Don't Bottle That Anger. Express it and Gain an Advantage.

Don't bottle that anger. Express it and gain an advantage.  

Professors Larissa Tiedens and Marwan Sinaceur found that negotiators who express anger at the bargaining table are likely to “get more than even.” The trick is to be tough on the problem, not the person, without losing self-control.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about pounding the table or yelling to unleash your ire. I'm talking about calmly expressing disappointment and diffusing a charged conversation by calling out the emotion. 

It's a way to own the anger, without it owning you.

In the workplace, it might look something like this:

“I’m disheartened to hear that you think I’m doing a bad job here. I’m interested in helping the company grow, and I want to do a good job. What can I do better?”

I've said these words to a C-level executive who once told the entire team of company managers that we were all doing a “bad job.” This was in reaction to ongoing friction between Creative and Sales, something I personally had nothing to do with. I got thrown under the bus for stress I didn’t create, and it pissed me off. 

I didn’t respond right away. I waited a day to process and plan the follow-up conversation I wanted to have with him. The next day, I asked to meet with the executive and told him how I feel in a tranquil tone of voice without placing blame or getting defensive.

I brought his attention to our shared interest in growing the company. Then with the question, “What can I do better?” I put the onus back on the executive to explain his earlier statement.

In other words, "Ouch. That hurt. What did you mean by that?"

He backtracked. He had no problem with my work. His empty accusation was an attempt at shaming, a contentious tactic to get us to fall in line with this viewpoint. I didn't fall for it.

Let’s face it. Invariably at some point someone will say something with or without the intention to shame and shake our confidence that just makes us mad. 

The challenge here is first learning to pause. Then managing our emotions so that rationality prevails over umbrage. Then calmly asserting ourselves at the table without attacking.

Yes, I'm talking about taking the higher road in a negotiation, one that bears better outcomes. So don’t bottle that anger. Express it and tip the conversation in your favor.