A Tennis Pro’s Remarkable Anger Management Strategy
Tennis great Arthur Ashe used a remarkably effective strategy to deal with his anger during the 1975 Masters Tennis Tournament in Stockholm, Sweden. Ashe was ahead in a close game against Illie Nastase, who was nicknamed “Nasty” Nastase for his bad temper and wild on-court antics. During the game Nastase stalled, cursed, and taunted Ashe continuously.
Although Ashe appeared to be handling the situation well, he realized that he was becoming angrier with Nastase. Finally, Ashe put down his tennis racket and walked off the court. He said, “I’ve had enough. I’m at the point where I’m afraid I’ll lose control.” An official told Ashe that he would lose if he walked out of the game. Ashe replied, “I don’t care. I’d rather lose that than my self-respect.” Fortunately, the Master’s committee decided not to reward Nastase for his vile behavior. The next day, the committee declared that Ashe was the winner.
When you notice that you are starting to lose your temper, sometimes the best response is simply to leave the area. All good generals develop an “exit strategy” prior to beginning a battle. You need to do the same, even if you are not in a literal battle. Having an “exit strategy” is not a sign of cowardliness or fear. Even the bravest generals always plan an “exit strategy” that enables them and their army to retreat to safety, if the battle does not go well.
When you know you could be going into a stressful meeting or encountering a difficult person, decide in advance how you will “take a break” or end the meeting. For example, you might decide before hand that when you notice your anger rising, you will excuse yourself from the room. Explain that you need to get a drink of water. Walking to the water cooler or kitchen will distract you and use up some of your pent-up energy. Use the time gained to calm down and look at the situation objectively.
If you often get angry with a couple of people, such as a spouse or a relative, explain beforehand that you are experimenting with different methods of controlling your anger. Let them know that if you start to become angry, you will leave the room for a few minutes. Explain that if you leave that you are not trying to reject them or treat them disrespectfully. You are leaving to prevent yourself from saying something “in the heat of the moment.” By letting them know your plan in advance, they will be less likely to misunderstand your actions, if you do become angry and need to leave.