“Do not maintain anger or hatred. As soon as anger or hatred arises, turn your attention to your breathing in order to see and understand the nature of your anger or hatred and the nature of the persons who have caused your anger or hatred.” (Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, a world renowned writer, poet, scholar and Zen Buddhist monk.)
As a leader, how do you deal with anger?
Do you blame others for causing your anger?
When anger engulfs us, we suffer and we bring suffering to others.
Could it be that when we are not mindful, we say and do things that create our own suffering as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests?
How a leader, or anyone, deals with anger and suffering is critical in being seen by others as compassionate and nonjudgmental, with a deep understanding of one’s self. We are drawn to people who channel their anger and suffering not at us but recognize it for what it is – internal fear and a lack of peace. A leader’s ability to exercise some self-control of one’s tendencies to act out is crucial for a leader’s credibility.
Hanh suggests several mindful approaches to curb one’s anger and suffering. One approach is to be deeply aware of our perceptions. “The person who suffers most in this world is the person who has many wrong perceptions. . . . And most of our perceptions are erroneous.”
How do we become deeply aware of our perceptions?
- Be conscious of your perceptions. Is what you see reality or could it be something else when viewed in a different light. For example, if your team is not performing in the manner you expect, your perception may be that they are not motivated or don’t care. But viewed in a different light, by virtue of feedback from team members, you discover the issue is your lack of creating a work environment that supports team members when they take risks and fail. So, Hanh suggests you write this sentence, “Are you sure?” on a piece of paper and tape it to your office wall.
- Mindful breathing enables us to look with clarity, nonjudgmentally in order to improve the way we perceive.
I leave you with this image from Hanh about being conscious of our perceptions. “We see a snake in the dark and we panic, but when our friend shines a light on it, we see that it is only a rope.”