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The College Student Vs. Anger Management (and the ninja skills of communication)
When it comes to setbacks and stress, the toll it takes upon a student can have a wide variety of consequences. You get a bad grade on a paper, you disagree with someone’s viewpoint, feel that you are being treated unfairly, or you are overwhelmed by responsibilities. Some students feel the need to deflect their emotions onto other people, while others are more inclined to use critical thinking and contemplate options and otherwise look introspectively to formulate viable solutions to these setbacks.
When students are under pressure, and life in general seems overwhelming its not uncommon to lash out on those around you. Instead of arguing with a professor about a grade you feel is unfair, perhaps preventative measures could have been taken to avoid that situation. Were the directions clear and concise? Did you fully understand the material you were being tested on? Has your attendance affected your ability to keep up with the everyday school work? Did you ask questions if you had any?
If the poor grade was in fact unfairly given, there is a chance that outside influence in the professor’s life was the culprit. There’s a chance that he or she was distracted or mixed up your paper with someone else’s, or he or she was being just a tad bit nitpicky as a result from a foul mood. When or if you decided to confront the professor and he/she in turn acts aggressively, keep in mind that perhaps they have had a bad day as well. There are a myriad of reasons why people behave aggressively but the worst thing you could possibly do is feed the fire of discontent by showing discontent yourself.
In any situation, including the one above, acting upon your emotions is one sure fire way for you to get the opposite outcome to what you originally expect. Even if the outcome is in your favor and you get what you want, you lose the respect of the individuals around you and are simply feeding into the negativity in other people's lives (karma, dude. what goes around, comes around). Just as you require and desire encouragement, your professors and the people you run in to require it as well. The best way to approach any kind of confrontation is by doing so without any sort of emotion or anger behind it. Voice your concern tactfully and diplomatically and earn respect.
The proper way to handle a bad situation where you want to explain your point of view to another person without coming off as abrasive is thinking before you respond. The problem a lot of people face, not only in college, but in the working world as well is instinctual emotional response or simply the inherent need to get what you want despite who you harm in the process. Granted, everyone has bad days, and when we feel our own emotions begin to erupt we have to remember that we aren’t the only ones who have bad days.
In his book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, Dale Carnegie explains the concept of an individual’s need to feel important. Keeping a few of his principles in mind will help to diffuse arguments and will pose as a helpful guideline to deal with the frustrations that we sometimes have. Relationships in general can benefit from active empathy and the ability to communicate our feelings in such a way that does not either offend or exude aggression.
His twelve principles that have helped me in my relationships are:
- “Principle 1-The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- Principle 2-Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong”
- Principle 3-If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Principle 4-Begin in a friendly way.
- Principle 5-Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately
- Principle 6-Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
- Principle 7-Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
- Principle 8- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Principle 9-Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
- Principle 10-Appeal to the nobler motives.
- Principle 11-Dramatize your ideas.
- Principle 12-Throw down a challenge.” (Carnegie, 1936)
In leadership, Carnegie also goes on to explain another nine principles to abide by for “A leader’s job often includes changing your people’s attitudes and behavior.”
- “Principle 1-Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
- Principle 2-Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
- Principle 3-Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
- Principle 4-Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Principle 5-Let the other person save face.
- Principle 6-Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
- Principle 7-Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Principle 8-Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
- Principle 9-Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.” (Carnegie, 1936)
Keeping to these principles have helped me tremendously in my relationships. There are times when I do feel my emotions getting the better of me, but I try to keep in mind that not everyone is perfect, including myself. Showing genuine concern for another person is more likely to get you where you need to go rather than vehemently imposing your ideals or expectations on another. Just as you like hearing praise for your accomplishments, praise those around you for theirs.
On another note, not only must we keep our words in check, but a lot of what our body language says can affect the outcome of a discussion which can ultimately lead to an argument. If you approach your professor over a negative grade despite maintaining a tone of calm in the way you speak, the way you present yourself can prove to the contrary. Another mistake that I have seen is forcing a tone of calm in your voice while speaking or exaggerating politeness. Although your tone may sound calm or sweet to you, the apparentness that it is forced is pronounced and people can tell the difference between genuine concern and emotions being suppressed or covered up. The best way I have found to avoid these situations is by either taking a deep breath and clearing my mind before approaching the other person, or waiting until I know exactly what I want to say and approaching the individual at a later time.
In my previous experience, I lacked in the communication department and past disputes could have easily been diffused had I taken the time to learn how to communicate properly. Had I years ago, I would have significantly reduced some of the stress I had felt in my early college years. Granted, I still struggle with letting my emotions get the better of me, I have a difficult time approaching someone if I am upset, and there are times when I lose my temper (not proud of those moments). During those situations, though, I find myself dwelling upon a quote by Plato that reminds me to keep myself in check whenever I feel my temper start to rise or I start to get upset:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
I prefer to avoid arguments all-together but it gets frustrating when I feel that what I have to say is not taken into consideration or I am blatantly ignored or brushed off. Reading up on communication helped me to understand that focusing on my own feelings and emotions blinded me from what other people were thinking and feeling. Anything we do in college, especially the self-directed study outside of class can significantly improve the college experience for in college we have no choice but to interact with other people while we learn. This is one of the major reasons why I opted to study communication. Due to the nature of college life and the emphasis on diversity, we happen across people who we may not particularly agree with. Reading up on communication and how to interact with people can help to improve those situations and perhaps open our minds to different points of view. Proper communication enables college students to be better equipped for future disagreements that tend to crop up in the workplace. This ultimately enables students to broaden their education for the opinions and perspectives of other individuals are just as educational and informative as the subject that is up for debate.
There will be times though when you will run across individuals to whom you clash with, but showing respect and listening to them rather than arguing is the best way to handle those types of individuals. Sometimes, when you give it a chance, you can find common ground to work on. Just keep in mind that its one thing to listen to someone's opinion, but it takes grace and empathy to stop and actively listen to the explanation as to why someone feels the way they do. Listening without allowing emotions to haze honesty, brings about understanding.
Carnegie, D. (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People. : Simon & Schuster Inc.
Another book I’d like to recommend:
“Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion” BY George J. Thompson, Ph.D., and Jerry B. Jenkins