The Upside of Anger

By PON Staffon / Daily, Negotiation Skills

Adapted from “Will Your Emotions Get the Upper Hand?” first published in the Negotiation newsletter.

Angry individuals approach situations with confidence, a sense of control, and negative thoughts about others. In negotiation, these tendencies can trigger overconfidence, unrealistic optimism, and aggression, yet they buffer decision makers from indecision, risk aversion, and overanalysis, write professors Jennifer Lerner of the Harvard Kennedy School and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University. In addition, anger can motivate us to stand up for ourselves and others in the face of injustice.

Given these different patterns, Lerner and Tiedens raise the interesting question of whether anger, despite being widely regarded as a negative emotion, can be considered a positive force in some instances. They theorize that we experience anger as relatively unpleasant and unrewarding when we reflect back on its source. However, we tend to experience anger as pleasant when looking forward, as when we anticipate the misfortune of others.

A unique emotion, anger can’t be clustered with other negative feelings when making predictions about judgments and decisions, conclude Lerner and Tiedens. The complexity of anger highlights the importance of thinking carefully about how to prepare for its impact on your negotiation decisions and the decisions of others.