Don't let your anger persist

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 occasional disconnections 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 good at getting what it wants from others.
Instead, you bark about the pain you've endured then you command him to help you.


In this moment, the childlike persistence of your anger prevents you from making the most of the conversation. Being kind not only means John would go the extra mile for you, but it makes his day better. (And if you can make someone go from 4 to 8 on the happiness scale in the span of a phone call, it's really satisfying.)
We humans are really bad at controlling our emotions. This post won't help with that. Instead, I'm writing this to remind you not to allow your anger to persist under the illusion that it's somehow productive. 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.
Think twice before letting your anger persist in an attempt to project your desire for change. That's not how change is enacted, and it's a tremendously inefficient use of your time. Here's an important example of why:

Imagine you get warm-intro'd to someone

Let's call the person you're being intro'd to "Max." It's one of those networking opportunities where you can't imagine how you’re going to get value from it. 
So you ignore the intro —expecting to get to it at some point. 
You don’t.
A couple weeks later, Max emails you for a second and final time. He’s kind and thoughtful, so your guilt ushers you into a call. You’re slightly irritated by the ordeal (you're busy and you didn’t ask for this!), so you allot a quick 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.”
You’ve just failed to recognize the sunk cost of your time commitment and why it's inefficient to be a jerk. Let’s be pragmatic about this:
  • You’ve already committed to taking time out of your day for this call. As much as you’d rather be doing something else, you're locked in for the next 15 minutes.
  • If you were to blow Max away with how personable and helpful you are, you'll leave a wonderful impression with someone who will possibly be of use to you one day. Plus, you’ll brighten his day! Yes, it’s possible Max is a useless, selfish bore. But why forsake the possibility of getting value out of him if you’ve already committed a non-refundable 15 minutes? That time will pass anyway.
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.
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 again. He won't go above and beyond when it turns out his ex-cofounder is someone who can help you.
So what was the ultimate purpose of having that to-do item on your list to begin with?
This applies to many of the interactions in your life:
  • Dinners with friends you didn't really care to see.
  • Meetings with coworkers who check in with you too often.
  • The carpet installer who showed up late.
Either make the most of these conversations or remove them from your calendar. You are obligated to do much less than you think.

What you should have done

When Max picked up the phone, you should have exclaimed, “Hey, Max! It’s a pleasure to chat. I would love to hear what you’re up to.” And you should have said it genuinely.
Even if you're feeling miserable.
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. Some people are takers and have no concept of generosity. 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.
The next time you catch yourself being passive aggressive as a means to broadcast your dislike of a situation, remember that the only change that will lead to is people liking you less. 
Instead, 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.
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