It may seem like a strange concept, but many of us have a habit of getting in our own way. We may have an objective in mind, but we also have a habitual behavior that impedes our ability to achieve our goal. We may feel that, whatever the barrier is, we are completely justified in engaging in the behavior – and perhaps we are correct, but does that really justify torpedoing our goal? Righteous anger may indeed be righteous, but its effectiveness for change depends largely on how we express it.

Consider a trip to the DMV, which has never been a paragon of efficiency. It often feels like their counter people are hired because of their inefficiency. If we are in a hurry to get to another appointment or frustrated that we aren’t getting anywhere sitting in a cramped room full of people with serious hygiene deficits, we may be justified in our feelings of frustration and even anger. How we choose to express that anger may be the principal factor in determining if our visit ends successfully or not. It might feel good to start yelling and screaming to relieve our stress, but it’s also counter productive because we will find ourselves either on the sidewalk or in jail.

This is why developing alternative strategies and skills is so important. We can learn to slow down our experience and our reactions by taking a few deep breaths and waiting to calm down a bit before having that difficult discussion. It can help to tell the person that you are interacting with that you are upset and doing your best to remain calm. What most definitely doesn’t help is name calling, insults, threats, and becoming loud. These strategies may have worked with your friends in grade school, but they aren’t effective adult interactions. If they are all you have in your tool bag, you will spend a lot of time being frustrated.