Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Waste of Being Angry

Anger, for the most part, is a totally wasteful emotion. It resolves nearly nothing, yet causes a huge amount of strife.

Pretty bold statement eh?

Over the years, I've cultivated within myself a habit of pretty much NEVER being angry. Do I get frustrated? You bet. Pissed off? Read any one of my rants and you'll know this is true. But, I honestly can't remember the last time I was truly angry.

Now I will admit, "never being angry" is a bit of an oversimplification. I feel anger when I read stories of innocent children being brutalized or other similar atrocities, but feeling anger is different than BEING angry.

People get angry way too often.

Anger is a totally unproductive emotion. In fact, it's counterproductive. When we get angry, we lose focus, become irritable, our temper flares, and normally minor annoyances can set us off. How can anyone be even close to 100% productive in such a volatile state?

When I use to play tennis competitively, I would frequently encounter players with totally volatile tempers. I knew all I had to do was win the first set, then their anger and frustration would be enough to completely derail them and give me the match. These same players were equally fragile in doubles.

Doubles partners who yelled at each other, or even expressed minor frustrations towards one another, were rarely successful. How you play well when you're worried about getting yelled at by YOUR teammate? This formula equals one angry player, one scared/unconfident player, and a very happy doubles team on the other side of the net.

One of the reasons I think I was so successful in my doubles career was not so much that I was a great tennis player, but more because my team always had great chemistry. I have never expressed frustration at a partner for not playing well. Obviously they're not doing it on purpose, and me getting angry will only make them play worse!

I've always gone the route of positive reinforcement. In fact, I recently read about an experiment that studied the effects of free throw shooting in basketball. In one trial, the free throw shooter was given extensive negative reinforcement and criticism while shooting. In the other, he was applauded and pumped up, even when he missed. The results (predictably) showed that positive reinforcement produced better results.

But it's not only bad results that come from anger, but terrible feelings as well. Getting angry makes EVERYONE feel bad. Obviously, it makes the person it's directed at feel terrible, but it also puts the person being angry in a useless state.

I'll take two examples from this weekend.

On Friday, a bunch of us went to dinner for a friend’s birthday. The restaurant doesn't take reservations, but over the phone they mentioned it would take around 40 minutes to seat a party of our size. No big deal.

I can't say I wasn't frustrated that we ended up waiting almost TWO HOURS! That's totally unacceptable. Sure it was tempting to get mad, but that would have solved NOTHING. Is yelling at the hostess going to free up a table faster? Nope. Am I going to feel better? Nope. Would she feel terrible being yelled at? Yep. Will she be more inclined to help me? Definitely not.

When I used to work as a supervisor at Tennis Warehouse, customer service reps, as well as myself, were much less willing to be flexible when the customer was getting angry. On the other hand, I really bent over backwards for customers who patiently expressed their disappointment and resisted the temptation to lash out.

In fact, the biggest way of getting free stuff from companies who have screwed up is NOT GETTING ANGRY. I wrote all about how to complain and get what you want in this article

So anyways, instead of getting angry, I (as well as my friend Aaron) made sure they understood how long we've been waiting and how hungry we were, thus eliciting sympathy rather than hostility. When we were finally seated, it was easy to have a great time since none of us had gotten angry!

Example two: On Saturday, I was playing a competitive game of pickup basketball. At one point, I was sprinting down the court, and a pass was lobbed down to me. The defender, in an attempt to bat the ball away, was totally careless and instead of contacting the ball, got a nice fist full of my face. In effect, I was accidentally punched.

Let the good times roll.

The inside of my cheek was nicely cut, causing me to spit some blood, the outside throbbed from the punch, and his finger nail also have me a nice little cut near my nose. Most guys on the court would have been PISSED, especially if they had a face as awe-inspiring as mine (Common, you knew I had to squeeze SOME vanity in this post :). But, the guy apologized, and it was an accident, so I let it go. No need to be upset. Accidents happen....even painful ones.

This morning, I encountered some unexpected traffic. Sure it's frustrating, but I changed my frame from "frustration," to "well, at least I have some time to relax, listen to music, and just think, without having to worry about getting anywhere since this is beyond my control."

I think having this type of attitude towards minimizing/eliminating anger has made me totally happy. I never get in fights with anyone and I'm always in a good mood. My long-time friend Darren was just remarking the other day, that I'm the one person he's never seen angry. Even though it was unintentional, that was a great complement!

So overall, being angry gets nothing good accomplished, makes you feel bad, makes others feel bad, and is a complete waste of physical and mental energy! So why bother?

But beware...just because I don't get angry, doesn't mean I can't kick a little ass when needed!

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