Anger is an extremely powerful emotion. If you display it constantly, others will avoid you like the plague. On the other hand, keep it bottled up inside and you become a pressure cooker that will inevitably blow its top–leading to actions that you later regret.

Emotional intelligence is extremely useful in helping you to deal with anger effectively. Recognizing that you need to choose your battles helps you from becoming overly anxious and possibly burning out.

For example, a situation may cause you to become angry because you don’t fully understand it. You might witness an action and perceive it to be an injustice, but every situation has context and background, much of which you aren’t privy to. Keeping that point in mind will keep you from butting into situations that really don’t involve you.

And if certain people or situations get your blood boiling (and you don’t need them for your everyday work), why not simply avoid them to the extent possible?

A Balanced View

The truth is, there are plenty of instances when you’re right to get angry.

For example, let’s say a certain colleague of yours really gets on your nerves. You know the type–always leaving unwashed dishes in the sink, constantly complaining, often disrespectful. You’ve endured this behavior for a while, and one day you’re moved to do something about it.

Your anger is producing something positive: It’s time to address an unacceptable situation.

So, how do you move forward? You could simply go off on your colleague, calling him out publicly on all of his negative behaviors and telling him that everyone’s sick and tired of it. Will that change his behavior? Possibly. But is that really how you want to handle the situation? Not only will this adversely affect your relationship with this co-worker, but you may damage your reputation and that of others as well.

In contrast, if you take time to think your actions and their consequences through, your strategy will be much more effective. Of course, in the heat of the moment, you won’t always be inspired to sit back and reflect on the situation. That’s why it’s important to learn to keep control.

Controlling Your Anger

Anger is like fire. It can be a useful tool, or it can be hideously destructive.

Certain situations require an immediate response, as when you witness some type of abuse or bullying, be it physical or psychological. But in other cases, smaller things could cause your anger to build up to the point at which you’re in danger of losing control of your emotions.

If you feel that’s happening to you, try the following:

1. Leave.

If you’re in the middle of an extremely uncomfortable situation, it’s difficult to not say the first thing that comes to mind. Before doing or saying something that you’ll surely regret, get yourself away from the situation.

2. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), deep breathing is one of the fastest ways to reduce the intensity of your anger.

Repeating a word or phrase that is calming to you (such as “relax,” “let it go,” or “take it easy”) can also help soothe angry feelings.

3. Immerse yourself in something you enjoy.

Once you take a break from the situation, look to engage in something that will divert your attention and help you calm down. Try reading, listening to music, or some other activity you find relaxing.

4. Try non-strenuous exercise.

Go for a walk, a bike ride, or do some stretching. This can relieve the tension in your muscles and help you relax.

All of us will get angry from time to time. But using these strategies will help you to increase your EQ, control your anger, and express your feelings in a way that is more beneficial–to you, and to others.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in real life. 

A version of this article originally appeared on