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Updated: Jan 11

Sometimes people really make you mad. Your boss doesn't give you the promotion you had been promised. Your spouse isn't helping out around the house, and doesn't appreciate all you do. Your kids are breaking the rules, or arguing a lot. Your Mom forgets your birthday. Your best friend stole your boyfriend. A stranger cuts you off in traffic. Irritation comes fast and fierce, and quite often for good reason. You have been wronged, and you're are justifiably upset about it. Ranting and raving can provide a certain measure of satisfaction if we're honest with ourselves. A good vent now and then relieves tension, and can get it out of our systems. Sometimes it can give us a chance to talk things through out loud, and realize we are overreacting. Sometimes a little anger can motivate us to make changes in our lives that need to be made. It's normal to react when others take advantage of us or treat us poorly, and it's not always entirely a bad thing. Temporarily. Or when anger is channeled and used toward a positive outcome. Most of the strides we've made in society toward equality and protection of the innocent came about because someone first got angry.

However, chronic anger is not healthy. It takes a toll on our relationships, productivity and even on our mental and physical well being. It stands in the way of peace and joy. It interferes with our ability to love and forgive. Anger is a heavy weight to carry around that impacts ourselves negatively, as much or more as it hurts those we feel are to blame for it. For our own good, in the vast majority of cases, we simply need to let it go as quickly and fully as possible. Why? because we will be happier. Plain and simple.

But what about when other people continue to be mean? Or dishonest? Or unfair? Or rude? We can't help but be angry then right? Yes...yes we can...and we should. I don't mean that we allow others to abuse or continue to hurt us in serious ways. Of course not. But when we let anger consume us we are doubling the trouble. Most of the impact of the hostility turns squarely back on US. So what do we do when someone else's actions or words get to us, and we feel the internal tension rising?

- First, ask yourself did the person even really mean to be upsetting? Could it be a misunderstanding? So often anger can be dispelled by realizing nothing harmful was intended.

- Secondly, ask if it really matters enough to waste time worrying over it. Most minor irritations aren't worth the trouble of dignifying them. Just move on. Yes the person was rude...but so what? Don't let it ruin your day.

- Third, think about whether there is anything you can or need to do about it to avoid future issues. If a particular person is a constant source of conflict or pain, perhaps you need to distance yourself from them. End a relationship. Have fewer contacts. Find a new job. Or whatever. Taking proactive steps can give you a sense of empowerment that overrides anger.

-Fourth, do you need to talk to the person heart to heart? In some cases it is important to give that other person a chance to explain or apologize. Often they will once they realize their behavior is harmful. If they will not, refer to step 3.

-Fifth, ask yourself if there is any possibly that YOU were in the wrong? Maybe their actions were in response to a real or perceived slight on your part. Taking the time to consider this possibility could save a lot of damaged relationships.

-Sixth, deflect the emotions. Certain relationships simply are challenging. There will always be people in our family, church, social network or work life that get on our nerves. Truth be told we probably get on some other people's nerves too's good to remember that at times. We just won't click or get along with everyone. Sometimes we are forced to interact with people anyway though, in which case a certain amount of patience and acceptance are required. Sure, we can go around ticked off repeatedly, but what good will that do? Make an extra effort to focus on the good in that person and recall it whenever they are being annoying. If you honestly can't think of anything, and you can't avoid them, then try to prepare yourself in advance to put an emotional shield between you. No matter what they do, just smile and don't let it get under your skin. Don't allow them to have the power to control your emotions. If they are the type that actually enjoys causing friction, your lack of reaction will actually confuse them at first. But they are less likely to keep at it when there is no big response.

-Most importantly, Forgive. People act the way they do for a myriad of reasons. Their upbringing, mental health issues, past hurts, basic temperaments. It's hard for us to fully know what is going on inside the minds and lives of everyone we come in contact with. Would it make a difference if we knew that the guy that cut us off the road was racing to the hospital to see his wife, who was just in a car accident? Or would it change our reaction if we knew that the coworker who spoke insensitively to us had just been diagnosed with cancer? Of course it would. Our compassion would override our anger. Since usually we aren't privy to all the facts in every interaction, it seems wise to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes they won't deserve it. Sometimes they are truly just mean people. But what does it matter? When we act with kindness, and forgive the failings of those around us, we ourselves are more at peace, healthier and happier. So don't do it for them. Do it for you!!

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