Anger Management: Counting to 10 and Beyond
Even though counting to 10 still works, it helps to add a few extra anger management techniques to your arsenal. Find out more.
From rude drivers to anonymous hackers to co-workers that make
your job harder than it should be, it seems that everyone is getting on your
nerves and you're about to lose whatever hold you have left on your temper.
What to do? Learn some
anger management techniques. Here are a few that might help.
It Worked for Jefferson!
Simple as it may sound, you may want to start with some age-old
"When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, a
hundred," said Thomas Jefferson. That's still good advice, says Dan
Johnston, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at
Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Ga.
"The familiar childhood admonition of 'counting to 10'
before taking action works because it emphasizes the two key elements of anger
management -- time and distraction," says Johnston.
"The familiar technique of counting to 10 not only provides
the time needed for delay but also offers a distraction from the anger-arousing
event," says Johnston. "While busily counting, we are not mentally
adding fuel to the fire of anger by mulling over whatever happened."
Counting to 10 becomes an even more effective way of disarming
anger if we also take a slow deep breath between each number, Johnston adds.
"Deep breathing counteracts the fight or flight stress reaction that
underlies anger. Deliberately taking a slow, deep breath not only brings a
soothing sense of relaxation, but also helps us to focus our attention in the
The "energy" of anger often leads to impulsive behavior
that only aggravates an already tense situation, Johnston tells WebMD. If given
enough time to cool off, however, most people can learn to control their
Three Keys to Defusing Anger
Once more relaxed and in control, Johnston says, we're ready to
"respond," which is the key word in dealing with anger. "Don't
react," says Johnston. "Respond. Make a carefully considered choice
about the best course of action to take and guide your response by the three
anger-regulating principles of empathy, compassion, and assertion."
Empathy is the ability to see a situation from another person's
point of view, Johnston tells WebMD. "Adopting an empathic stance opens the
door to compassion by providing for a deeper emotional understanding of the
source of conflict. Being compassionate in an anger-arousing situation allows
for the deliberate choice of a tolerant but assertive response to resolving the
Choosing to respond assertively is different from the impulsive
reaction of acting-out anger, Johnston says. An assertive response is
characterized by standing up for our legitimate rights, but it does so in a
manner that does not violate the rights of others. "Assertive behavior is a
direct, honest, and appropriate expression of feelings and beliefs that helps
to establish understanding, consensus, and cooperation."