When someone makes you angry, pretend you’re viewing the scene from a distance as an observer rather than as a participant, which would help you dissipate the tension. ”The secret is to not get immersed in your own anger and, instead, have a more detached view,” said Dominik Mischkowski, graduate student in psychology at Ohio State University, who led the study.
“You have to see yourself in this stressful situation as a fly on the wall would see it,” he added, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports. In one study, college students who believed a lab partner was berating them for not following directions responded less aggressively and showed less anger when they were told to analyse their feelings from a self-distanced perspective, according to an Ohio statement. While other studies have examined the value of self-distancing for calming anger, this is the first to show that it can work in the heat of the moment, when people are most likely to act aggressively, said Mischkowski.
The worst thing to do in an anger-inducing situation is what people normally do: try to focus on their hurt and angry feelings to understand them, said Brad Bushman, study co-author and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State. ”If you focus too much on how you’re feeling, it usually backfires. It keeps the aggressive thoughts and feelings active in your mind, which makes it more likely that you’ll act aggressively,” Bushman says. Mischkowski and Bushman conducted the study with Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan. There were two related studies. The first involved 94 college students who were told they were participating in a study about the effects of music on problem solving, creativity and emotions. In the second study, researchers went further and showed that self-distancing can actually make people less aggressive when they’ve been provoked.