• Rob Orman

21. What is your intent when you respond in anger?

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

When you react in anger, what is your intent? Often it's to lash out; the reflective and thoughtful part of your brain is taken out of picture. But if you think of a really clever and biting response, what do you hope will be the result of those words? It’s unlikely to persuade. More likely it’s a quasi-cognitive-orgasmic release of F*&k You.

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We Discuss

[00:00:29] The fires outside and in;

The West Coast fires are emblematic of how so much of this year has gone. A lot is burning in our world, some of it literally, some of it figuratively: our environment, our society, our culture, our relationships with each other. Often those relationships as expressed through social media, but that bleeds into real life so easily. With increasing frequency, violence and vitriol of the mind and keyboard accelerate in their transition into violence of speech and body. [00:01:22] Considering your intent in responses;

Part of this podcast's mission is to discuss how to live and act with intent. My ask with this is that you take a pause and ask yourself before acting on things, "What is my intent in what I'm about to do?"

Using social media as an example, or microcosm of the rest of life, say you want to express an opinion or respond to someone else's opinion. What's your intent with that action? What do you hope will come from those actions?

Is it for people to realize how clever you are? That's a thirst that can never be quenched. Tasty at the moment, but you're always a little bit more thirsty the next time.

Deeper than that and more germane to this conversation: is your intent to inflame, is it to express your anger and repulsion? A lot of what gets posted (both the original and the reply) is sanctimonious, self-righteous and, of course, consistently polarized. [00:04:17] When you react in anger, what is your intent?

When you react to that person in anger, what do you hope will be the results of those words? It is surely not to persuade.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process that he does not become a monster. -Nietzsche

[00:04:55] How being in an extended legal action made me a monster while fighting a monster;

Years ago, I was involved in a legal action against a tenant of a property I was subletting, and things got increasingly ugly. There were lawyers involved and surely they fanned the flames.

I would wake up early, grab my phone first thing just to see what was the latest outrage and how could I respond with more outrage.

At the end of this. I felt like my insides were in tatters. Becoming a monster to fight a monster took a deep toll, and it was a long recovery from that.

Since then, whenever in a potentially confrontational interaction, whatever the arena, I first ask, "Why is this person acting this way? Why are they coming at it from this angle?"

When you poison, you also get a taste of it.

Nobody wants to be taken advantage of and nor should you let yourself be taken advantage of. But responding to a situation can happen equally with wisdom, kindness, and genuine curiosity as it can with hatred and anger and outrage. When I feel that way, if I pause and I look inside and I feel like, "OK, I'm wanting to respond with anger here," I'll think of this Martin Luther King quote:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. -MLK

[00:07:29] Responding with hate vs wisdom.

There's no way that you're not going to get angry and that you're not going to feel affronted. Feeling that way is part of the human condition. But if you can recognize anger, take a pause before reacting, and ask yourself before responding, "What is my intent here?" chances are higher that it will be skillful rather than destructive.

This kind of thing is a work in progress and a lifetime pursuit. It needs repetition. Let me know how it goes.

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