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Anger Management in the PSAP
Author: Kelly R. Rasmussen, MS, ENP
Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content
Anger affects our bodies, our minds and our behavior. In can be like a toxin that can either help us or hurt us.
Think of it like chemotherapy. If you have something bad happening to you and you have to deal with it, sometimes you need a stronger does of “something” to fight it. In the case of anger, you are reacting to something that has gotten out of control, or your old methods of dealing are no longer working so anger came to the rescue. Usually it is due to a habit or former pattern of coping when this happens.
You see, problems don’t come from anger, problems come from the ways people express anger!
Too often in the fit of anger, we fail to analyze what exactly is going on and since anger blocks our rational and logical reasoning, we fail to use our emotions effectively. Again, think of the chemo, if it works to kill the bad stuff, it also kills some good stuff, right. This we know.
One of the things I caught on to as a dispatcher growing up in the chair was when people called 9-1-1, I would often hear “He makes me so angry,” or “she ticks me off” and other ways of tagging that person with the blame.
The truth is; we are all in charge of our own emotions. It is something we have more control over than we give ourselves credit. As a dispatcher I remember thinking, “Then why don’t you leave?” or “Why do you let them get you to that point?” In other words, as an outsider looking in, I could see they had choices they were not using, but they could not see the choices in front of them because they were blocked by anger.
One of the most common reasons for reacting negatively is that we don’t understand the other person. And most of the time when we don’t understand them, it is because they are unable to clearly articulate what they need, feel, or want.
Kelly’s Communication Keys for You
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I like to ask questions to make sure I am clear on what the other person is trying to say. On the other hand, I know I’ve been one to set people off and try to goad them into an angry fit. (Maybe it comes from all those years messing with people!) Here are 4 tips:
1. Who has the power? If anger gets the best of you and someone is goading you on, who is slave to the anger? Who is controlling the communication process? If you let anger overtake you, the other person wins because they can keep their level head to reason things through.
2. Check your body language. Are you sending signals that you want to participate in their anger or be part of it in any way? Remember you can change the situation by changing your physical position. Maybe you can’t leave the room like I couldn’t back in my dispatch days, but I could turn my attention away, stand and do stretches, or simply go to the bathroom! :)
3. Write It Down! Take a few minutes to cool off even if it isn’t your anger. Before you get pulled into it or become the focus of it, write down in email or in a note how the anger feels and what it looks like (even if it’s your own welling up inside of you).
People too often take other people’s angry garbage and make it their own. Read David Pollay’s article about “Garbage Trucks” and see if you want to continue accepting other people’s anger as your own anymore!
Also writing it down physically gets it outside of you – it gets it away from you. Like someone vomiting in an arcing spray, you sometimes get in the way of other peoples’ anger and you may need to take time to brush it off or wash your hands of it. (sorry to be so graphic but it is how I see other people’s anger after studying this for years). Writing it down helps you see the anger as it is on paper and not let it seep into your skin, or your consciousness.
A careful warning here: Do not take responsibility or ownership of someone else’s anger. You are not their repository. Likewise, if you allow yourself to be angry, the same applies. Write it down instead of spewing. You don’t have to send it or publish it or let anyone read it, just get it out!
4. Lastly, and in all fairness, I said anger can help us. I was angry for years that there wasn’t and isn’t enough motivation, praise, and help for those in dispatch. I’ve taken my indignant anger and created this training company and now the motivational conference for all 9-1-1 folks called 9114911. You see, you can use your anger for good! It feels much better!
Ms. Rasmussen is an accomplished professional speaker and author with a background of saving lives through a career in 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatching. During all levels of her 911 career, she was able to convince people to take action using only her words. She now saves lives and careers in a different way; by teaching others how to use their words to communicate effectively to get the results they desire. Ms. Rasmussen has a Master’s Degree in Communications and is quickly approaching the completion of her PhD with an emphasis in Leadership.
She is also the co-founder of 9114911, A Motivational Conference for Those who Answer the Call. More information can be obtained at www.SuccessCommunicationsInc.com