The way you look at life greatly affects your response to a situation. Five different people might have five different reactions to the same irritating event. Some people might think that a person acting out at them with road rage is funny, while others might take it as a personal slight, or for others it might be the last straw proving that everyone is out to ruin their day. In other words, some people have the innate ability to let aggravations role off their backs while others get furious when expectations don’t go as planned. The problem is that you wish that you could have accomplished things one-way, (in this case it’s getting to work without any stress), and can’t get over what actually occurred. When the expectation isn’t met, some people can’t get past the moment and shift their aggression towards another person.
We all have our expectations of how things should work. Hopeful and positive expectations can lead to a more optimistic outlook. However, when we set our expectations of ourselves, others, or circumstances too high, we can end up constantly feeling frustrated, hurt and downright angry. Many people think that if they could just get the other person to change his ways, they’d be much happier. However, a key aspect of anger management is learning how to manage your own expectations to a more realistic level.
So how can you adjust your expectations without feeling like you’ve given up? It’s important to realize that not everyone thinks like you. If you start every day expecting that everyone is going to fall in line behind you and accept all your thoughts and ideas, you set yourself up for failure. The successful management of expectations requires that you don’t just assume others should “know you by now” or “understand you”, but that you constantly communicate respectfully, calmly and clearly what you need and why. Just expecting that your stay at home spouse will have dinner ready when you get home from work, or that your employees will do a project the way you can create confusion and frustration. So, instead of flying off the handle, slow down and try to understand the other person’s point of view. Listen to them closely and repeat back what you are hearing to make sure it’s clear. Having an open and honest discussion can help both sides to feel like their opinion matters and contribute to successful resolution.
Furthermore, consider cognitive restructuring, or changing the negative way you look at things. This involves making a conscious effort to look at the brighter side. For example, instead of thinking that someone is purposefully driving slowly in front of you to make you late to work again, adjust your thought process to “I allowed myself enough time to get to work on schedule but couldn’t get out from behind a slow driver. I will add another 10 minutes driving time in the future”. Use your problem solving skills in conjunction with a more positive spin to resolve the issue going forward instead of harboring anger.
The more you are able to utilize skills in problem solving, communication, expectation levels and positive self-talk, the less stress and tension you will carry around with you.