By Yvonne Milosevic
Anger is pretty much a taboo emotion whose harmful effects we witness every day. I mean, could we have just one news cycle without seeing someone go aggro over mask-wearing or vaccine mandates? (Asking for a friend.) Roughly 3 in 4 respondents told CNN in a poll that they felt at least somewhat angry at “the way things are going in the country today.”
Almost 75% of us? Yikes.
But enough with the negativity. Today, we’re exploring the unexpected upside of anger. Experts believe we should put our angry feelings to good use rather than try to squelch them. That’s because anger can provide some surprising benefits—if we know how to tap into them.
Anger increases focus and sharpens decision-making.
Studies by Kellogg School of Management’s Michal Maimaran have shown that anger causes consumers to make more goal-oriented choices. She and her collaborators discovered that “angry consumers were less likely to delay making a choice, were less likely to compromise, and were more satisfied with their choices than those who were fearful, sad, or feeling neutral.”
“It is counterintuitive,” Maimaran admits, “But there could be situations…where anger can help lead us to good decisions.”
Anger sparks creativity and problem-solving.
A burst of anger can also spark greater creativity. Experiments conducted by Heather Lench of Texas A&M University and Linda Levine of UC Irvine revealed that “In brainstorming tasks, angry people come up with more original and varied solutions, compared to people who had been primed to feel sad or emotionally neutral.”
The increased arousal appears to super-charge the mind, allowing it to draw connections that are unavailable in other emotion states.
“If you’re angry right now, the worst thing you can do is ignore it or try to suppress it,” writes Nick Wolny in Fast Company. “Use that productivity and creativity to address one of the problems our country is dealing with right now and invoke change.”
Anger can help your relationships.
This advantage comes with a mega caveat: mismanaged anger is obviously harmful to healthy relationships. But when you feel angry at a partner, friend, or coworker, that’s your subconscious telling you that something’s not right. Hiding those feelings can lead to depression or resentment that sours the relationship forever.
Identify the root cause of the anger and express your feelings calmly and productively with the offender. That way, your partner can better understand your frustrations and then take steps toward fixing the problem.
Ultimately, as the Greek philosopher Aristotle once noted, the challenge at hand is “to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way.”