I put the word “make” in quotes because in actuality, no one can make us angry without our consent. We are the ones who choose to take others seriously. We are the ones who decide to assign meaning and value to the words other people say and the actions they perform. At anytime, we can do the work necessary to alter our perceptions and change our beliefs, thereby liberating ourselves from anger.
Regardless of our personal responsibility, however, there are certainly moments when people seem to make us angry. What can we do in moments like this? How do we get through the day when dealing with someone who pushes all the right buttons and makes us feel as if steam is rising up through our heads?
Our own worst enemy
Usually when we find ourselves in the presence of a provocative person, we’re keenly aware of some simple action we could take to alleviate the situation and move on. In some cases, however, we choose to opt for a path that only escalates the tension.
A common example:
When someone cuts us off on the highway, we could just choose to give way, leave them alone, and be thankful that we were alert enough to make a smart driving decision that ensured our safety. But instead, we find ourselves honking the horn relentlessly, while shouting or signaling obscenities to a driver we probably wont change and will likely never encounter again.
Not all of us struggle with road rage, but the theme is common to a variety of scenarios. We’re going through life minding our own business. Someone does something we don’t approve of and, although we praise the idea of being the bigger person in theory, it feels far more gratifying in the moment to protest, insult, have the last word, or give that individual a piece of our minds in some shape or fashion.
When keeping it real goes wrong
The comedian, David Chapelle, once did a segment on his hourly sketch show titled “When keeping it real goes wrong.”
This segment involved someone who was the victim of some minor slight directed at him by an insensitive party. At the precise moment of the offense, the victim would be faced with a dilemma: Do they choose to let things slide and “keep it cool” or do they “keep it real” by retaliating? Of course, with this being a comedy sketch, the victim would always choose to keep it real.
Unfortunately, there was usually some factor at play that the victim could not have anticipated; Perhaps the person they lashed back at was a 3rd degree black belt in martial arts who was out looking for a good fight or something else of that sort. Whatever the particulars, it suffices to say that it always ended in a humiliating manner for the person who kept it real.
This sketch provides a humorous, yet poignant, illustration of how being the bigger person may not only be the noble way of dealing with anger inducing people, but also the practical and safe way as well.
In my next post, I’ll elucidate this point and make a case for why certain socially acceptable and seemingly instinctive responses to anger may not be as harmless as we suppose. I’ll then provide my two cents on how to maintain control and be the bigger person when you feel your buttons are being pushed.
I’m looking forward to sharing with you.