What’s the one thing you probably do that’s bad for you and your business?
Venting anger and hostilities makes you miserable and degrades your relationship with those around you. Do too much of it and even those who engage in it with you will want to find a way out.
Why do people vent after a bad experience or day?
Typically, people go on a negativity binge in order to vent their feelings. Most of us liken our verbal venting with venting a plastic bag of frozen veggies we throw in the microwave. If you don’t poke a few holes in the bag before warming those brussels sprouts up, the bag will explode. This creates a huge mess in the microwave and deprives your family of this delectable side dish.
We think we need to vent about the annoyances, both large and small, of the day so we don’t end up exploding and making a similar; albeit, figurative mess.
But you are not a bag of brussels sprouts, so your venting (and mine) still makes a mess.
Think about it…
You spew all your negative garbage on your coworker, business partner, spouse, whoever gets stuck listening to you and saying all the right things in response. That’s messy.
That’s ok, right? Close business associates and other adult friends and family can take it. After all, you have to let it out to feel better.
Recent research says that if that line of reasoning were a lifeboat, those in it would drown because it’s full of holes. The 2013 study, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, found that venting actually intensifies anger.
Psychologist Jeffrey Lohr, who co-authored an earlier study on venting, says, “Venting may make you feel different in the moment, but the change in emotional state doesn’t necessarily feel better; it may just feel less bad.”
Lohr explains that venting involves a negative reinforcement process — when you express anger and animosity, it leads to even more anger and animosity. Intensified negative emotions may end up causing you to directly and inappropriately confront a business associate or family member.
See? Bad for you, bad for business.
So now what?
Expand Your Compassion to Overcome Anger
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits — a favorite cyberspace of mine — says, “Almost every time we get angry, it’s because something isn’t going our way. In a nutshell, anger usually occurs due to selfishness.” He goes on to say, it’s no different than the tantrum thrown by a selfish toddler, except that adults should know better. Ouch!
That’s a hard pill to swallow, but I think it’s true.
He cites three points to back up his claim, saying here’s why we get angry:
- We want something a certain way.
- Other people (or occasionally, the Universe!) don’t give us that something in that certain way.
- We get mad.
Babauta suggests practicing his method called Expanding the Envelope to take control of angry impulses. Here’s how it works:
When you start to feel that first tingle of anger about what someone did or didn’t do, stop, and “widen the envelope of your perspective”. Do this by taking a step back from what you see as important and consider what the other person sees as important.
“Don’t think, ‘They shouldn’t act that way’ but instead think ‘Why would someone act that way?’”
This gives you a bit of awareness you didn’t have before.
Now that you have this new awareness, Babauta challenges you to widen the awareness so that it includes what the other person truly wants, challenges he may face, problems he may struggle with.
He says that even if the other guy is acting like a total jerk, if you really try to see things from his perspective, you may come to realize that he’s had a hard day, or even a hard life.
Whatever circumstances the other person faces doesn’t excuse any bad behavior, but the understanding allows you to have more empathy and compassion for him. Depending on the situation, you still may need to address the behavior, but now you can do it with dignity and in a way that compels the respect of others.
Like any new habit, awareness of your anger and then coping with it in a new way takes consistent practice. He shares a powerful tip for getting started:
“Instead of acting on that [anger] impulse, just watch it. Become the observer. When you do that, you put some space between yourself and your angry impulses, and in that little space, you have room to decide. How will you respond?”
Brilliant! It’s all about controlling anger and negativity rather than allowing these destructive emotions to control you.
(Read Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger by Leo Babauta)