rules."  In certain circumstances options people will find bending or breaking the rules irresitable.  At best, rules provide useful guidelines to how to do something.  But, when there are other considerations, options people will choose a different way that suits them better--even though it means not abiding by the rules.

Tolerance and mutual understanding can quickly disintegrate between a procedures person and an options person resulting in feelings of anger.

The question is: How can procedures people cope and deal with options people when the latter are breaking rules the procedures people hold to be absolute?   And, how can options people deal with procedures people when the latter are insisting on doing things their way?

The first step in coping and dealing with anger provoking situations like the ones described above is to be aware of the existence of the other type--options ir procedures people-- and their way of looking at the world.  This awareness can itself help you be mentally and emotionally ready.

When I realized that I am primarily a procedures person it helped me to act more calmly in situations when options people were not biding by the rules or when other procedures people tried to impose their procedure. 

The second step is to develop effective communication patterns to handle the situations as they arise.  This must be done in advance because the emotional charge to the procedures person can be so intense that he cannot think clearly.  And, when one is not thinking clearly, one's words will not be those that are suitable to the occasion, often leading to much damage.  

After that incident in the Macolet  I consulted someone who handles such situations quite elegantly and asked him how to deal with this cutting in line problem.  His advice was to make a statement in a polite, matter-of-fact manner.    For example, say  "Excuse me (or 'I am sorry'), it is my turn now" as you respectfully interrupt and present  your order to the person behind the counter. 

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