Friday, April 20, 2012

Writing angry: a crash course in dos and don'ts

I write this from experience so please take a note or two. I could pass a degree on this subject if there was one to pass and so can quite easily be your guide through this quagmire.
People say don't drive angry because when you do you're reaction times are altered, your judgment is impaired and your risk taking skyrockets. 

  • Reaction times are altered but generally so they are faster. This may seem a good thing but only if you're avoiding a crash. If you're winding through traffic though, that zip from one lane to another might be done a little too fast. You might clip the person behind you or you might make the change so suddenly they never saw it coming so never slammed on the breaks. Bam!
  • You judgment skews as your first impulse is usually taken without further thought being applied and as we've all learnt at some time or another your first impulse is not always the best one. Sometimes you need to reconsider or risk crashing for lack of seeing an obvious issue.
  • Your risk taking skyrockets because you just plain don't care so much about anything when you're right royal mad, except about what made you mad in the first place of course. You just want to assert your own way. Unfortunately the universe doesn't go along with your whims. Ever. It just does what it wants and has to and if it goes your way this holds no more meaning than your calling the right answer in  game of heads or tails. Some effort can be applied to get what you want but that is simply manipulating the causes and hoping the effects will be as desired. Driving angry is like driving with the intention of rewriting the laws of physics for your benefit. Your rewrites are never going to be accepted. Bam smash crash!
I say don't write angry or hit send without some consideration as to the consequences. Your consideration may not be enough but at least you've taken two seconds to rethink what you've written and its appropriateness. I equate writing angry like driving angry for these reasons:
  • Your reaction times are altered but generally so they are faster. You'll tap or scrawl that message out so fast your fingers will blur, your mind will race but only focus on the task of screaming into the machine and you'll slam that send button down with the full force of your rage. Crunch! There goes your job, your relationship or whatever it is that connects you to the person you're raging at.
  • Your judgment skews as your first impulse is usually taken without further thought. You write what's immediately on your mind with no thought whatsoever on how it could be read. You don't revise your words in consideration of the other person/s. You rant and rage and when you hit send you will later find out that you said some terrible things, things you shouldn't have. Fwomp! The sound of your confidence imploding as nervous uncertainty rushes in to fill its place.
  • Your risk taking skyrockets because you just plain don't care so much about the consequences when you're right royal mad. In fact you're usually thinking "Bring It On!" or "I Don't F*cking Care!". You really do care and you don't really want an endless fight or to be fired. What you want is a quick, neat solution (hopefully to your benefit because most of us are self-serving to one degree or another) and one involving as little pain and effort as possible. Instead, what you've done by effectively screaming  "Bring It On!" or "I Don't F*cking Care!" is alienate the person receiving your message and maybe even make them bring it on as requested. Life is about to get hard.

So a tip or two from experience and from watching others. Don't write angry when:
  • You're writing to an employer. Death Knell!
  • You're writing to a client. Not even when you're about to get rid of them. Reputations are destroyed by an angry dismissal or rejection letter.
  • When you've been rejected over anything. Breathe. Think. Try to reason. Leave it a day or two. Then respond with a clearer head.
  • When writing to friends who aren't as close as brothers or sisters willing to stick around (not all do) so won't put up with any more than they have to. You will lose your friend and likely gain an enemy.
  • Your neighbour. Ever. Wars are fought for less.
  • Any form of bureaucrat who has control of your money, house or life, especially one you'll have to answer to again some day. They will make your life hell on a whim because you pissed them off and they have power over just how comfortable your life is. Making your life uncomfortable is revenge from a distance to them.
  • Distanced family. It will end badly if they can't read what you're saying without taking into account and forgiving you that you're mad. If you've never been mad at them before and had them forgive you for it don't expect whoever you're writing to to absorb your rage without retribution. Expect a fight or even a family feud.

Cases when writing angry is perfectly fine:
  • If you know that the recipient will come back to talk to you again another day. There are fewer people in the world who will do this for you than you think. It usually involves close family, very close friends and your spouse. Maybe.
  • You are writing for yourself and your words will never be read by another person. Even diaries aren't completely safe so try not to keep records and records of angry spiteful b*tching in your diaries. Burn after writing is a better idea than burn after reading.
  • Your rage is vented through fictional characters who aren't enacting anything close to what you're angry about.
  • You are fully prepared before and after for the consequences. Mostly you won't be but on the odd occasion that "Bring It On!" is warranted and should be carried through. No one is saying you have to suffer everything hurled at you. Just pick and choose your battles with care and consideration.
  • When your anger is backed by statements, studies and logical conclusions as in writing for a political or social cause etc. Anger is an element of change as much as it is of destruction. Use it wisely but don't let it be you.

When writing angry and you just can't stop or you really must express your rage:
  • Somewhere in the back of your rage-filled mind, remember to curb the angriest of your statements.
  • Reread what you've scrawled up and edit out the most hurtful sections without removing the point of your argument.
  • Try to remember that logic is still required. Being enraged doesn't mean you can say or do anything and excuse yourself. Anger does not equal righteousness. Logic should keep you on track and your answers appropriate so send only after you've had a chance to calm down and think logically about what you've written.
  • Try to see through the flush of adrenaline and/or the tears to how the other person might feel and if you think they might feel bombarded or hurt or insulted try to express that you understand but...... (insert your point of view).
  • Don't hit send until you're sure you aren't in the wrong.
Right now there is one person out there probably feeling a bit raked up after I suffered an unexpected and complete meltdown, tears and raging included, so I'm not without fault. This is my advice from practice and there's no preaching involved. Do as you must and suffer the consequences you bring about upon yourself. I'm already feeling the weight of logic pressing back down on my brain, seeing through literally clearer eyes (though they sting quite a bit and it is hard to focus to editing) and feeling that numb sense of "Holy cow what just happened?" as I try to figure out which bus just ran me over.

Here's another useful take on writing angry if you're prone to it:

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