← Return to all posts

Don't let your anger persist

Author

I'm Julian. I try to write the best guide on every topic I'm interested in:
Build Muscle Grow a Startup

Julian Shapiro headshot

Sunk costs and being an asshole

You’ve been on hold for 35 minutes. No one you’ve spoken to has sincerely cared to help you. You were "accidentally" disconnected twice. That was infuriating.

Finally, you get connected to the right person. John sounds patient and caring. He actually wants to help.

But you’re so irritated by the past 35 minutes of lousy on-hold music and dropped calls that you’re an asshole to John. 

Or, at least, you’re not your usual pragmatic and charming self. You know, the self that is fairly good at getting what it wants from others.

Instead, you bark about the pain you've endured and you command him to help you.

Freeze.

In this moment, the childlike persistence of your anger prevents you from making the most of the conversation. We often think, If I'm blatantly angry, they'll understand that I'm unhappy with the situation. Then maybe this won't happen again.

Wait. You think John is going to go way out of his rank-and-file to make sure his coworkers suck less and that you get disconnected less often? No.

Don't project your persistent anger under the illusion that it's somehow productive

If you were instead to be kind, John might have gone the extra mile for you. A tempered adult realizes this and leverages this truth. A child throws a tantrum.

Now let's demonstrate just how inefficient we are when we allow our anger to persist.

The warm intro

Imagine you've just gotten warm-intro'd to someone. Let's call that person Max. 

And let's imagine it's one of those networking opportunities where you can't possibly imagine how you’re going to get value out of it. So you wind up ignoring the intro. 

Or maybe you expect to get to it in the future.

You don’t.

So, a couple weeks later, Max emails you a second time. He’s kind and thoughtful, so your guilt ushers you into setting up a call. You’re slightly irritated by the ordeal (you're busy and you didn’t ask for this!), so you allot a short 15 minutes.

The day of the call

You give Max a ring. He picks up. You sigh, “Hi Max. Tell me what I can help you with.”

Freeze.

You’ve just failed to recognize the sunk cost of your time commitment and why it's inefficient to a curmudgeon. Let’s be really pragmatic about this:

♖ Yes, this is a selfish and transactional view of relationships. But that's the point of this whole post: If you can't justify being nice for the sake of others, at least be nice for the sake of yourself. It'll work out well for others.

If you don't make the most of the call, you are bad at valuing your time. It's that simple.

Yes, if you were to halfheartedly breeze through the call reciting stock advice and reminding him that you have to jump off in a moment, then, yeah, you've successfully checked off a to-do list item for the day. 

Congrats.

But to what end? Max won't be passionate about talking to you ever again. He won't go above and beyond when it turns out his friend is someone who can help you out.

So what was the ultimate purpose of having that to-do item on your list to begin with? Why did you agree to it? Are you completely blind to the value of your time?

Note that this advice equally applies to many other types of interactions:

♖ Make the most of these conversations that you're going to have anyway. Otherwise, completely remove them from your calendar. You're obligated to do far fewer things than you think you are.

Remove. Crap. From. Your. Calendar.

What you should have done

When Max picked up the phone, you should have exclaimed, “Hey, Max! It’s a pleasure to chat. Would love to hear what you’re up to.” And you should have said it genuinely.

Even if you're feeling miserable that day.

With your sudden warmth, Max is appreciative that you’re making his hustle easier, and he goes out of his way to tell you what he can do for you at the end of the call.

No, not everyone will reciprocate like that. Some people are takers and lack the reflex to give. But most people are like Max: Even if they don’t proactively reach out to help you one day, they will help when you ask them to.

This is how life works. It's how it's always worked. Don't be a child.

So the next time you catch yourself being passive aggressive to broadcast your dislike of a situation, remember the only change this leads to is people liking you less

Force yourself to be unexpectedly warm and thoughtful. Watch how much more value you get out of conversations. And how much happier the people around you become.

This post is also available in Russian.

I write a new piece every few weeks if you'd like to be given a heads up:

— Julian

You can also

Author

I'm Julian. I try to write the best guide on every topic I'm interested in:
Build Muscle Grow a Startup

Julian Shapiro headshot

More blog posts

Mind
What you should do with your life

A technique for choosing big projects.

Startups
Dealing with startup competition

A framework for handling competition anxiety.

← See all posts