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Keeping Your Head in The Age of Mass Rage

4 tips for keeping your cool when others are losing theirs

Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

I got back home from work on that day, mortified. The experience at the office was both a loss and a win. A loss because I ended up making an irreconcilable antagonist. And of all people, he was my boss. A win because I finally summoned the courage to stand up for myself. In retrospect, I might have handled the situation in a more decorous manner. But I didn’t know as much neither was I as matured as I am today.

I recounted what transpired to my best friend and mother of my children. All she said was that I should change since I admitted my boss was correct in some areas, even though he was wrong in others. The latter was my point of view, and of course, it carried no edge in the duel that just transpired. For me, it was one of those cases in which, even though you lose, you’re still a winner.

Unfortunately, these lessons were unknown to me then. Otherwise, I might have had the maturity to handle things better, then. At any rate, there is no point in crying over spilled milk. The lessons I learned have stayed with me ever since. I have equally passed it on to some others, both within and outside my family.

If you do not understand people or group language, culture, or mannerisms, you may cause conflict or be taking offense contrary to your best motives. Also, if you have been out of a group for an appreciable length of time, you may be out-of-tune and out-of-steps with your group’s ethos, outlook, and other stated or unstated protocols. In either case, you unwittingly step on people’s feet. For the same reasons, those you are relating with may knowingly or otherwise press your buttons at the wrong places and at the worst of times.

Personal vulnerabilities and foibles aside, these days I choose not to major on whoever hits me below the belt. I prefer to always dwell on the lessons learned on that day anytime I’m stressed up or pis*ed off.

The question I had to answer on that day is best captured in this single interrogation, “What is vexing you in this matter?”

Ever since this question has set the tone for how I now respond to annoying or other potentially irritating interactions. It has since formed a personal framework that I apply for resolving any personal worries or potentially atrocious exchanges in all my daily interactions. I have since become a physician, always coming out healthier and stronger every time I remember to take my own medications. These are the questions, and I want you to address them to yourself.

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1. What is vexing me in this matter?

Mundane as this self-directed question is, if you can take a moment to reflect on whatever is riling you, you might bring the situation under effective control. Sometimes you discover you are getting vexed over mere trifles. Your annoyance maybe because you were never had the chance to defend yourself out of a malicious maligning.

You may not have the power to decide on the issue, but you have the power to choose how you will respond. The ability to moderate or even delay your reaction is under your control. The period you spend reflecting will enable you to know if the issue at stake is worth wasting your emotional energy or any response at all.

Hatred which could destroy so much never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.

People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.

James Baldwin (1924–1987),

2. What can I do about it?

Do you have the power to change or counteract the nagging problem or concern? By all means, if you can do anything humanely possible to change your situation or remove yourself from the vexing experience, do it. There is always something you can do to change your internal and external circumstances. The choice is up to you.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and
wisdom to know the difference
~ The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)

3. Will I do what I can do?

You have in your hands, the power to choose how you are going to respond to any condition. As you deliberately slow down and consider the options at your disposal. The possibilities of solutions will open up to you. Inspiration may come up, and the challenges confronting you may expose vistas of opportunities you might have missed had those challenges and adversities not confronted you. The point here is never to resign to fate. It is as you lift a finger to help yourself that help will come down for you.

When you want something; all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
~ Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist

The world in which we live is very accommodating to all sorts of people. It will cooperate with them in any measure which they propose; it will help those who earnestly help themselves, and will hinder those who hinder themselves.

Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow. ~ Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) Click To Tweet

4. What is the worst-case scenario?

To imagine what the worst-case scenario could be in any situation is not morbid introspection. Stop for a moment and ask yourself what could be the worst scenario in this situation? The point here is to stop worrying about the worst that could happen but to imagine how things may eventually turn out in the end. This is not daydreaming escapism or wishful negligence of the realities on the ground.

Stop jumping to the worst conclusions over matters beyond your control. Being cool-headed and patient will enable you to think things through more calmly. With the right frame of mind, you are better equipped to handle your circumstances irrespective of where they fall in the worst-case to best-case scenario continuum.

I have spent most of my life worrying about things that never happened.
~ Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

In conclusion

The four questions framework for resolving any potentially discomfiting personal or interpersonal situations are:

  • What is vexing me about this matter?
  • What can I do about it?
  • Will I do what I can do?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

You can elaborate or expand on the above framework. But, next time you confront a vexatious personal, interpersonal, or any relationship issue, question yourself, “Will I rather be happy or self-destruct because of my ego and pride?” The answers provided by the four questions framework will help you navigate and resolve such testing personal or interpersonal interactions successfully.

The author originally published this story on Medium.

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