Use Your Temper as a Tool

This past week, the Director of an organization with which I am involved in a volunteer capacity sent me an email so riddled with condescension and contempt it took my breath away.

After storming around the house, slamming a few doors, and going for a 6-mile rollerblade in record time (Yes, as you can see from the photo, I still rollerblade) I remembered the advice I’ve given others in this situation:

No sudden moves.

Is this easy? Absolutely not.

Do I think it will benefit me in the long run? You bet.


Well, as I’m sure you know, if you return fire while you’re fuming you’re not likely to be your best, most thoughtful, most expressive self.

In fact, you’re likely to end up sounding just as ugly as the person who ticked you off.

So, what can you do?

In this instance, I passed the burden of replying on to a colleague—I truly couldn’t trust myself—and decided to use my temper as a tool to extricate myself from the situation.

Now it’s possible some of you are thinking, “Well, that seems extreme…” and I would agree if this were not a pattern that had been occurring—and I had been ignoring—for some time.

It’s also likely that some of you are thinking, “But shouldn’t you write and point out all the reasons the email was so hideous?”

I might have if, as mentioned above, this was not a pattern that had been in place for some time and—and this is the important piece—if it were my job to educate this person about not being hideous.

But it’s not my job.

In this instance, my job is to look after myself—and that looks like me stepping away from a situation that continuously chafes my brain.

Because there is nothing wrong with having a temper—what matters is how you use it.


For more on how to manage your temper, take a look at, “Breakups are like Handguns: How to Exit a Difficult Situation”

For additional thoughts on the value of not educating others, take a look at, “Know When to Walk Away. Know When to Run.”

If it were my job to educate this person, I would have recommended beginning by asking clarifying questions rather than with the assumption of our incompetence/stupidity. For  more on the value of clarifying questions take a look at “Clarifying is Key: Using Questions to Stimulate and Empower Others”