I’m a very polite person. I was taught to always say “please” and “thank you” when I was a child, a practice that has continued throughout my adult life. However, I never realized the latter phrase could be used as a means of eliminating anger. You might think it an odd concept but let me explain. There are three areas where this applies:
1. People, Places, and Things: Life is not without it’s challenging circumstances, injustices, heartaches, and losses. Many individuals try to navigate their way through these situations as quickly as possible to promptly re establish the status quo where they feel safe and comfortable. Others recognize that challenges make us better people and so they endure them believing that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In a tough situation, regardless of the nature of the difficulty, shift your focus from the perceived problem to the value this experience is offering you (a grateful “Thank you, Situation”). This enables one to replace anger with appreciation.
While one may be able to thank a difficult circumstance for providing an opportunity for personal growth, dealing with an obnoxious person may prove a more arduous task. We seem to have far less tolerance for people than events. It is easy to become angry, defensive, bitter, or resentful when intolerable people disrupt our lives. Trying to work through our anger can be time consuming and exhausting. But what if a simple “thank you” could instantly erase all of the above? A cheating spouse can open our hearts to forgiveness; a coworker who undermines our efforts can teach us to assert ourselves; an egotistical coach whose only goal is to win at all costs can inadvertently illustrate that values and fair sportsmanship are truly the signs of a winner. Thank the really annoying people in your life for they are your greatest teachers.
2. Thanks a Whole Bunch: On rare occasion, I find myself not feeling particularly fond of my husband, more so in the past than of late. Long ago, I devised a mental exercise to relive the moment we first met. We were both at a single’s dance and as the close of the evening approached, I summoned my courage, walked over to where he was standing, and engaged in a brief conversation with him. As I left, I thought to myself, That was the sweetest man I’ve ever met!(First impressions really do matter – in this case they proved to be totally accurate.) However, at times I’d lose sight of who my husband really is and selfishly judge him by an issue he might be struggling with at that moment. This brief exercise instantly restores my feelings of love and appreciation for him. But, I’ve expanded on this practice. Now, I verbally express gratitude towards him for something he’s done or simply for who he is. By saying “thank you for changing the oil in my car last week, or for always allowing me to be who I am without criticism or complaint” immediately alleviates any anger or hostility consuming me and reinstates feelings of love and appreciation in my heart.
I recommend extending this exercise to others as well: if you are in a bad mood, find someone – anyone – to thank, for any reason what-so-ever. Call your sister on the phone and thank her for not only being your sibling but your best friend as well. At work, find a coworker or customer and thank them for any small favor. Gratitude is proven to restore our sense of overall well-being and joy. And you cannot be angry and joyful simultaneously.
3. No Thanks: As a child, I was also taught that when asked if I wanted something which I did not, the courteous way to reply was by saying, “No thank you”. Although considered a polite way to decline, can that phrase also alleviate anger? Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and resentful of the amount of demands others are placing on me. I am the go-to person for anyone that needs physical assistance, a shoulder to cry on, financial help, and so forth. In addition to running my own business (which consists of fifteen hour work days), taking care of a home, a husband, our extended family of seven children and thirteen grandchildren, five rescued dogs, and my 90-year old mom there is no time left for me and no one who offers assistance when I need help. Learning to politely say “No thank you” to something I simply cannot or do not want to do for others prevents anger from manifesting. An act of self-love and respect for my own well-being protects me from being taken advantage of and overworked. In this way, I retain my sanity, can judiciously choose how I allocate my time, and extract more enjoyment from my life.
Apparently being polite and offering a sincere “thank you” if far more beneficial than simply showing respect and being courteous of others. Seems this simple childhood phrase also has the power to heal our anger. And you don’t need a Rx for this one.
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