On Anger…


The past couple of weeks have been excruciatingly busy. Thanks to riots and curfew, our classes and exams had been postponed to the last week; the lab exams scheduled for last week got pushed to this week. We don’t have killer courses or anything this semester, but our schedule is hectic to say the least, what with 32 hours a week.

I’ve been increasingly on the edge, snapping at people for the smallest reason. One of my victims lashed back saying, “Why don’t you try to control your…er… anger? Yelling at someone isn’t something you should be seen doing frequently.”

That reminded me of Boman Irani’s character in Munnabhai MBBS. Laughing out loud to control your anger. It’s supposed to work, coz laughter releases endorphins or some such chemicals which ease your blood pressure and leaves you feeling happy and contented. So far so good, but in practice, the idea practically sucks.
A friend of mine begins to shriek out with ear-splitting laughter when she gets tense or excited. Nothing could possibly be worse than finding your working-model not working minutes before the contest starts and your teammate next to it shrieking with laughter.

Well, another more popular way of hiding your anger is by not saying anything about it, just nodding, grinning, agreeing and feeling peeved about it all day long. And being given to arbit rants at the slightest provocation.
A professor I know apparently starts smiling more and more broadly as his temper rises. His face goes red with anger, his voice goes lower and his smile broadens. His sarcasm levels rise exponentially, and it takes people who are not used to this sort of thing quite a while to understand that he’s angry.

I don’t understand these futile attempts to appear civilized by masking your anger. Why do you pretend you are not pissed off when in reality you are? Doesn’t it make it easier for everyone involved if you show you are irritated with them? Why such a roundabout approach?

It’s natural that when a person gets worked up, his expression turns sour, he acquires an unpleasant tone, and he raises his voice. Language breaks acceptable limits slowly, and body language changes visibly to show anger.

This serves as a warning signal for the rest so as to not rub the person the wrong way. When you know a person is irritated, you normally aren’t flippant with them and take care to weigh your words such that it doesn’t hurt the other person. Normally, others broaden their margin of error for whatever the person says.

On the other hand, appearing outwardly cool and calm gives a cold-blooded effect to whatever the person says. He seems to be in perfect control of himself, which cuts on any allowance or margin the others might give an angry person. In effect, the things said are the same irrespective of whether you are giggling to hell when you say it or when you are red with irritation. But the effect created is different.

Whether the person is smiling or frowning, his mental state remains the same [I am not talking about people who are controlling their excitement] and so will the things he will say, so why appear outwardly calm, confusing everyone else? That apart, people simply CAN’T accept that a calm-looking person is put off about something. As for endorphins, you don’t need them in a crisis situation… like why would you want to be feeling ecstastic when the situation is getting out of hand?

In short, when most people are irritated, they still harbour the same old prejudices, feel the same within, say hurtful things, so why act like you’re not angry, that you’re totally in control when you are not? I agree giving full vent to your anger creates ugly scenes, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s about showing the normal signs of being angry just to non-verbally communicate to the other person that you are not to be messed around with, you can’t take excessive criticism, your mind is closed for the time being… a big ‘Handle With Utmost Care’ sign on you which can NOT be put across with words, however gentle they might be.

The best way to handle an unpleasant situation is, no doubt, to not lose your cool in the first place, to remain calm, think rationally and not bring up any new communication barriers and talk the whole thing through. But once you have lost it, then I don’t think there is any use pretending. Unless of course, it’s your prospective employer checking how much you score on the patience test.

PS: You don’t have to scream and swear to show you’re angry. It somehow shows. But please don’t confuse the other person [as opposed to adversary] by doing something like laughing out loud just to be different, or due to some cockeyed reasoning like endorphins.

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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14 Responses to On Anger…

  1. theG says:

    how do you show yours? sorry, could not find any mention of that!

  2. wanderlust says:

    read again. but trust me, you wouldnt want to find out the hard way.

  3. the Monk says:

    Read The Godfather, love. Or watch You’ve Got Mail. Little things we can learn/pick up from great characters.

  4. randomwalker says:

    Very interesting article.

    Well, from experience, this is what usually works for me.

    Tell the person (whoever it is) that I am not in the right state of mind to proceed with whatever it is and need some time off. If he/she still persists, give that person a piece of my mind to shut them up for the time being. You can always accept that you were an idiot, later on ;).

    Think about the whole thing again, as if I have all the time in the world. More often than not, I realize my stupidity in very little time and *actually* manage to laugh it off!

    Having said that, I must confess, I too have had my share of major disasters 🙂

  5. wanderlust says:

    @Monk:
    what about Vito Corleone’s anger? yeah, he took it personally every time, and his actions were the stuff of legend, but…. or did you mean how to channelize your anger?
    @randomwalker:
    >>I realize my stupidity in very little time and *actually* manage to laugh it off!
    ah, wish the world had more like you.

  6. CB says:

    Question:

    I don’t understand these futile attempts to appear civilized by masking your anger. Why do you pretend you are not pissed off when in reality you are? Doesn’t it make it easier for everyone involved if you show you are irritated with them? Why such a roundabout approach?

    Answer:

    If you draw a graph of anger vs time, pretending not to be be pissed off, appear civilized etc, shifts the graph to the right. Of course it doesn’t modify the graph, just shifts it to the right. And hence, you’ll end up not shouting at those people who you interacted with in this time shift, thus reducing your chances of being branded short tempered.

  7. Tuhina says:

    I prefer the stay-cool-and-scare-the-other-person method, you know, the alpha- beta relationship…

  8. wanderlust says:

    @cb:
    it does modify the graph. anger also depends on other conditions like what you do, and what is said to you. all other factors dont remain constant when you pretend to be calm when you’re not. the graph’ll take on a completely different form. it will be an exponentially decreasing graph, with a sudden rise at the end.
    @tuhina:
    man, i’d forgotten about that approach!!! a clash is likely when two alphas try finding out who’s more alpha.

  9. CB says:

    Umm, yes.
    The graph might increase, but its increase will most probably be attributed to a single (2-3 at the max) guy(s), which in effect means that you end up shouting at that single (or 2-3) guy(s). However, if you do not allow your graph to shift to the right, with the existing anger, you shout at more guys.

    Well, whatever. 🙂

  10. Dushy says:

    Shouting at that ‘Somebody’ matters a lot.
    I mean a lot.
    This outburst can bring a divorce,split,resignation and stuff like that.
    So the endomorphins funda is much better suited even though Wanderlust may find it seriously tough.
    Btw if You want to optimise on ur successes ,I guess a smile could be a slack in this constraint of anger and agitation.
    So this will make the solution feasible and optimal too. 🙂

  11. the Monk says:

    Exactly, channelize your anger. And Vito Corleone’s anger was less personal; I believe it was born more out of a sense of being wronged than anything else. Sunny’s death was avenged by Michael, and not Vito Corleone, remember. My basic point is: build up goodwill. Especially when you’re not in the best of moods. I doubt the effort will go unnoticed, at least not by reasonable people.

    And the reference to You’ve Got Mail: Tom Hanks says that when you do speak your mind, or vent, or be nasty/short/rude/mean to people, what follows, inevitably, is remorse, utter remorse (I quote him verbatim). And from 21 years of hard-won experience, I’ve found that to be true.

    And I may be lynched for this: this is where real ragging helps. Helps you deal with some of the worst kind of shit that’ll be thrown at you.

  12. wanderlust says:

    @cb:
    if the graph shifts to the right, it does not mean you will be seen blowing off steam by lesser number of people… you just shift the focus of your outburst. however, it is true that ‘these attempts at appearing civilized’ reduce the number of people who think you are short tempered. this does not have anything to do with the anger/time graph. it has more to do with the LevelOfApparentAnger-NumberOfPeoplePresent graph. hence you can derive the golden rule: if you really HAVE to yell at someone, do it in private and cool off asap, or do it in public if you can deliver bits of constructive criticism [or as some people are prone to do, curses and abuses] with a smiling face and a low voice. the latter [curses and abuses with a straight face] is really telling on your victim…. and that’s where this post comes in, telling people to revert to the first method.

  13. Turbo says:

    heard anything from the shaastra google event organisers regarding our case?

  14. wanderlust says:

    nope. any ideas on that one?

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