Posted by Seth Godin on October 24, 2013
I have no idea what caused the guy in front of me in traffic to be having a bad day.
Maybe he has a stressful meeting coming up, or his butler burned his bacon at breakfast. Maybe he’s having trouble paying his rent, or his industry is under seige. All I know is that he’s weaving in and out, giving people the finger and yelling at other cars, all at the same time.
Unlike cupcakes, anger isn’t conserved.
If I have a cupcake and I give it to you, I don’t have a cupcake any more. But if someone who is angry gives you their anger, now you both might have it.
You’ve seen it too many times before. Someone is afraid, untethered or just upset about something that happened long before you walked into the room. Unbridled agita is dumped on you, spittle flying, eyes wide, personal invective unfiltered. Just feet away, the angry person is saying, “here,” and dumping vitriol in your direction.
All connection gets severed, any chance for positive engagement seems long gone. The opportunity, it seems, is to pick up some of that anger and throw it right back, where it came from.
And now, of course, both of you are having a bad day.
Shared anger destroys trust. It eliminates dialogue. It activates the lizard brain of everyone within earshot, and produces nothing of value.
No credit goes to the person who vents, who opens his spleen and shares his anger. No points for bravery or honesty or getting in touch with his feelings. Anger shared is not anger ameliorated.
Talk about it, don’t talk with it. Point it out, and then leave it there, on the floor, where, unengaged, the anger can’t help but wither and die.