Applying the Emotions as Tools Model to Business Part 2 (Anger)

In Part 1 of this post, I discussed the Emotions as Tools Model, the concept of threat, and anxiety. In this part, I discuss anger.


Anger is a here-and-now emotion the message of which is: I am facing a threat that I believe I can overcome or eliminate if I throw enough force at it. While you can get angry about something that has already happened (the past), or about what you expect to happen (the future), you are always angry in the present concerning a threat you are motivated to do something about now.

My best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool specifically addresses the emotion of anger and is available on Amazon.

You can download the first two chapters of Beyond Anger Management by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post.  There is no opt-in.

As an entrepreneur, you might get angry at:

  • suppliers who do not fulfill the terms of a contract,
  • employees who are irresponsible or fail to deal appropriately with customers,
  • your computer for not working right,
  • yourself for not doing something you “should” have done,
  • and so forth.

Now, you might rightly say that getting angry at a computer makes no sense. And, you would be right. But, I did not say your anger had to be appropriate for the situation. I only indicated that the message of anger is that you perceive a threat you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. Ever heard of someone destroying a computer?

Employees can get angry at you for a perceived injustice, angry at each other, or angry at a customer.

I know of an individual whose job is technical support. While she is technically very good and can answer any question that comes up, she does not do well with customers who “blame” her for advice they don’t like or unwanted results due to their not following the advice that was given, who direct their frustrations with the company or its policies at her, or who become “belligerent” for who knows what reason. Notice the highly subjective nature of the words in quotes. While she has not expressed her anger at the customer, she carries it with her and chronic anger can lead to physical issues for her or her leaving the company.

When an employee’s appropriate anger is either not validated or is marginalized, as is often the case for professional women, that anger can become chronic.

Customers can get angry at you or your employees for any number of reasons.

I recently had some landscaping done and the employee assigned to manage my “project” did a horrible job. I was angry at both this staff member and the company for the poor work that was done. The company was “angry” with the employee and fired him because his “failure” could have negatively impacted an otherwise very good and hard won reputation. Fortunately, the company sent out a different employee who handled my concerns and alleviated my anger.

Understanding what anger is and how to master both one’s own anger and anger directed at you could benefit you, your employees, and your customers.

The Anger Mastery Cycle visually illustrates how the process of anger works and you can download a copy of The Anger Mastery Cycle for free with no opt-in above.

When you perceive a threat (as defined in my last post) that you decide you can eliminate or, overpower, you label the emotion you experience as anger. If you are naïve about your anger, you probably will react to the threat and later regret what you did.

If you know what anger is and the message of anger, you can move into anger management and protect yourself by creating both some physical space between you and the perceived threat (taking a step back from the issue) and some psychological space and by taking a deep breath and lowering your level of arousal.

You can then move into anger mastery which involves assessing the nature of the threat and choosing how you want to respond.

If the threat is genuine, you can use the energy of the anger as motivation to make a plan and deal with the threat.

If you are still angry and the threat is not “genuine”, your anger needs to be reevaluated and there are three possibilities:

  1. The first possibility is that there is no threat and you (or they) have misunderstood what is going on. For example, you thought your provider was intentionally messing with you only to find out that the delivery was delayed by an event beyond the provider’s control.
  2. The second possibility is that the anger is being used as a secondary feeling. Anger, as an emotion, is both familiar and “comfortable” to men specifically. Anger is an energizing emotion and  elicits a feeling of being “powerful”. Because of this, anger may be substituted for another feeling such as vulnerability, embarrassment, or hurt, which is less familiar and leaves a man feeling “weak”. An employee may express anger as a cover-up and substitute for feeling “dumb” due to a poor decision.
  3. The third possibility is that anger is being used The individual isn’t really all that angry but knows that anger leads others to back off from or give in to the demands being made. Instrumental anger is deployed as a tool to bring about a desired outcome. This can happen in an office (or other) setting.

While both secondary and instrumental anger are “dishonest” anger, they still expressed as anger and must be managed and mastered.

With the above knowledge, if you are angry, you can evaluate your perceived threat and your angry reaction to it and choose how you want to respond so that you can effectively deal with the situation in which you find yourself.

With another person’s anger, you can use your knowledge about this emotion to begin to manage (help them resolve) their anger.

Three steps are involved in dealing with anger that is directed at you:

  1. First, you need to validate their right to be angry because the emotion follows from their perception of the event and they are correct in their perception until helped to see otherwise. Once you have accepted their anger, you are no longer a direct threat to them. The reason for this is that they are angry at you (or what you represent) and assume you will act in a threatening manner which they are prepared to counter. When you validate their anger (acknowledge their right to be angry not that they are right in their anger), you change the equation.
  2. Secondly, you can now assess the validity of the threat they perceive.
  3. Thirdly, once you have done this, you can choose how you want to respond to them and resolve whatever issue they have reacted to.

This is what happened with me in the example I gave above.

In parts 1 and 2 of this post, I introduced you the Emotions as Tools Model and how it can advantageously be applied to a business. I also specifically addressed the emotions of anxiety and anger.

Finally, I welcome your comments.

Applying the Emotions as Tools Model to Business Part 1 (Anxiety)

In this post, I discuss anxiety and stress as they apply to business.

If you own a business, you should find this post and part 2 (next week), very informative.  If you don’t own a business but know someone who does, please send this link to them.

If you own a business, have employees, or interact with customers, you know that dealing with emotions (or feelings as the two words are essentially the same) is an important element of what you do. Sometimes, your own feelings are problematic and at other times, it is the emotions of others (employees, customers) that demand your attention.

And, if you are like most people, while you experience feelings all the time, you do not really understand what feelings are, how they can trip you up, or what you can do to get your feelings to work for you rather than against you.

I developed the Emotions as Tools Model to demystify the topic of feelings so that:

  1. Anyone could access and understand their feelings and
  2. Anyone could learn to master rather than be controlled by his (or her) feelings.

In contrast to other approaches which tend to view emotions such as anxiety and anger as negative and which advocate controlling one’s emotions, the Emotions as Tools Model views feelings as innate tools which, like any other tool such as your TV remote, you can learn to use and master to take back control of your life and improve your relationships.

I have written two best selling books on the subject of emotions both of which are available on Amazon:

If you choose, you can download the first chapters of both books for free with no opt-in by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post above.

It is important to note that contrary to the way some feelings are portrayed or experienced, there is no such thing as a negative emotion. All emotions are adaptive.

There are at least three “arenas” in which emotions can impact a business:

  1. You: your own feelings, as a business owner, about your business, your customers, or your staff
  2. Your staff: the emotions of your employees directed at you or at your customers
  3. Your customers: the feelings of customers directed at you, your employees, or your business.

Two emotions that are likely to surface in business are anxiety and anger.

While both of these emotions alert you to a perceived threat, each has its own message and time frame. I will address anxiety in this article (Part 1) and anger in Part 2.

A threat which elicits an emotion is defined as any situation, action, event, or transaction which challenges, calls into question, or negatively impacts one’s beliefs, values, survival, finances, important goals, family, and so forth in such a way that the threat must be dealt with, eliminated, or avoided at all costs. Minor mistakes, disagreements, and unintended consequences, while inconvenient, usually are not perceived as threats.

In applying the Emotions as Tools Model in business, the goal is to master the emotion and either strategically deploy the energy of the emotion to further the pursuit of business goals or constrain and let go of the feeling if it is impairing the completion of important goals.


Any time you worry about whether a decision, situation or outcome will work out to your advantage or create a disaster from which you will have to recover, the emotion you are experiencing is anxiety. I have a chapter on anxiety in my book Emotions as Tools:A Self Help Guide to Controlling Your Life not Your Emotions

Anxiety is a future-based emotion the message of which is: There may be a threat facing me and that threat may “kill” me. The word “kill” is in quotes because I am not talking about physical death but about an outcome that could have serious consequences. The word “may” is in quotes to reinforce the idea that the threat, or negative outcome, about which you are concerned or worried, has not occurred and is, therefore, in the future.

Anxiety ignores the possibility that the threat might not occur at all.

Subtypes of Anxiety

There are at least two subtypes of anxiety based on how you experience the emotion, the response you make to it, and the extent to which you master the emotion or it controls you. I discuss emotional mastery below.

  1. Distress:

In this form, anxiety can be debilitating and result in your “freezing” in place and not taking any action at all regarding the perceived (possible) threat.

This is the most common form of anxiety and occurs when:

  •  you ask yourself the question, “ What if (the threat) happens and I fail?”,
  •  you assume the future (unwanted) outcome will  occur, and
  • you act as if it is a forgone conclusion, you can do nothing to prevent it and the negative consequences are inevitable.

This is the type of anxiety that most people think about, experience, and want to avoid. It is also an example of an emotion controlling you.

When you are anxious in business:

  • you might not make an important, but risky, decision,
  • you might choose not to “manage” a difficult employee, or
  • you might not correctly deal with a difficult customer.

2. Eustress:

There is a second way to conceptualize, relate to, and experience anxiety. This second type of anxiety is called Eustress.

You master anxiety as a tool when you relate to this emotion as Eustress.

Mastering an emotion involves:

  •  accepting the emotion as representing your initial perception of your situation,
  • understanding the message of the emotion regarding the nature of the perceived threat
  • assessing the validity of the message (How real is the threat?)
  • choosing an appropriate response which either dismisses the emotion or uses the energy of the emotion to counter the threat.

Anxiety, as Eustress, accepts the valid probability of the possible threat and uses the energy of the anxiety as motivation to both prepare for the future threat and minimize any unwanted consequences. When my students study for an upcoming exam, about which they are concerned, they are validating their anxiety and mastering the anxiety as a motivator to prepare for and, thereby, minimize the impact of the exam. The entrepreneur uses anxiety as motivation to plan for and develop contingencies regarding future complications. This is mastering anxiety.

3. Anticipation:

A third option is to maximize the desired impact of the upcoming event.

You might think of this as positive thinking but it is more than that.

Maximizing the impact of an upcoming concern involves asking yourself the question, “What if the (exam, negotiation, meeting) turns out well and everything works out?” When you ask yourself this question, you engage the flip side of anxiety, the emotion you experience is anticipation, and the energy that consumes you is excitement.

Positive thinking is a “Pollyanna” point of view that assumes life is rosy and everything just works out for the best. It, often, does not. Turning anxiety into anticipation uses the energy (worry) of anxiety to make and execute a realistic plan for the issue about which you are anxious and then choosing to act as if your plan will be successful. If the Plan doesn’t work out, you can change your plan.

As a business owner, you can master your own anxiety to push your business forward and you can use your knowledge of anxiety to help your employees master their anxiety when it involves changes in policy or procedures, new responsibilities, dealing with difficult clients, seeking new business and so forth. Knowing that anxiety is a future based emotion which focuses on a perceived threat, you can anticipate the anxiety and allay that threat with information, training, calculated roll outs of new programs and so forth.

I welcome your comments and if you would like me to address these issues as a speaker in your business, my email is

In Part 2, I will discuss anger.

What are Anger Myths (and why we should avoid them).

In Chapter 5 of my Amazon bestselling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, I discuss 3 anger myths. In this post, I will introduce you to the concept of the anger myth and present these myths to you.

A myth is an idea that may  be popular, widely believed, or even partially true but which, in its entirety, is false or unsupported.

An example of a myth is that brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.  The truth is that egg color is related to the breed of the specific chicken and there is no correlation between egg color and the nutritional value of the egg. One inconvenient truth is that advertisers and merchants have found that they can charge more for brown eggs than white eggs.  This is why the myth persists. So, while you may think you are getting more for your money with brown eggs, all that is going on is that you are unnecessarily spending more than you need to.

When it comes to anger myths, the problem is that, because the validity of the myth is not challenged and our behavior is impacted by the myth, our ability to strategically deploy our anger gets impaired.

There are at least 3 anger myths.

Myth #1: Anger is a negative, dangerous, or bad emotion.

This myth is both widely believed and widely quoted although the form you see it in may change.

Examples of this myth include:

  • “Anger is a negative emotion.”,
  • “Anger is one step (or letter) away from danger.”, and
  • “It is bad to get angry.”

The myth probably persists because some people, when they get angry, do bad or regrettable things. And, because anger motivates us to take quick action toward a threat, it is easy to assume that the anger causes the negative behavior that becomes associated with it.

It is the association between anger and behavior that gives anger a bad reputation.

That anger causes behavior is another myth we will discuss next.

The truth is that there are no negative emotions.

Anger is a primary emotion and a threat detecting tool, the function of which is to alert us to a threat we believe we can eliminate if we throw enough force at it.  Anger prepares us for battle.

We can always choose, however, not to go to war.  Which takes us to Myth #2.

Myth #2: My anger (or some person or situation) controls me.

Examples of this myth include:

  • My anger made me do it (whatever action “it” refers to).
  • I had no choice (to do what I did).  I was so angry.
  • You made me angry.

The implication of the myth is that you are a robot without free will when it comes to the emotion of anger.

This myth persists in part because of the nature of anger and all emotions. Emotions have existed since man, as a species lived in caves or on the Savannah.  Emotions evolved to help us survive as a species. Humans survived by constantly scanning their surroundings for threats that would kill them.  When a threat was perceived (consciously or subconsciously), the brain automatically engaged a fight or flight reaction to protect the individual from the threat.  This process, initiated through the Amygdala and the Reticular Activating System in the brain,  was (and continues to be) fast and automatic as it should be if a genuine threat exists. The emotion that was experienced always matched the nature of the threat and prepared the person for appropriate action.

Today, because most of the threats we face are psychological in nature and not survival based, the match between the emotion and the reaction is less reliable.

Because of the automatic emotional reaction, it is easy to see why some people may believe the emotion forces them to act.

As humans continued to evolve and develop a bigger, more complicated brain, the cerebral cortex, or thinking part of the brain, gave us more alternatives.

Today, the emotional reaction still exists but we now have the opportunity to evaluate the nature of the threat and choose how we want to respond.

So, while the myth persists, the truth is that you are not a robot and you can choose what you want to do.

The myth also persists because it offers those who act out inappropriately both an excuse for and a way to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior and a way to blame someone elce for what they have chosen to do.

In other words, “I didn’t (mess up) because I am a bad or hurtful guy but because my anger gave me no choice. You are responsible for what I have done because you made me angry!”

Anger Myth #3 is the most disempowering.

Myth #3: (I, women, men) should not get angry.

Examples of this myth include:

  • I should never get angry (because every time I do, I mess up).
  • Women should not get angry (because it isn’t famine or the consequences aren’t worth it).
  • Anger is a problem when it is outwardly expressed.
  • Men should not get angry (because anger, as a secondary emotion which substitutes for feelings of anxiety, hurt or vulnerability, is dishonest).

This myth picks up where myth #1 ends.

This myth persists because the kernal of truth is that some men do mess up when they get angry, some men do use anger as a secondary emotion, and, for some women, expressing anger (especially in a professional office setting) can lead to unwanted consequences.

But, to conclude, as the myth does, that because there might be some unwanted consequences (or, in other words, risk), anger should be eliminated or avoided is faulty reasoning.

Based on this reasoning, no businesses would ever get started, we would never drive our cars or fly on airplanes and marriage–forget it.  All of these examples involve risk.

The truth is that everyone can both be aware of the risks and learn to strategically deploy their anger.  My book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool shows you how to do this. And, because these issues are rarely addressed, I have a whole chapter devoted to Professional Women.

In this post, I introduced you to three widely held myths about anger.  My goal was to show you these myths, make you aware of the various ways these myths present themselves, help you understand why the myths persist, and empower you to overcome these myths and strategically express your anger rather than be hobbled and let your anger be taken away from you by  half-truths, misinformation, and ingrained misunderstandings.

I welcome your comments.


Local Law Enforcement Officers put on their “emotional armor” when they go to work.

When a local law enforcement officer (LEO) goes to work, he (or she) puts on body armor to protect themselves from assault.  The body armor is a barrier in case of physical assault.

The streets increasingly can be an unsafe place to work.

At the same time, whether they acknowledge it or not, they put on their emotional armor. A LEO, during the course of a shift, witnesses many situations which, all would agree, could easily be characterized as emotionally jarring.  As the LEO must maintain a certain amount of objectivity, or emotional distance, in order to be effective in handling the situation which exists, emotional armor enables him to be involved without getting overwhelmed. The emotional armor is a barrier to emotional assault.

The streets increasingly can be a messy place to work.

There is, however, a balance.  Too much emotional armor and the LEO comes across as cold and uncaring.  Too little emotional armor and the LEO takes things too personally and may act out aggressively or gets too involved and can’t make important decisions.

It is, at best, very difficult to suppress all feelings.  It may, in fact, be impossible.  The hero is not the person who feels no anger, anxiety or fear. Rather, the hero experiences these emotions and takes appropriate action any way.

We have seen many instances in which a LEO acts very aggressively against a citizen and what we see in the video seems totally inappropriate. Sometimes, on later review, we find that the LEO acted within his training and policy and we just didn’t have the whole “picture”.  In these cases, the emotional armor worked. At other times, later reviews confirm that the LEO gave in to the emotions of the moment and acted way out of line given the situation. Typically, it is the often misunderstood emotion of anger that is involved. In these cases, the emotional armor didn’t work at all.

There is another situation in which one’s emotional armor must be taken into consideration. This is when the LEO goes home to a spouse and kids after a shift.

When the shift is over, the LEO removes his body armor. It is no longer needed.

He, however, may forget to take off his emotional armor.  If this is the case, he goes home and his spouse and kids, understandably, want him to be husband and dad and, because he is still emotionally armored, he isn’t ready to switch roles from LEO to lover or loving dad. Under these circumstances, he may overreact and yell at the kids or push them away and give them the impression that they have done something wrong.

A possible solution is for the LEO to take whatever time is necessary to decompress from, and leave work at, work.  Knowing that this time is often (not always) necessary, the LEO can teach his spouse and kids to give him this space without their feeling that he is insensitive and, when he is ready, he can become lover and loving.

Please share this post with a LEO if you think it would be helpful.

And, share your comments with me.




“Why do misunderstandings make others angrier?”

This is a question that someone asked me on

There are two reasons why this is an important question to discuss.

On the one hand, it addresses what probably is a very common source of angry reactions…misunderstandings.

On the other hand, it clearly perpetuates an anger myth which both wrongly depicts how anger works, and shifts the responsibility for anger away from the person getting angry.

I should point out that the person who asked this question was most likely just curious about wanting an answer, innocently posted the question, and, along with most people, had no clue either about how anger works or about the existence of disempowering anger myths. So, please do not misinterpret my response as a criticism of the questioner. This is not my intent.

Anger and Misunderstandings

I have, in other posts on this blog, spoken about how anger is one of six primary emotions that have existed in “man” for eons. Four of these primary emotions, including anger, are primitive threat detectors the function of which is to alert us to perceived threats in our surroundings and subconsciously prepare our bodies to deal with the threat and insure our survival.

Your anger is a threat detecting tool.

Your anger tells you that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate by throwing enough force at it. Anger prepares you for battle.

A misunderstanding is defined by as:

 To take (words, statements, etc.) in a wrong sense; understand wrongly.

When it comes to anger and misunderstandings, there are two issues:

  • What we have actually done or said
  • How the other person perceives or gives meaning to what we did or said.

It is the failure to keep these two issues separate that results in the escalation of anger when misunderstandings occur.

This is how the process works.

You do (or say) something that another person perceives as a threat to their goals, values, self-image, or “survival”.

In other words, the person interacting with, and getting angry at, you believes what you have done or said is “wrong” (for a variety of different reasons). If they do not attempt to validate the situation and their anger, as happens when anger is mastered, they “go” with their opinion and their perception, logic is suspended and the interaction deteriorates.

You, in the same self-preserving approach that they are using, see your actions as valid, view their “aggressive” stance as a threat, get angry, and escalate the interaction.

This is not to say that what you have done is objectively wrong  (as seen by an unbiased observer). Rather, it is subjectively wrong as defined by the other person.

This is an important distinction.

You may have done nothing wrong (what you did) and the other person misperceived or misinterpreted (their perception) your actions based on their own psychological state at the time, the situation or surroundings in which the actions occurred, or some other, unknown, set of circumstances.

That a “misunderstanding” occurred means, by definition, that no wrong was done. If this is never questioned, the anger intensifies on both your part and theirs.

Now to the myth.

I discuss three anger myths in my Amazon bestselling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool.

One of these myths is that our anger controls us. It is a myth because it isn’t true.

When the writer on Quora asked about how (misunderstandings) MAKE (emphasis added) others angry, he implied that something outside of the other person had the power to control them and to cause (read force) them to get angry without their permission. This is the anger myth. If this were true, which is is not, the other person would be a robot and would not be responsible for anything they do when they get angry.

By the same token, the myth implies that you, if you get angry, are also a robot with no control over yourself or your emotions.

This myth is widely believed.

We see the impact of it when a celebrity or athlete beats up his girlfriend, does something really stupid, or makes a fool of himself and says, “My anger made me do it.” Another example is the spousal abuser who tells his spouse, “ If you hadn’t done (whatever), I would not have gotten angry and (hurt you).”

In both of these examples, the aggressor takes no personal responsibility for the actions taken and blames the other person for causing both the anger and the aggression.

In fact, all of us are responsible both for the anger we feel and the actions we take when angry. While it is true that the aggressor would not have done what they did if they were not angry, the anger did not force them to hurt another person (other options exist) and the aggressor could have decided to change their perception and not get angry.

By the way, I have addressed how to deal with another person who directs their anger at you in a series of three posts entitled: You are the target of someone’s anger.  Part 1 is archived in February 2017 and parts 2 and 3 are archived in March 2017.

So, the initial question has now been addressed in terms of the process underlying the connection between anger and misunderstandings and the myth that the misunderstanding makes the other person angry.

I welcome your comments.