When R&B singer R. Kelly jumped out of his chair and totally lost his cool in a recent interview with Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning, King became the real rock star.
She unflinching held her composure and remained seated, uncomfortably close to Kelly’s raging rant denying the 10 aggravated sexual abuse charges filed against him in Chicago.
If you haven’t already seen it, we’re surprised. The incident went viral. And, King has been interviewed widely on how she managed to remain so professional.
Her answer: “I wanted to do whatever I could to save it (the interview) without getting out of my chair.”
Kelly sat back down, and King nailed the 80-minute interview.
As she demonstrated, well-honed anger management skills are an essential leadership attribute that will help you succeed.
Instead of letting aggravating work situations or people goad you into reacting in a way you’ll regret seconds later, try these strategies:
1. Feel the Affront, Don’t Vent It
When a co-worker steals your idea, your boss repeatedly stonewalls on a promised promotion, or a client denigrates your excellent work, you have every right to be mad. Acknowledge your anger privately, telling yourself: “My feelings are justified, but it won’t do any good to vent them right now.”
Controlling anger at work is a learned skill, says the American Psychological Association. If you watch King carefully, just before Kelly’s meltdown, you’ll see her frown slightly as he bates and berates her. She takes a breath and, in a steady low-volume voice, continues to ask her appropriately probing questions.
Keeping your cool at work is a big deal no matter how big a deal you are. Even Bill Gates had to learn to control his at-work tantrums to become a better leader.
2. Divert Your Anger, or Someone Else’s
If you can, remove yourself from the triggering situation. Politely end the call or excuse yourself from the meeting. Give yourself some physical distance to calm down, or enable the other person to calm down.
If you can’t remove yourself, saying and doing as little as possible in the face of someone else’s rage — as King did — might give them space to chill. Obviously, this does not apply to any situation in which you are not completely physically or emotionally safe. King said she remained still and seated — with a production crew steps away and ready to assist her — to avoid accidentally being struck as he gestured wildly.
3. Visualize Yourself in Control
When you aren’t in the midst of an anger-triggering situation, think of a past work situation where you wish you’d responded better. Imagine a mulligan. How are you looking, and what are you doing and saying to affect a better outcome?
Since anger-triggering scenarios at work tend to recur, practicing this mindful approach to managing your emotions and actions is empowering. The more you can identify your personal triggers, the better you’ll get at harnessing your responses in real time. Although King says she’d never previously encountered Kelly’s level of unhinged behavior in an interview, she’d had lots of experience interviewing difficult people.
4. Focus Only on Resolution
Not all work woes can be resolved, so pick your battles wisely. Once you do, make sure you get past a need to lay blame, emphasizes Emma Seppälä, an EQ intelligence expert and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.
Request to speak with the offending party, keep an open mind, and listen carefully to their perspective while not losing sight of what you want to communicate to achieve a mutually beneficial resolution. “When you make room for another person’s point of view and ask ‘why’ (they acted as they did) instead of immediately assuming the worst, you are actually inviting true communication to occur,” says Seppälä.
A quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson says: “Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”
King embodied that perfectly. And so can you.