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Non-verbal Anger Cues โ€“ How Do You Stop Showing Your Negative Emotions?


Anger in the Workplace

It’s unpleasant to feel angry. Your pulse races, your breathing quickens, you feel hot and stressed. But it’s equally unpleasant to be around someone who is angry. Anger can be demonstrated with words, but non-verbal anger is common too.

There is a saying that laughter is contagious, and the same is true with other strong emotions. Your anger can spread and affect the whole workplace. The people around you may pick up on your mood and react. They may become angry themselves, or feel intimidated, anxious or negative.

Not only does your anger cause you to make mistakes at work, it causes others to make mistakes. It lowers morale and negatively impacts productivity.

Not many people manage to avoid feeling angry at some point at work. It’s natural in some situations that temperatures rise. Conflict and opposition are part of life in many workplaces. However, if you feel that your anger is negatively affecting those around you, it’s time to do something about it.

Non-verbal Anger Cues

The problem is, anger isn’t only demonstrated by what you say, it’s equally easy to show your anger in the way that you act. Your actions, whether they are conscious movements or sub-conscious, can spread anger as easily as your words.

Non-verbal anger typically manifest in:

  • Eye contact and movement โ€“ rapid blinking and staring intently at another person.
  • Facial expressions โ€“ a furrowed brow, tense jaw, reddened skin, clenched teeth or pursed lips.
  • Gestures โ€“ pointing at the person who is angering you, moving your arms away from your torso, sudden movements, pushing your collar away from your neck, gripping the edge of the desk and pacing.
  • Posture โ€“ a quickly rising and falling chest (fast or shallow breathing), squaring off against another person, one hand clutching the other arm, hand or elbow.
  • Hands and feet โ€“ tapping fingers or feet and clenched fists.

You know it’s not acceptable to shout and rage at people you work with. But, in moments of anger, it’s easier to control what you say than how you act. Our bodies sub-consciously display the words we want to speak (or shout!).

How to Stop Demonstrating Non-verbal Anger

Self-awareness is vital in recognising what your non-verbal anger cues are and learning how to control them. Next time you feel your mood becoming angry, take an objective look at yourself. Notice how your body and face are moving. Ask someone you trust at work to tell you how they recognise when you are feeling angry.

When you’re aware of the non-verbal anger cues you show, it’s time to learn how to keep them in check. When you feel your emotional temperature rising, try the following:

  • Take deep breaths. This will help to bring your heart-rate down and improve your stress levels.
  • Put your hands on the desk, or in your lap, lace your fingers together gently. This will stop non-verbal anger cues like tapping and pointing.
  • Sit down and place your feet shoulder width apart, flat on the floor. Imagine you are rooted to the spot. This will stop non-verbal anger cues like foot tapping and pacing.
  • Relax your face. Feel any areas of tension and consciously smooth them out.
  • Massage the base of your neck and shoulders. This relieves tension, but it also distracts you from making sub-conscious body movements.
  • Keep your gestures slow and under control.
  • Make sure your posture is open โ€“ don’t wrap your arms around your body or cross them.
  • Keep eye-contact during discussions. Remember to look away from time to time to relieve tension.

No one wants to make someone else feel uncomfortable by demonstrating anger. Learning how to control how you act as well as what you say is beneficial to you and those you work with. The more often you are able to control your anger, the more confident you feel that you can do so in the future.

If anger is a regular problem for you, consider taking up a stress relieving activity after work, such as squash, yoga, running, martial arts or meditation.

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