Monthly Archives: February 2011

From Rage to Resolution

How often do you sit up in bed at night thinking, “Why didn’t I say….” or “I should have said…”

How would you like to have a book that would show you how to respond to anger-producing and difficult situations effectively so that you would feel like a winner instead of a mentally inadequate and dumb victim?

“From Rage to Resolution” takes examples from both home and work to help you recognize how rage bubbles up in daily life.  It shows you how to recognize this behavior in others and then gives you easy to learn and apply verbal tools for dealing with both yours and other people’s legitimate anger.

Understanding the psychology or the theory behind rage might be interesting, but it is not very useful. After all, you are not dealing with mentally ill people. You are dealing with normal folks who are attempting to express their valid hostility in socially acceptable ways.  Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you get caught up in their web of rage.  Because you may not recognize the other person’s anger it for what it is, you can find no way to deal with it except to retaliate with your own rage or run away feeling inadequate to the situation.  Here’s an example from the book.

You and your spouse are having dinner at the home of some very close friends. During the hors d’oeuvres, the other couple begins to take pot shots at one another. By the time the main course is on the table, your hosts are into a full blown argument. You and your spouse are extremely uncomfortable, especially when you are invited to side with one or the other. You inhale the meal and depart as quickly as possible. On the way home, you ask each other if you should have done something other than run away. Perhaps you should have said something – but what?  The situation has left you and your spouse feeling used and deficient.

As a result of reading the book, you will become an expert at recognizing when other people are about to act out of their hostility.  Best of all, you will know exactly how to respond without becoming emotionally entangled in their emotionally.

One of the important leanings you will uncover in this book is the desperate need for people to feel respected and valued.  When one person disrespects another there is a strong desire for reprisal.  People are very creative with their efforts to “get even” and will retaliate in ways hat make it impossible for the offending person fight back.  Here is another example from the book.

A late spring snow storm had closed the Boston airport; all flights had been delayed or canceled. A large and very aggravated  businessman toting a fold-over hanging suit bag, a  bulging  briefcase and dragging a small wheelie suitcase behind him stepped up to the ticket clerk and in a loud voice demanded to know when his flight was going to get off the ground. The ticket clerk in her nicest customer service manner smiled and patiently explained that all flights were being momentarily delayed due to the snow, and as soon as it was deemed safe, the flights would continue. Not being satisfied with her response, the man raised his voice several decibels and exclaimed, “Because of your insane fear of a little snow, I will miss my connection. I have a critical meeting to attend in Omaha and it’s going to be your fault that I’m late, missy!”

“But sir”, she responded,  “We are concerned for your safety and as soon as flight operations notify us, you’ll be on your way.” The man then became abusive with the ticket clerk, calling her, among other things, a deceitful moron who was delaying his flight only until every passenger seat was occupied. Very sweetly she again explained that the situation was beyond her control, and as soon as it was safe for the flights to resume, he would be on his way.

With a mighty heave, the man launched his fold-over suit bag at the ticket clerk. This was quickly followed by his small wheelie bag. Then he tossed his ticket at her. After ducking out of the way, the clerk proceeded with the check-in process. Muttering under his breath, the man then stomped off.

A young woman was the next in line. She commiserated with the clerk.  “He was so awful to you. One person like that could ruin your whole day, yet here you are smiling and doing your job just as if nothing had happened. Don’t you wish you could have smacked him in the face?” “Oh, we have our ways”, responded the clerk with a gleeful smile. “He’s going to Omaha but his luggage is going to Oahu.”

The ticket clerk’s customer service training prevented her from speaking up to this very rude man.  She was unwilling to see herself as abused and helpless, so she struck back by sending the customer’s to the wrong destination. If called upon to explain the misrouted luggage she could slough it off by explaining, “Oh, my, I must have made a mistake.  We were in such a turmoil with the weather delays and cancellations and all….”

When a person expresses their resentment by creating problems for the target of their hostility, the behavior is labeled passive aggressive. The problem with this kind of behavior, as this situation illustrates, is that the other party seldom gets the actual message. This businessman will go away believing that his misrouted luggage was just a simple mistake made by the airlines’ inept staff.

Undoubtedly, the greatest hostility-generating situations come about when you explain to someone close to you that certain things are aggravating you.  You ask for their assistance in rectifying the situation and they trivialize or ignore your very valid concerns.  Here is another example from the book.

Chuck Howell was moving us quickly in his organization. His young and attractive wife, Laura, was a legendary good cook. For political reasons, Charles would often invite his widower boss to accompany him home for a gourmet dinner. The first few times, the boss behaved himself. Then Laura noticed that the boss would accidentally brush up against her. Several times she was aware that he was standing behind her peering down her blouse. She was becoming very uncomfortable in his presence. Laura explained the situation to her husband and asked that he not invite the boss to their home again.

Chuck: Tom is harmless. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it. He just finds you very attractive. I think you’re being overly sensitive.  I would hate deny him the pleasure of a home cooked dinner just because you find his behavior a little offensive. Besides, your great dinners have certainly enhanced my chances for promotion.

Laura:    Let me get this straight. You want me to ignore the fact that this man, a guest in my home, eating food I prepared, is making me uncomfortable?  You want me to endure his insulting behavior so you can grease your promotional wheels?

Chuck:    Look, Sweetheart, I’m only doing this for us. Surely you can overlook Tom’s supposed bad manners for a few hours once a month. It could mean more money for us.

Although Laura continued to press for no more invitations for old Tom, her husband ignored her pleas. Tom was invited for another dinner the following month.

Now Tom was a meat and potatoes sort of guy. He was not fond of fish or chicken in any form and he disliked most vegetables. So, for his next visit, Laura fixed a creamed chicken casserole with mashed cauliflower served over white rice. She even borrowed her neighbor’s plain white dishes on which to serve the meal.              Tom nearly vomited when she placed his dinner plate before him. What made it worse was that Laura gave him a big smile and an unwavering straight-in-the-eyeball look as she asked, “How do you like my casserole?”  Tom felt forced to eat it. Soon, the only color at the table was Tom’s green pallor.

That was the last time Tom accepted an invitation to dinner. When Chuck questioned his wife on her choice of entrée, she explained that the meat in the supermarket hadn’t looked fresh and the chicken was offered at a great bargain. Subsequently, a coolness developed in the relationship between Chuck and his boss that Chuck did not understand.

When you disrespect another person because you are angry, or believe that your agenda is more important than their concerns, expect passive aggressive behavior in return.  It is a popular and effective strategy of attacking and getting even without actually addressing the target of one’s dissatisfaction.

My next posting will discuss the strategies – other than passive aggressive behavior – people use for unloading their hostility.