Are we becoming a society of angry people? Most days my answer would be a resounding “yes!” Between shouting matches at school sports events, road rage, hateful comments via social media, and other popular displays of aggression, it seems that we are allowing our anger and frustration to rule us more and more each day.

The good news is that we are capable of changing for the better. We may never be able to fully prevent ourselves from feeling angry, but we can increase our ability to deconstruct our emotions. By developing a greater understanding of our own motivations and practicing empathy towards those around us, we cannot only stop ourselves from acting out in anger; we can also increase our overall happiness.

If you’re looking for a quick fix for your — or society’s — anger issues, this isn’t it. True change requires consistent, long-term, dedicated effort. If you want to start reducing your anger and increasing your happiness, try working on these two critical life skills.

Practicing Self Awareness

Anger, like most emotions, is an unconscious, knee-jerk reaction. Often our anger has less to do with the person or event in question and more to do with our emotional baggage. In many cases, our anger is merely a defense mechanism to deflect from our true emotion: frustration, embarrassment, fear or guilt.

In order to prevent actions taken or words spoken in anger, we first have to discover the real motivation behind our anger. To do so, we have to make a commitment to practicing self-awareness.

For example, I often find myself boiling over when I have to wait in line be that at the grocery store. Waiting is frustrating, however, it doesn’t excuse or explain my tendency to snap at or become passive-aggressive towards bystanders or employees.

So why do I lash out? When I find myself growing angry, I begin questioning my feelings and motivations. Before long, I can recognize that I am angry because I didn’t leave enough time to do my shopping and still be on time to meet my friends for a dinner date. The slow moving line is a setback, but I chose not to leave on time. Anger provides a cover up for my embarrassment and guilt over my poor time management.

After successfully practicing self-reflection in the situation above, I would be able to behave more pleasantly towards those ahead of me in line and those working the checkout lane. Moreover, I would be able to recognize my own responsibility in the situation. As such, I wouldn’t greet my friends with “I’m sorry I’m late. I got stuck with a lazy, incompetent cashier at the store.” Instead I would be honest, stating, “I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t leave on time.” Short and to the point, such honesty promotes happiness by preventing me from further indulging my anger.

Practicing Empathy

Self-awareness helps us get to the root of our own motivations and triggers. We need empathy to better understand and appreciate the motivations of others.

Empathy is especially helpful in resisting the urge to meet anger with anger, rudeness with rudeness. It enables us to consider the possibility that we are not the center of the universe; not everything revolves around us.

Let’s say I show up to the doctor’s office and the receptionist is snappy, barely making eye contact and never hanging up the phone. I could assume that she is a mean and nasty person who is actively seeking to make me feel bad. I could get angry and treat her poorly in return.

Or, I could practice empathy. I could start by taking another look at the situation. Perhaps the waiting room is full. Maybe I can hear the person on the other end of the line yelling at her and talking over her. Perhaps there are other lines ringing, waiting for her attention. Regardless of whether I can identify reasons for her behavior, I won’t gain anything from making a value judgment on her character.

Bottom line: I won’t improve her day or my own by indulging in anger. Her attitude isn’t preventing the doctor from seeing me. My attitude won’t reduce her stress or lighten her workload. However, if I wait patiently, smile, and say thank you, I may just reduce her stress and provide a bright spot in her otherwise frustrating day.

Indulging in anger never leads to happiness. It only increases our stress and furthers our frustrations. Self-awareness and empathy may not be skills you can master overnight, but they will go a long way to reducing anger and preventing angry behavior. Indulging in anger won’t increase your happiness, but refusing to let anger rule you will.

Author's Bio: 

Kayla Matthews is a Self Growth blogger who is inspired by healthy living and positive thinking. To read more articles by Kayla, you can follow her on Google+ and Twitter, or check out her blog, ProductivityTheory.com.