Do you find yourself getting angry on a daily basis at your loved ones, your co-workers, bosses, teachers, classmates or all of the above? Are you tense and muttering hostile commentary as you travel down congested freeways and roads? Are you irritated beyond words when a store clerk doesn’t help you quickly enough? If so, rather than endlessly putting the blame on someone else for your ongoing unhappiness, it might be time to take a look at some self-improvement options. One way to go about reducing your chronic anger and hostility is to take steps to develop your level of empathy. Empathetic people still get angry, but they are able to get over it more quickly as they are able to look outside of themselves and understand what the other person is experiencing. Specifically, empathy is the mental capacity to feel what another person is feeling, tune in to their perspective and respond in a compassionate way instead of getting mad at their behavior.
Some traits of an individual who has developed a high-level of empathy are:
- Being open-minded
- Having the desire to understand another person’s actions even if you don’t completely agree with them
- Developed active listening skills
There is a huge plus side to increasing this character trait. Individuals who have developed their ability to empathize often find it difficult to stay angry with others. Having a richer understanding of why another person is acting a particular way helps you become more respectful towards that person. This in turn creates a calmer, more open dialogue for conflict resolution purposes. This is why it’s an attribute that we see in so many successful executives. Empathetic people have the capacity to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, forgive and move forward. They are generally happier people who maintain strong relationships and reach higher academic and employment aspirations.
Many doctors and educators believe that it’s the key to better social interaction in every stage of life. The good news is that it’s an attribute that we can grow during adulthood, and we can help our children with from a very early age. Research shows that we are all born with the capacity to be empathetic, but the development is based on what we experience and are taught early on by our caregivers. Parents should model sympathy, exhibit interest in others conditions, and compassion from childbirth. This means that providing a loving, safe and respectful environment can help foster this strength.
If you are ready to choose a more peaceful path, decreasing your anger at others by increasing your empathy level is the first step. To do so, you should try to think outside of your world and understand where the other person is coming from. A strong empathetic listener is able to perceive what the other person’s situation is and communicate it back to them so they feel like it’s been acknowledged. This can be achieved by listening quietly and attentively to their point of view and then clearly repeating back to them what you heard them say. This doesn’t mean that you need to change your mind to agree with them or “give in”, but instead shows that you care about their feelings and are willing to validate their point of view. Showing compassion and tolerance during your discussion will lower the level of hostility and create a more relaxed, less stressful and angry environment.
Once you enhance your capacity for empathy, healthier relationships will fall into place. An online anger management class can help you get there. You won’t be as angry at the distracted driver because you will have developed the ability to realize that it might not be that they are being unaware and selfish, but that they possibly just heard terrible news. Rather than getting mad at your friend for not calling you back, you will stay calm with the understanding that she is trying to deal with her divorcing parents. Learning these skills from the comfort of your own home will help you to gain better control over your angry feelings and gain a stronger foundation for your overall stability and mental health.