Anger Management

argument 2Dear Dr. GetMellow:

Over the past three weeks, I’ve lost my temper three times. All three times there was ample provocation for my anger, but in the long run it was wasted energy: It didn’t accomplish anything that wouldn’t have happened anyway. It exhausted me and left me feeling emotionally bruised (and mildly embarrassed at my outburst). It upset the vendors I was dealing with. And it has probably contributed to my physical illness by subjecting my damaged immune system to another unneeded heavy dose of stress. Each time I got angry I lost a lot of sleep afterwards, and that didn’t help either. What’s wrong with me that, at age 55, I’m still unable to keep calm when provoked? I know it’s human nature, but I should be able to deal with problems without useless anger. I have learned to avoid road rage. What is it about these situations that I couldn’t control myself?:

Two weeks ago, my modem conked out. I phoned Bell, Canada’s largest corporation, and was put through two hours of tests involving unplugging all my phones and connected devices, plugging them back in one-by-one, and several tests from their location, before they acknowledged that the problem was their piece-of-crap Chinese modem. They wanted me to stay home for a day so that a service person could replace it. When I complained they said they’d send it by priority mail and would not require a signature when they delivered it. They sent it with a signature required, so I phoned again and was told I would have to speak to their ‘customer care’ department ’Äì but I could only do that the next day during business hours. When I complained again they said they would instruct the courier to re-deliver it without a signature required. They did not do so, so I was without the modem until I could go and pick it up at the courier office the following weekend. They then sent me an e-mail with a customer satisfaction survey with 56 questions asking me whether I was pleased with their ‘customer service’.

Then a week ago I got a letter from my insurance company, six months after they had sent an insurance appraiser to our house. The appraiser had miscalculated the size of the house and ignored the size information I supplied him with (from the real estate company), so there was a bill attached for some $160 for extra insurance on the higher appraised value. The appraised value is at least 30% higher than current market, which any survey of recent sales would have demonstrated. This is just price-gouging by the Canadian insurance oligopoly, since they all share and abide by each other’s inflated appraisals. What’s worse, they said that since I was unable to come up with the paperwork on our wood-burning fireplace insert, on the spot when the appraiser visited, they had ‘concluded’ that it was an ‘illegal’ installation and ordered us (in the middle of a sub-zero cold snap) to stop using the fireplace or face having our insurance revoked.

Then yesterday, after two weeks of coping with leaks into our living room through our six-month-old roof (warranted for 20 years), the roofing contractor called back to say that (a) since it was caused by ice-damming, it was not covered by the warranty, (b) if I didn’t go on the (30-foot-high) roof immediately and get the snow and ice off by salting and heating it, it could cause structural roof damage that also wouldn’t be covered by the warranty, (c) he doesn’t do de-icing and doesn’t know anyone who does (“it’s dangerous and you have to tether yourself to a firm support”), and (d) “everybody” and “thousands of people” are facing the same problem this year (though I have canvassed the neighbourhood and found no one who has had this problem, and there’s been no mention of it in the local press).

On all three cases, I just lost it. In all three cases I was, I think you’ll agree, provoked by unreasonable behaviour from these vendors. And yet my anger got me nowhere. Maybe primeval humans needed this burst of adrenaline and fury to cope with stressful situations, but for us modern humans it just makes matters worse.

So I need some advice. I can handle foolishness if it’s not dangerous, cruel or criminal. But I can’t tolerate lies, meanness, arrogance, greediness, wasteful or reckless orirresponsible behaviour. I just can’t. What can I do?

Uncontrollably Angry Guy

Category: Being Human
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15 Responses to Anger Management

  1. Daphne says:

    I wouldn’t be able to tolerate what you’ve been through either, but in all three cases, you’re not only dealing with totally brainless people (ie, the really just plain stupid kind) — which excuses them somehow, but you’re also dealing with people who take you for one of their kind. So how do you reason with the pea-brained? You don’t. Being more intelligent than they are, with great patience, you’ll have to show them how to do their work. And in some cases, the trick is that you’ll have to do it in such a way that you make them think they thought of it. One thing stupid people hate is being shown how stupid they are.So in the first case, you might have considered having the modem delivered at the office. In the second case, you should have left them with the wrong calculation (it’s their mistake, not yours), and you might find the information on the fireplace on the Net (just print it out). And in the third case, that guy avoiding his responsibilities, tell him you’re a journalist and that you will write about his cheating business practice so that he will be blacklisted. That should open his eyes.Calm solutions to an otherwise stupid situation is what you want. Make your brain work, not your emotions.

  2. Susan Hales says:

    Daphne has it just right, I think, Dave. And I would have been furious as well. Actually, I think you did do number three, but stopped short of naming the contractor. Send a copy of your post to him with an offer of a second chance, “or else”…Or you could just move down here to lower Alabama where you won’t have to deal with the ice problems or the sub-zero weather, but I can assure you you’ll deal with people much more annoying and stupid!

  3. David Parkinson says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that these problems originate with stupid people. In all three cases, you’re really being abused by absurd systems, within which the humans are really playing the part of stage decoration, deflecting attention away from the real culprits. I’m sure you know this. It’s also clear that you know that nothing good can come of your losing it and venting your anger at the human cogs in the stupid machinery. So I don’t know what to say to you. Would it make you feel better to send letters to the higher-ups in these organizations? (Understanding that this is ultimately beside the point as well, although you might score some retribution in the form of apologies, credits, gift certificates…). Please try to find some way to avoid these outbursts. They must be very bad for you, and there is no countervailing good in them. Imagine what you’re doing to the people you’re venting at. Think of puppies or bunnies. Imagine yourself in a situation so bad that you would WISH that your worst problem was an insurance hassle or a fritzy modem. Try yelling “Serenity NOW!” like George’s father on Seinfeld. Go fetal.Good luck. But for heaven’s sake take care of yourself. Don’t let stress get the better of you, please.

  4. Jon Husband says:

    Daphne’s points, expanded upon by Susan, are very good.I’d find ways to blog and / or write in local papers about the roofing guy (this will become more effective when new services like (blogging for neighbourhoods) acquires critical mass).I wouldn’t move to Alabama if I were you … my sense is there’s a reasonable chance you’d get angry more often (as Susan has hinted). Plus, you’d probably encounter something similar, it would just involve an air conditioner instead of a roof.

  5. Jon Husband says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that these problems originate with stupid people. In all three cases, you’re really being abused by absurd systems, within which the humans are really playing the part of stage decoration, deflecting attention away from the real culprits. I’m sure you know this. It’s also clear that you know that nothing good can come of your losing it and venting your anger at the human cogs in the stupid machinery.The problem is that the stupid machinery is everywhere. And that lots and lots of people don’t much care, just “do their jobs” for $X,000 per year and seek to avoid responsibility when anything strays out of the lines.Not everyone is like that, of course, but it is certainly (IMO) one of the major curses of the concept of the modern organization with relatively clearly defined jobs that fit somewhere in the overall operatiing structure.

  6. Notwithstanding your problems, some of which I have shared, regarding modems and insurance, allow me for a moment to take a slightly different tack.The only person you are dealing with is YOU, actually. ne of the things I have been teaching about lately is a much underutilized leaderhip capacity that humans have, which some of us have called chaordic confidence. Put simply, its the ability to stay with chaos knowing that order wil come of it, and the ability to stay with control knowing that chaos will come of it. Developing this capacity means finding a way to handle chaos and order skillfully.Each of these three examples you give are great practice for reflection and wisdom and growth (which is what you are doing by blogging about them). The best way, in my experience to get your needs met by large systems is find ways to connect to the people within those large systems. The strength of a relationship will usually see me through most situations. If it comes donw to legal recourse (for the warranty for example) then at least I have my wits about me. At any rate, what makes the most remarkable difference in systems that refuse to change is the place that is most flexible. That could be you. You are the only part of the system over which you have control, and how you address complexity will, in large measure, determine how resourceful you are able to be in getting your needs met.

  7. Karen M says:

    Coincidentally, the past three weeks have also corresponded with a period of Mecury Retrograde. [I can hear the skeptics now…] Still, this happens about 3 times each year, and lasts for about three weeks (tho’ many folks like to add on a few days at each end for added insurance). The advantage of knowing when it’s happening is that it’s easier to take these events (computer problems, miscommunications, lost items, bureaucratic errors, etc., etc.) less personally, which means less anger.I just picked up my laptop tonight… it’s been in the shop for about a week and a half, and was due back to me last week on Wednesday or Thursday. (The parts delivery was delayed…) FYI… It is a good time for re-doing, revisiting, revising, editing, etc., anything that offers an opportunity to find errors or flaws or to re-think something. Sort of like this post. ;~)

  8. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks, gang. Good advice, all of it. I also need to take my own earlier advice of saying to myself before I react, “five years from now, will this be such a big deal that it’s worth getting worked up about now?” The answer of course is no. What got me most stressed is that after the first two incidents I promised myself I would handle future situations more calmly, but then when the third one happened I just couldn’t stop myself. It’s a little scary when that happens.

  9. Clearly, Dave, this is not the spring to take up golf.

  10. That poor bugger sounds like me. I can’t put up with lies and/or bullshit. It physically hurts me to deal with it let alone mentally struggle not to strangle the person trying to dish it out.

  11. I have a saying Dave; things don’t get better, they just get bigger. I can relate to your anger but I know why I get angry. The examples of greed and incompetence you encountered are microcosms of the world in general. That roofing contractor represents most governments and their attitude to the destruction of the environment. When I hear of the tactics of Big Pharma or Big Tobacco I get angry but don’t have a specific target. As soon as I encounter an individual who epitomises the same attitude as a faceless corporation I have an outlet for my anger, a focus. Imagine that roofing contractor was George Bush. You get the picture.

  12. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone. I’ll do a follow-up to this once all three issues are resolved, so you can second-guess my behaviour and your suggestions.

  13. Getting angry rarely solves anything, but you are certainly justified. People aren’t willing to take responsibility for things as much as they used to (i.e. they expect you to pay for their mistakes). In some ways society has progressed, but people in business tend to be a lot more indifferent than they used to be, they find it easier to just lose a customer than fix the problem. If the economy was worse you’d see people hustle a lot more.

  14. lugon says:

    Actually, 3 times is not all that much. And you`re learning from it!

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