Unchecked anger can hurt. Employees may fear leveling with you. Bosses may conclude you’re not promotable. Colleagues will lose respect for you.
The worst outbursts can occur if you allow yourself to be provoked by someone you don’t like. When you let others get under your skin, you become vulnerable to all kinds of mischief. And you’re ripe for self-sabotage.
Take these steps to resist the bait:
Laugh it off. Foil a nasty colleague’s attempt to light your fuse by smiling and gently laughing. You’ll set in motion a physiological response that lowers your anger. Even if this reaction seems artificial, it’s still worth doing.
Rewrite the script. Imagine that you’re an actor memorizing your lines. The script calls for you to stay calm. Pretend to hear the movie director yell “Brilliant job—that’s a wrap!” as soon as you perform your scene.
Break the rhythm. When someone ticks you off, don’t rush to return fire right away. Reach for a glass of water and take three slow gulps. Or head to the restroom; running water over your wrists cools you down. Insert a breather into the conversation so you can regroup before responding.
Make transition statements. Rather than explode, change the subject. Steer the conversation in a direction that you find less inflammatory. Use statements such as, “Rather than discuss that now, it’s more important that we …” or “Here’s something else to consider.” By shifting the topic quickly, you bypass the bait and stay in control.