What are anger triggers and how do we combat them?

Anger triggers may vary from person to person, but to generalise, what angers you? Most of my trainee candidates will volunteer; bad service, being ignored, being patronised, being discriminated against, witnessing bad manners and discrimination against other people, and of course aggressive behaviour. The list is extensive, I guess that anybody reading this blog will be able to add their own anger triggers too.

What is anger?

It will help us to understand why we are faced with this problem. Anger is an emotion, provoked by unacceptable behaviour by someone or something that impacts upon our sensibilities. There is a relationship between emotions and rational response in human beings. Using the analogy of a children’s see-saw with emotions on one end and rational response on the other, starting with a level plane, if one side moves the other side moves in the opposite direction and in proportion, so if emotions are on one end and they rise we can say that rational capability goes down in response. So if someone insults us or behaves in an unpleasant manner toward us or someone else in our presence we will experience affront, our emotions will rise – anger – and our ability to cope is affected because our rational response has gone down and will continue to do so until we cause it to stop. There are many anger triggers and I have listed a few earlier in this blog and given a free hand they will drive us toward action and thus we may become aggressive. It is worth mentioning that people who have challenging behaviour caused by their ill health, prescribed medicines or those using narcotics illicitly used may exhibit emotional – rational responses that are very different to the norm, for example someone who has been consuming illegal narcotics may be incapable of feeling pain and thus have no real control or ability to rationalise – see sense – and even pain compliance methods may not work. How are we to deal with anger and manage to cope with stressful provocation? Fortunately, human beings have a factor that provides a get out clause, we have choice! In the animal kingdom most animals have a simple stimulus – reaction behavioural pattern. Human beings have a much more sophisticated arrangement utilising our large brain and involving flight or fight and this means that when our emotions ( fear, rage, anger etc) are driven up we have a stimulus/trigger – choice – response arrangement that allows us to escape or stand and deal with an oncoming threat. Our choice is based on strategies for protecting us from danger and so when our emotions are provoked we have the choice of flying off the handle – a knee jerk reaction – and being aggressive OR we can be disciplined and rational by maintaining control of the see – saw and refusing to allow our rational process’s to be diminished.

Anger Triggers then are stimuli and GoodSense Conflict Resolution Training uses the TIC (TOCK) model to explain this;

T stands for Transgressions – the things that people do to provoke us,

I for Irritants – those things that cause irritation which if not dealt with will boil over into an angry response,  and

C for Costs – emotional and practical costs the impact upon our otherwise tranquil state of mind.

Professionals cannot afford to lose it! We may recall examples in the press of teachers, who at the end of their tether, cello taped a child’s mouth shut to stop them talking, and we know of road rage episodes too often ending in tragedy for all concerned. But, professionals need to be able to remain rational even when their emotions are heightened, how else could a surgeon perform life saving surgery? As professionals in our sector, it is important that we learn to deal with anger triggers so that we can remain calm and assertive, utilising conditioned responses rather that knee jerk reactions.

In our work in GoodSense Conflict Resolution Training we work with many professionals from the NHS and other sectors including the Security Industry, we take the view that well trained people develop disciplines so as to cope. We balance the legal perspective with common sense practicality and a well balanced approach to dealing with conflict in our working lives.