Good Anger

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By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

Everybody wants to be happy!  When I’m smiling, I’m happy.  When I’m laughing, I’m happy.  When someone laughs at my joke that makes me happy.  I like to be happy and I’m guessing that you do to.  In our quest for happiness, there is a trend to avoid negative emotions.  Negative emotions include but are not limited to anger, shame, guilt, embarrassment, envy, jealousy, fear, anxiety, regret, disappointment, confusion, frustration, boredom, sadness and grief.  Categorizing these emotions as negative can be a big mistake; a mistake because without these emotions, we wouldn’t survive, we wouldn’t be happy.  You can’t experience the good without the bad.  INTRA-Personal Leadership, or the leadership of self, requires an understanding of emotions.  Effective leaders understand the importance of emotions.

Anger could be one of the most misunderstood emotions.  What causes anger?  Being undervalued as a person is usually the root cause of feeling angry.  Think about a time when you were angry—what was the underlying cause?  When we’re feeling undervalued, we have a tendency to reassert our importance.  Anger is demonstrated through both verbal and nonverbal communication in an attempt to recalibrate our worth.  When really enraged, it may seem like anger can cause a loss of control; however, any intense emotion, including anger, can be overwhelming.  So how is this a good thing?


The frustration of devaluation that causes you to feel angry actually results in helping you get what you want.  The emotion of anger motivates action.  When properly channeled, anger can boost confidence, anger can boost optimism and anger can stimulate risk taking.   Not only that, those who demonstrate anger are perceived as having higher status, greater competency and considered more credible.  Anger can enhance one’s reputation as being someone who possess strength and resolve.  Anger not only benefits the individual, it also fuels social progress such as justice and fairness.  Without anger, the downtrodden might never be heard.  Anger is what fueled the American Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s’ Suffrage.  Think about how different things would be today if our ancestors hadn’t gotten angry enough to demand change.  If you never express anger, problems will never come to light and therefore will never be resolved.  Furthermore, constant suppression of frustration will cause relationship decay and can lead to depression and other health issues.

Leaders need to embrace anger, in themselves and in others.  Anger is not a negative emotion, it’s a necessary emotion.  Effective leaders know that anger is an emotion that can result in positive outcomes if channeled properly.

So how do you channel that anger for a positive, more productive outcome?   Jessica Stillman offers “5 Tips to Productively Channel Your Anger.” (

  1. Decide whether you anger is worth expressing in the current situation.
  2. Let others know if you think you will have trouble communication because you’re feeling strong emotions.
  3. Slow down, take a deep breath and think before you speak.
  4. During an angry confrontation, monitor your level of anger and how it’s affecting you, the other person and the situation—course correct as needed for a positive outcome.
  5. Pump the brakes if you need to–don’t let your anger get out of control. Slow down if you need to, then come back to the conversation from a place of calmness later.

Learning how to express your anger in a productive way can help you become a more effective communicator, gain greater respect, and can even lead to more happiness.  Effective leaders get angry and let others know about it.  Effective leaders want others to get angry and let them, as well as others, know about it.

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