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How to be Angry Kindly!

Yes...Anger and Kindness can go together!

Everyone - and every leader - gets angry sometimes. Anger is a normal emotion and we will experience it.. Sometimes people think that practicing kindness, and that being a Kind Leader, means you can’t get angry, or, that if you do get angry, you’re not kind. Neither of these are true! Deciding what to do when you are angry, especially when you have your Leader Hat on and are modeling behavior and influencing others, can lead to great kindness.

When you are feeling angry, here are some ideas about how to be angry kindly!

1. Before you get angry, spend some time reflecting on the things that have made you angry in the past and why. If you get angry because of unfairness…social injustice…bullying…are all signs of values that are important to you. As a leader, you might find yourself feeling angry if those behaviors are showing up in your organization's culture. If you get angry when you feel like those you lead aren't "doing what they are supposed to do", you can be prepared that you are going to feel angry when the situation inevitably arises.

2. Be cognizant of when you are in situations that are likely to make you feel angry. Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and body cues (like tense shoulders, clenched fists), that show that you are getting angry.

3. Before you get really angry, decide what outcome you want in the situation. Is it a change in a habitual pattern of behavior? An apology? An honest discussion, etc.? As a Kind Leader, you need to determine what should be happening and be prepared to model and discuss the new behaviors, different words and other changes needed.

4. Let others know how you are feeling. That you are getting angry. Explain what triggers angry feelings for you, and the facts about the situation that are making you angry. Use statements that begin with "I" not "You": “When I see people being treated unfairly, I get angry. In this meeting, I’ve noticed that women’s ideas are being shot down more than men’s. It’s making me feel angry.”

5. Then, choose an action or set of actions that will get you closer to the outcome you desire in that situation. In a meeting you are leading or participating in you can say, “Let’s stop this meeting and set ground rules for behaviors before we go further”. Or “Instead of raising your voice and pointing your finger at someone, I’d like you to speak in a calm voice and ask them a question instead.”

6. You can also choose to leave the situation before you speak and act unkindly, and return to deal with the topic later. When people have their Leader Hat on, they often feel like they have to "do something" right away. However, acting when you are too angry can lead to modeling unkind words and behaviors. Modeling taking a time out and scheduling time later instead, is a great way to show your team how to act more kindly. And, if you do act in a way that wasn’t kind because you are angry, please apologize! That is great modeling for Kind Leaders as well.

Being angry kindly doesn’t mean that you can’t state your views and boundaries firmly. Even - and especially - when you have your Leader Hat on. You can. Being angry kindly means doing so without denigrating another as a person, and causing them harm. It also means staying true to your organization's values and creating a deliberately kind culture. Like all things about kindness and Kind Leadership, it’s a practice that takes practice.


If you have questions, or need help figuring out how to be angry kindly, please reach out and also see Chapters 7 and 8 of The Kind Leader!

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