Doing Nothing with Anger is Better Than Venting
Venting doesn’t work. Hitting a punching bag, while thinking about the person who made you angry, increases aggression.
It’s better to do nothing than vent. Catharsis doesn’t work. (Brad Bushman Ph.D.)
Aggressive behavior increases aggression.
Joys of frustration:
Frustration is normal and healthy when there’s a gap between what is and what should be. If you’re leading, you’re frustrated. You always see the gap. I don’t mean to suggest leaders should lose their temper or abuse people.
Wrong persists until leaders get angry enough to work on positive solutions.
Leaders who tolerate persistent poor performance, nagging problems, and negative patterns aren’t mad enough.
Anger loses its usefulness, if you do nothing.
Use the energy of frustration for good.
#1. Make space to talk through frustrations. “What’s bothering you?”
Fear of frustration prolongs negative issues.
#2. Don’t solve another’s frustration. It’s demeaning to solve a capable person’s problem for them. (When you have authority that others don’t, use it.)
#3. Confront off-kilter thinking. Talking gives people a chance to see their own craziness. Everyone needs someone to call out their bull crap from time to time.
#4. Shift perspectives. Talking is an opportunity to move from problem-centric to solution-centric thinking. “What would you like to do about this?”
Frustration is the first step to better.
#5. Provide support. A listening ear strengthens others, as long as you don’t circle the black hole. “What’s next?”
#6. Narrow focus. Unfiltered anger pollutes the whole world. Saying, “It seems like the world is going to hell,” may help frustration narrow its focus.
#7. Find insight. Insight may emerge as you explain what’s wrong. “What would you like to make better?”
How might leaders get the most from frustration, theirs and others’?
What warning might you add?
Dan, I see anger as a state of mind when irrational things develop if we let them>
Like you say do nothing? “Shit happens” get over it.
As leaders we need to channel past anger and produce and outcome that works for all.
Maintaining ones composure during a crucial event may preserve the operation.
Remembering we have choices and blowing ones lid is not the answer if you want to maintain your ship..
Thanks Tim. I agree that it’s necessary to channel anger. The wrong channel is traditional venting. But, I love the idea that we use the energy of anger to get positive things done.
This is also true for self-leading. We change bad habits only when we get sick & tired enough to change.
Thanks Pete. Exactly!
Proverbs 19:11 offers wisdom on this issue. “Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
This was a hard lesson for this former hothead to learn. Most things just aren’t worth getting angry about, and even fewer things are worth getting aggressive about.
I’ve learned that it’s often more helpful to explore the reason for my anger; it generally surfaces unspoken values that need to be examined.
Bud, You have this right. When I am truly angry, it usually is because of some shortcoming of mine – reluctance to confront constructively, seeing trees not forest (or vice versa), expecting more of others than they can handle, not “chunking” difficult projects into digestible tasks, etc. Well said, sir.
Thanks Bud. What I love about the proverb you mention is the use of “slow.” It doesn’t say “never be angry.” It’s be slow. I find many leaders are so uncomfortable with anger that they miss the benefits.
My favorite point yet — there are times where showing anger does serve a purpose in making a point, but it needs to be in contrast to a normalized controlled state. The differentiation is what creates the emphasis that “this time is different” or “I’ve had enough”. If angry is your norm, you’re just howling at the moon.
“Howling at the moon.” love it!
Dan when my old company was going through a multi year financial restructuring of its debt we had many occasions when the creditor groups’ advisors we were negotiating against would backtrack on hard fought deals, violate our confidentiality agreements or just outright lie to us.
Because we needed these people to eventually get a deal done and save our company, we learned to contain our anger.
What we did do was to remember the most outrageous things they did and at some point down the road to bring these up on occasion when it was to our advantage to do so.
So yes, striking out in anger is often useless but calming using the issues that caused the anger later can be good!
Brad James, author The Business Zoo
Thanks Brad. Thanks for illustrating the advantage of controlling vs. expressing anger. As I read your comment, I thought about the disadvantage of adversarial relationships. Expressing anger invites anger. Cheers
Excellent material! We all need this!
I channel my rage into art sometimes, but only because I channel every emotion into art. One day I’ll be emotion free and have way too much art.
Thanks Project. The idea of channeling makes sense to me. I love to get up in the morning frustrated about something. I write about things that frustrate me in a positive way.
I always figured if it leads to creativity, it will probably help you eventually.
Dan, I find that I rarely disagree with you, but this is one of those times. I thought your post and the subsequent comments had great insight into anger/frustration, but i am in opposition to your opening line, ‘ It is better to do nothing than vent.” Abraham Lincoln used to write angry letters that he never sent. This allowed him to vent, yet also to capture his emotions at the time. When the intensity of emotion had passed, he would later write the letter to be sent. The subsequent note would address the issue directly, but with the perspective of a cooler head, usually to great effect. His admonishing letter to General Hooker was received by Hooker with gratitude. “…just such a letter as a father might write to a son.”
Thanks Jon. The conversation invigorates me. We may agree more than you think. What you describe feels more like reflecting or thinking through a topic. Venting as described in the research is punching something with an offender in mind. I think this narrower definition of venting might be helpful. In any case, thanks so much for dropping by.
I wonder if the less physical side of this matters?
I like what Aristotle said “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person to the right degree, at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not so easy”
A group I am a member of a group that developed a concept that I think puts an interesting lens on the issue of venting versus positive frustration. The concept of “Exformation” posits that as individuals go through the world we absorb so much “IN”formation that inevitably, to maintain balance we have to process some of it back out into the world through EXformation.
Your tips about “useful venting” seem to me to be examples of constructive exformation, taking information that could cause upset and imbalance and directly channelling it back out in a focused constructive way. Your example of the punching bag is also an example of focused exformation, only used in a destructive, aggressive way. With this lens, I would like to suggest that what makes anger and frustration useful, positive motivators is not merely the concept of focusing that exformation, but of having the discipline to focus it on actively constructive channels.
That’s trivializing anger. When one is angry, one should do something about it!