Monday, November 1, 2010

In a Huff, Part Two

My previous post about going away mad prompted some interesting comments and encouraged me to think a little more about anger. Here goes with a few more observations.

I'm proud to say I've become more forgiving over the years. I still tend to be a person who doesn't suffer fools gladly, as the saying goes. But I've deepened my understanding that other people are doing their best, most of the time. I used to be much quicker to judge and dismiss. Now I give people the benefit of the doubt until I determine for certain that they just aren't trying. As a result, I've become a better team player.

That said, if you and I are on a project together and I have evidence that you're just phoning it in and relying on me to bail you out . . . well, we are not going to get along so well. I can still be pretty judgmental.

That was my problem with the typos mentioned in the previous post. It seems to me that if someone holds himself out as a beacon of appreciation for literary excellence, he ought to take the time and effort necessary to make his work letter perfect. Yes, even if the work is delegated. Yes, even if the work is written on deadline. When the subject is someone's favorite Shakespeare sonnet, rest assured that someone is going to notice (and be pained) when a word is wrong.

I do my share of complaining on occasion, but I practice consciously cultivating an even temper. I try and look for the positive side of things, and leave the huffiness for things that really matter. People often tell me I have "a good attitude," whatever that means. I think it means that I've learned to wait for the cumulative effect to build up (like those horrible Halloween images), rather than reacting strongly to the first tiny hint that the world isn't organized the way I think it should be organized.

Even when I'm ready to snap, I try to keep it reasonable and constructive. More effective that way. I've been around enough "screamers" to know that tuning them out is the best defense, which means that all their vehemence goes nowhere.

Letting things settle is a very sound habit: postponing or even sleeping on an angry impulse before expressing it. Funny how anger seems to evaporate with time, sometimes even a very short span of time. It doesn't take long before we can't even remember what we were so upset about.

Of course, sometimes it is very appropriate to show anger right on the spot, the moment it arises. This only applies to the most egregious situations, where one can start with some variation of "How dare you!"

Most of the time, however, I find it useful to remember a little gem known as Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Clever, isn't it? It's saved many an argument from starting. I love to quote it to people who are heading out the door to deliver a piece of their mind to someone who has offended them. It's just knotty enough that they have to stop and puzzle it out . . . and then the urgency is removed, they often change their minds about whether they need to say something at all, they are on the road to understanding, and life proceeds apace. Not to mention that maybe they'll remember it for next time.

Sometimes anger defused is even better than no anger at all.

1 comment:

  1. A great comment I heard was to 'never lose your temper by accident.'

    Excellent advice I think, though sometimes hard to follow.


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