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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.

Take One Step Back

To make sure you actually understand what you're angry about, paraphrase or clarify what the other person has said to you, says DeAnna Beckman, MSW, LISW, executive director of the Center for Threat Assessment at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "This allows you to make sure you did not misunderstand the message," she tells WebMD, "and it focuses your brain on thinking, not reacting."

Beckman also suggests leaving the situation if necessary. "A simple, 'Can we discuss this later?' or, 'Can I get back to you on that?' can buy time to control your feelings. You can use that time to take a short walk or climb a flight or two of stairs to calm down," she says.

Now Five Steps Forward

Washington, D.C. therapist Mark Gorkin, LICSW, author of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression, offers a five-step method for "constructive confrontation":

  1. Use an "I" statement, question, or observation: "I'm concerned," "I'm confused," or "I'm frustrated" are good ways to begin your exchange.
  2. Describe the problem specifically. Avoid judgmental accusations such as "You never get your work in on time." Instead, be specific: "I've asked you three times this week for the status of the systems report and I haven't received the report or any response. What's going on here?"
  3. Explain why you're upset. Talk about effects and expectations. For example: "Because I didn't receive the report on time, I wasn't able to present it at the meeting and we had to postpone making a decision." That's the effect. The expectation: "We really need the data. I want to meet tomorrow morning at 9 to discuss where you are with the project."
  4. Acknowledge the other person and ask for input. Let the other person know you have some understanding of what he's going through. For example: "I know you're working on several important projects. Tell me what's on your plate. Then we'll need to set priorities and upgrade the importance of this project."
  5. Listen and let go. Once you've engaged in the first four steps, you can be more objective and can let go of any existing anger, hurt feelings, or questionable assumptions.

Practice Makes Perfect

All these techniques work well, but what happens when you're so angry you can't think to use them? Practice makes perfect, says Jason Kornrich, PhD, director of outpatient mental health services at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y.

"You have to practice dealing with anger before you're actually angry," says Kornrich, who suggests you role-play a confrontational situation with a trusted family member, friend, or colleague.

This is also a good way to teach children how to deal with their anger, he tells WebMD. "You need to practice with them and show them how to deal with their anger. And you need to be a good role model yourself ... if you can't deal with your own anger, your kids won't be able to control themselves either."

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