EQ Times Seventy: Anger Sure Draws a Crowd

IMG_0572Anchin, Block & Anchin, LLC made their WAC event sponsoring debut last Wednesday, for a community event that I have been eagerly anticipating since the topical conversation between Ginny Brown and Deborah began a couple of months back. Ginny, a Licensed Social Worker, anger management professional, WAC specialist and dear friend, was the presenter that evening of Corporate Emotional Intelligence: Anger in the Workplace. She drew a crowd of 70 WAC members and guests who were curious enough about the dynamics of anger to carve out 3 hours of their time to be schooled, give feedback, and engage in some business networking over snacks and wine.

Ginny’s exploration into anger began as a middle sibling child, constantly protecting herself from an onslaught of roguish brothers. The predicament surely inspired her career in family dynamics education, and lead to her agency research for scenarios in the FDNY and NYPD. But it wasn’t until well into her career, after reading New York Times Best-Seller Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (1995), that she took her understanding of anger-as-emotion to the next level.

Ginny’s Wednesday presentation was admittedly abridged from a 12-hour program, yet undoubtedly managed to thoroughly illustrate the connection between anger and Emotional Intelligence (EQ). She offered a wealth of priceless insight into mitigating angry situations and tendencies, in ourselves and in others, through acquiring and vigilantly maintaining our own EQ. Defining EQ as “people’s ability to recognize emotions and read them in others by becoming self-aware, self-regulatory, empathetic, and armed with social skills”, Ginny pointed out how emotionally intelligent people find themselves motivated by ambition and persistence, which has its own built-in reward— an absence of anger, and thus, the capacity for leadership.

IMG_1503When Deborah and I were promoting the event, we latched onto a theme provided by Ginny during our initial discussions. Put simply: Anger is not the ailment, but rather, a symptom, serving as an alert that there is a deeper problem at hand which needs attention. When Ginny arrived at this portion of the program, the attendees and I were fascinated to discover that anger also has a primordial function, serving as a defense mechanism against danger (it’s no coincidence that you can’t spell danger without anger). These two functions converge in our modern selves, further defining anger as a secondary emotion, likened to an umbrella that we open to protect ourselves. Since we in the business world are seeking protection less from feline predators and more from emotional threats and other blows to the ego, perhaps it’s time to reexamine the role of our anger in the first place. The new question becomes, “What’s UNDER our umbrellas?”

In a workplace environment saturated with various emotional threats, one’s lack of control can trigger unsustainable IMG_1612emotional responses ranging from sadness, fear, shame, guilt and poor judgment, to feeling disrespected, incompetent, misunderstood, dismissed or taken advantage of. Ginny indicated how defaulting to anger is a tempting way to push those feelings away and put ourselves in control for the moment, which in turn is an unsustainable approach that not only fails to solve the root dilemma, but does us further disservice by categorizing us in the minds of our colleagues as unreasonable, even “crazy”.

So then, what is the appropriate, “sustainable” response to the anger-inducing trials we perpetually face at the office, and furthermore, how does the transformation from “crazy person” to EQ master begin? Check in with next week’s follow-up post, as I will take you through some of Ginny’s insightful and mindful techniques for managing and ultimately defusing anger, to improve your emotional health, quality of life, and potential for advancement. There will even be a little brain science for the profoundly curious!