How to Use Anger to Your Advantage

People with power interrupt. People without power get interrupted.


Barack Obama once joked about the temperament of his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, saying that as a boy Emanuel "lost part of his middle finger. As a result of this, this rendered him practically mute."

Emanuel, now the Mayor of Chicago, is well-known for his use of profane language, which wouldn't seem to be a strong attribute for a politician. For instance, one of the leading candidates to be Mayor of New York City, Christine C. Quinn, has had to deal with the perception that she has a highly volatile personality

Nonetheless, being shrewd politicians, neither Emanuel nor Quinn are known to show their anger in public. But both are known to use anger as a highly effective tool for exercising power in private meetings. And you can use this tool as well, argues Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

According to Pfeffer, power-brokers like Emanuel displays anger strategically to throw people off. Emanuel gets his way because "most people are conflict-averse." 

Of course, using anger as a tool for obtaining power is not going to make you well-liked. But in situations such as negotiations, being well-liked is not the goal. 

"People with power interrupt," Pfeffer points out. "People without power get interrupted."

If you look at the power dynamics among genders, men tend to interrupt women more and finish their sentences. And so to the extent that more women interrupt men, Pfeffer argues, the more power they will have. 

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