Anger Management: 4 Books to Transform Frustration in Meetings

Anger can create the energy we need to stand up for what’s right, but it’s draining. These books show more sustainable ways to confront issues.

Inside companies, we’ve always struggled with silos between departments and misunderstandings between leadership and employees. Design thinkers, coaches, and facilitators know hundreds of ways to break through that ice and get a dialogue started between people who don’t initially share the same perspective. 

We know that when you stay in dialogue with someone who thinks differently than you do–when you really hear what they have to say and can be heard in return–wonderful progress becomes possible. But more and more often, masterful facilitators are sharing horror stories of people who walk into business meetings angry and fiercely stay angry, rejecting all attempts to reach them. 

We can’t build bridges when people show up with their bridge-busting bazookas and refuse to put them down.

People are angry, and for some, that’s a core part of their identity. But when your main way of interacting with those around you is to aggressively defend what you feel to be right, it puts you in a very lonely place. It’s exhausting, isolating, and despite all the energy you may be pouring into your beliefs, it doesn’t work very well. 

If you’re tired of feeling angry all the time and want to have a way of rejoining the conversation with those around you–even though you know they’re absolutely wrong about many important issues (and seriously — they often are!)–how can you get there without compromising your convictions?

These four books helped me transition from an angry warrior to a self-confident champion, and I think they may help you too.

Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think by Dave Gray

This one-hour read changed the way I understand the nature of belief and how we come to know what we believe to be the truth. I’ve since read many long books by psychologists and neuroscientists that give me a more nuanced understanding of how our minds work, but none are as memorable or useful as this slim volume.

Dave Gray wrote this book for people who want to create a change in themselves (like maybe not being so angry) and who want better ways of inspiring a change in others. If you want a shot at shifting other people’s beliefs, and maybe your own too, start here. 

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

I first read this during a deeply enraged period in my life. It outlines four simple agreements we can all make with ourselves to use as reminders when we start to spin out — which I desperately needed then and sometimes still do. It’s a bit metaphysical but not religious, which makes it a fine choice for teams to read together. 

One of those agreements, “Don’t make assumptions,” has been critical to our company’s business success because it reminds us to stay curious and ask when we’re unclear about a customer’s, a team member’s, or a competitor’s motives. 

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al.

A mainstay in MBA and leadership programs, this book lays out a simple framework for handling conflict. Where the first two books make it easier to manage your own beliefs and reactions, this one gives you tools to use with the people around you.

Need a way to bring up a sensitive topic with a colleague? Watching your team hit a brick wall when tempers flare in a meeting? You’ll find explicit directions about how to start off, what questions to ask, and when to keep quiet in high-stakes conversations like these.

Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps: How to Thrive in Complexity by Jennifer Garvey Berger

Why are so many people anxious? It’s complex. This fast-changing, interconnected world we hear about every day is unfolding in crazy ways we can neither control nor understand. 
This book gives leaders tools that help them plan a path forward in our increasingly complex business world, where cause and effect aren’t so neatly predictable.

The research about why we’re reacting the way we do to the madness is coupled with practical, useful techniques for engaging that complexity with your team. You’ll learn the five mindtraps and key questions to explore as a team that will help you move past each one.  If you’re looking to relax control, embrace nuance, and have a shot at actually solving problems that matter, read this.

Four books later, I still hold firm convictions and advocate for what I believe, but I no longer feel threatened or repulsed by people who don’t share those beliefs. I have better conversations now, and because I can have those conversations, I am a better champion for the causes I care about.

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