One of the best leadership blogs I read is “SmartBrief on Leadership.” Its staff pulls together what they consider the best stories on leadership from across the internet, then organize them into subject categories and offer summaries so readers can decide if a particular article resonates with them. This blog is daily and it is free.

One day this past week an article focused on the disadvantages of leaders showing their anger in the workplace and strategies we can use to channel and control our anger. At the bottom of that day’s newsletter, the editor, Candace Chellew, offered her personal reflections on the subject of anger. With Candace’s gracious permission, I am sharing those thoughts here for your consideration:

“I used to be a very angry person. Many things in my past contributed to this state of mind, but there was one thing that turned me around. I went to see a talk by a couple of authors I admire, and one of them said that his motto was, ‘Don’t take anything personally.’”

Candace continued: “He went on to say that if someone becomes angry with you, something you did or said may have triggered something in them, but it doesn’t have anything to do with you. It’s all about them and their stuff. A friend of mine once said, ‘If you get triggered by someone else, that’s your stuff. If they get triggered by you, that’s their stuff.’ We all have stuff — things from our past that get set off by circumstances around us. I learned to not take what others said or did personally, especially if it didn’t hit any of my triggers. If I got angry, that was a reminder that there was something I still needed to work on. My own anger is a call to go within and remove that trigger.”

Candace admitted: “I can’t say I’ve done it perfectly, but I am far less triggered now than I was even a year ago. Just remember, as my friend says, ‘If you have stuff with other people’s stuff, that’s your stuff.’ Meaning that if you get angry, it’s not about them; it’s about you, and vice versa.”

There is so much wisdom in Candace’s words. I encourage you to reread them. Pause and think about them. Can you relate to her story?

I know I can. When I was a young leader, I too had a tendency to take things personally. Why? I wanted people to like me. I also had a tendency to ruminate about things. Rumination is a form of paralysis. Sometimes, the more I ruminated, the angrier I became. Consequently, I would react quickly and allow my emotions to overwhelm my reason. As I got older and wiser, I was able to look at my anger objectively, almost as an outside “thing.” I was able to separate myself from my anger, examine it, and pause to reflect on whether that anger was truly serving me.

In coaching we call this moving something from subject to object. Instead of allowing an attitude or a behavior to control us, we can metaphorically step outside our bodies and look back at ourselves to examine how we are “showing up.” We can ask ourselves: “Is this what I really want? Is this how I wish to appear to others? Is this a me that I can like and be proud of?”

If our answer is no, we can choose, like Candace did, to change our paradigm or mindset. Candace taught herself to remember that “it’s not about me. It’s about them.” What lessons can you take from Candace’s story to apply to your own relationship to anger?

At the conclusion of her personal reflection, Candace presents these 10 principles from author Leslie Charles’ book about keeping anger in check:

1. Live with purpose. Have a sense of who you are and what your life stands for. Connect your sense of purpose with your everyday behavior to keep your life meaningful and congruent.
2. Enhance your self-awareness. Stay focused on your purpose.
3. Quit judging others. Take the energy you put into criticizing, judging, or sniping at others and channel it toward behaviors you can actually do something about: your own. Give up trying to mind other people’s business and focus on what you need to do so you can become the person you want to be.
4. Capitalize on your innate wisdom. Trust what you know and start practicing the good habits and healthy behaviors that will enhance your existence.
5. Make conscious choices. Recognize when you’ve made the choice to get upset or angry. Although you can credit someone else for being the source of your bad mood, you’re the one who’s picked up the baton. Accept that you’re really not a victim of circumstances; you’re the victim of a poor choice: letting someone else ruin your mood.
6. Think of yourself as a winner in the game of life: celebrate the positives. Study the negatives so you can prevent their recurrence.
7. Surround yourself with support. Spend your time with people who care about you, like to hear about your successes, and openly allow you to share your “boast moments.”
8. Replace negative emotions with positive ones. Quit worrying about trivial matters or running your life by fear. Assume good news unless you know better. If it’s bad news, accept, adapt, or take what you consider to be the most appropriate action.
9. Stay connected. Invest in your relationships; enrich them. Yet people you care about know they’re important in your life through acts of appreciation. Be generous with compliments.
10. Choose compassion over crankiness. Instead of getting mad at some ill-mannered person who treats you rudely, think about how miserable he or she must be; think about what it would feel like to be that person at that moment.

Charles adds: “If we assume the best in people—positive intent—we would circumvent a lot of anger.” So please explore your relationship with anger. Are you satisfied with it? If yes, that’s great. If not, make time to reflect on it and to make changes.

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