Do you create ‘demons’? How anger can damage our view of a situation

I had the wonderful privilege of going to see the Dalai Lama speak on ‘The Power of Forgiveness’ in the University of Limerick a couple of weeks ago. He spoke about anger and it’s effect on us.

He reminded us that if you are angry and put all your energy into focusing this anger onto one target or one person, then it can be very destructive to you yourself. On the other hand, if you try and break it down and see the bigger picture, the many factors might have led towards a situation that made you being angry, it can dissipate and cause less damage – to oneself also.

A recent Conflict Coaching session that I was doing with a client really illustrated this for me.
Ann, my client, was going to a new department but had some misgivings about her new manager Jean, based on some negative and recent experiences she had had with her, in particular, a meeting where Ann met with her to discuss her start date etc.
Without going into all of the history, Ann was feeling very upset and very angry with Jean and very negative about having to work with her as her manager. In fact, what she really wanted to do was to give Jean a piece of her mind, as it were and hand in her resignation – not at all practical though for her family and financial circumstances. She had also become very anxious and worried about the impending return to work.

In the coaching session we looked first of all at the situation from Ann’s viewpoint and explored how it was she had been upset by Jean, the emotional impact it had on her and also the assumptions that she had started to make about Jean.
We then spent some time talking through the situation but looking at it from Jean’s point of view. This is one of the key features of conflict coaching – it challenges the client to explore and start to view the situation from the other person’s point of view.

In doing this, the client is being asked to take a ‘bigger picture’ view – what the Dalai Lama referred to as a more ‘holistic’ approach. Some people find it difficult to do this but this is where the real nuggets of learning and developing how one deals with conflict, lie. The better the client can engage in this piece of the coaching work, the more they will gain in terms of real insights and ways forward for dealing with the other person.

Ann was completely open to doing this and took a very honest and authentic look at how Jean might have viewed her. She realised that her behaviours might have been triggers for Jean and saw how they might have upset her or caused her to be somewhat negative. She saw how both of them as well as some other circumstances beyond them, had contributed to the difficulties.

At the end of the session, she said she she felt greatly relieved and much less angry when she thought now about Jean – she commented ‘I had created a demon and now I realise that I only have to deal with another human being’. It’s so much easier when we realise that we are just dealing with someone like ourselves – the same fears, needs, concerns – and of course the same hopes and dreams too!

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