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Got Anger? Here’s Why You Should Be Grateful

Anger is an emotion that results from the perception of having one’s boundaries – physical and/or psychological – transgressed. And when this happens, a normal human reaction is to quickly go into fight or flight mode – responses that served us well when we dwelled in caves and spent much of our day avoiding becoming dinner for lions and tigers and bears. 

Flash forward 20,000 years.

Deborah (not her real name) is a coaching client who is brilliant at her job in finance.  She's smart, quick, and personable. And she has a short fuse for her large temper.

In our work together, Deborah recognizes the negative impact of her anger on those around her; fear, intimidation, and the lack of trust are a few of the consequences for her aggressive style. Deborah is no fool -- she understands her ability to control her anger is mission critical to her long-term success.

Awareness Is The First Step

When she notices anger coming on, Deborah knows she has about one second to disrupt her “fight” pattern before angry words fly off her tongue -- words that damage her business relationships and she often regrets later on. 

Deborah has learned to recognize the early warning signs in her body when her temper is about to blow– an increased heart rate, dry mouth, and a burning sensation in her neck. She also knows from experience that her tolerance for frustration plummets when she's overly fatigued and hasn't been exercising. 

Simple Approach. Surprising Results.

Last year, I encouraged Deborah to try something out of her comfort zone and suggested a simple daily practice of expressing gratitude to those around her. I also suggested she start exercising several times per week.

Why would I do that? 

Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that expressing gratitude increases empathy and lowers aggressive behavior

Research by David DeSteno at Northeastern University suggests that tapping into “gratitude can also help us control our behavior in favor of a delayed payoff.” I interpret this to mean that delaying a short-term impulse to express an inappropriate amount of anger now – creates an opening to focus on building positive business relationships that will serve one in the future.

Regular exercise is a proven tonic to help lower stress.  

Results Are In

Deborah has made a commitment to resilience.  She regularly exercises 3x per week and has started taking mini-vacations to prevent burn out. Not surprisingly, Deborah and those around her have seen positive results –her outbursts have been few and far between and her mood around the office has become more even keeled.

Here are 5 ways expressing gratitude can help make you a more effective leader: 

1. Expressing gratitude demonstrates your awareness of and concern for others -- cornerstone behaviors for establishing and building trust.

2. Gratitude increases the likelihood of a favorable response from the other person. 

3. Great leaders model effective leadership in what they say AND do. Demonstrating gratitude is a core behavior of servant leadership.

4. Focusing on gratitude is an effective way to disrupt your own anger before you say or do something you'll regret. On a neurological level, expressing gratitude -- either silently or to another person -- helps short circuit what author Daniel Goleman refers to as an amygdala hijack or behavior that results in unnecessary anger or rage.

5. Gratitude can help cultivate patience and self-control.


So the next time you notice your heart rate spiking during a conversation with your boss, a direct report or a client, try contemplating something positive in your life. This simple practice just might help you cool down and produce a very different outcome.  

And that’s something to be grateful for.





Andy Satter
Founder | CEO
Andrew Satter & Associates, Inc.
(845) 256-0995 (direct)  

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