The Cloud of Outrage

He was yelling into his phone in the late evening. “You think I’m just going to take this?!” Ann and I emerged from our apartment and saw this man on the way to our car. Something about coming across someone on a cellphone connecting violently with another person struck me. This is exactly how I look when my emotions have gotten the better of me. Totally irrational.

Most often when we are expressing our outrage we want our audience to be equally outraged. We want someone else to hear our struggle and agree absolutely with us. This is true even when what we are effectively wanting is the other person to feel outrage with themselves. Not likely. Instead the other person does becomes outraged but not with themselves but at us for our manner of communication. Our “plan” has backfired.  At this point the rational shirks into a corner and chaos takes over.

We might think this is just the way it is. If so, why, when a stranger knocks at our door do we suddenly become so civil. It’s a wake-up call to our rational mind. Like actors pushed back on stage, our decorum changes. We take charge of our emotions until the guest is gone. After this, it’s easier to start again with a rational conversation (though we all know it can degrade from there too).

I think many times we become like uncomfortable children who are screaming: they don’t even know why they are uncomfortable, but they want that to change. Fortunately, we aren’t children anymore and we can spend a few minutes to figure it out as well as what we really want from our conversation. This will be far more effective than arguing into your cell phone in the middle of a parking lot.






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