A lot of stress is self-inflicted, especially in our interactions with others. How often do you say or do something that produces negative reactions, such as anger, in others? How often do you consider the possibility that you, not the other person, caused the problem? Probably not too often, right?
Here’s a tip for dealing with social conflict that increases your stress: Be willing to accept some responsibility for being the cause of the conflict. This is not a comfortable process, because to pull it off, you must look inward and objectively examine your values, social conscience, and life purposes. You must ask yourself, “How do I define myself? Are my actions consistent with my self-definition, with who I believe I am?”
Only by confronting such questions will you be able to deal with negative reactions like anger — either coming from you or from another — in assertive, but respectful, ways. Only then can you see that the anger in others may be justified; by the same token, only then can others possibly see your anger as justified. In social interactions, it’s always a two-way street.
Without the honest self-examination, you’re likely to meet anger with anger, resort to profane and childish insults, and cast blame on the other party. Then, the other person will judge you as selfish, weak, defensive, and immature.
If you define yourself by your negative emotions – your anger, anxieties, fear, and sanctimony — you are on a self-defeating road. Effective coping requires you to apply your values and standards to your roles as spouse, parent, friend, co-worker, son/daughter, etc. You must determine if your actions in these roles are consistent with your conscience and purpose. If not, you must work to correct the inconsistencies.