With election season upon us, Lee Hartley Carter, president of Maslansky + Partners, a language strategy firm, and the author of Persuasion: Convincing Others When Facts Don’t Seem to Matter (TarcherPerigee, 2019), offers insight into the way language persuades the unconvinced.
Americans of Muslim Faith
We’ll go to the doctor when we feel flu-ish or a nagging pain. So why don’t we see a health professional when we feel emotional pain: guilt, loss, loneliness? Too many of us deal with common psychological-health issues on our own, says Guy Winch. But we don’t have to. He makes a compelling case to practice emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies.
It feels like emotions just come at us, and there is nothing we can do. But we might have it backwards. We look at an unusual legal case and examine a provocative new theory about emotions.
A thief knocks down your door and you are flooded with fear. Your baby smiles up at you and you are filled with love. It feels like this is how emotions work: something happens, and we instinctively respond. How could it be any other way? Well, the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows that’s not in fact how emotions work. We offer you a truly mind-blowing alternative explanation for how an emotion gets made. And we do it through a bizarre lawsuit, in which a child dies, and the child’s parents are the ones who get sued by an uninjured bystander. In part two we track an anthropologist’s discovery of a new emotion, and the personal tragedy which allows him to finally feel it. And we talk to a woman whose overwhelming emotions cause her to do one of the worst things you can do on a date – something that virtually guarantees date failure.
When men get angry, their power grows. When women do, it shrinks.
.. While parents talk to girls about emotions more than they do to boys, anger is excluded. Reflect with me for a moment: How did you first learn to think about emotions, and anger in particular?
.. My mother may have been livid, but she gave every appearance of being cheerful and happy. By staying silent and choosing this particular outlet for her feelings, she communicated a trove of information: for example, that anger was experienced in isolation and was not worth sharing verbally with others. That furious feelings are best kept to oneself. That when they do inevitably come out, the results can be scary, shocking, and destructive.
.. My mother was acting in a way that remains typical for many women: She was getting her anger “out,” but in a way that explicitly separated it from her relationships. Most women report feeling the angriest in private and interpersonal settings.
.. While we experience anger internally, it is mediated culturally and externally by other people’s expectations and social prohibitions.
.. in some cultures anger is a way to vent frustration, but in others it is more for exerting authority.
.. In the United States, anger in white men is often portrayed as justifiable and patriotic, but in black men as criminality, and in black women as threat. In the Western world, anger in women has been widely associated with “madness.”
.. At home, children still learn quickly that for boys and men, anger reinforces traditional gender expectations, but that for girls and women, anger confounds them.
.. It’s as children that most of us learn to regard anger as unfeminine, unattractive, and selfish.
.. Many of us are taught that our anger will be an imposition on others, making us irksome and unlikeable. That it will alienate our loved ones or put off people we want to attract. That it will twist our faces, make us ugly. This is true even for those of us who have to use anger to defend ourselves in charged and dangerous situations. As girls, we are not taught to acknowledge or manage our anger so much as fear, ignore, hide, and transform it.
.. There is not a woman alive who does not understand that women’s anger is openly reviled.
.. They want to know how to stand up for themselves “without sounding angry or bitter,”
.. told we are “crazy,” “irrational,” even “demonic.”
.. Our society is infinitely creative in finding ways to dismiss and pathologize women’s rage.
.. When a woman shows anger in institutional, political, and professional settings, she automatically violates gender norms. She is met with aversion, perceived as more hostile, irritable, less competent, and unlikable
.. The same people who might opt to work for an angry-sounding, aggressive man are likely to be less tolerant of the same behavior if the boss were a woman.
.. When a man becomes angry in an argument or debate, people are more likely to abandon their own positions and defer to his. But when a woman acts the same way, she’s likely to elicit the opposite response.
.. Black girls and women, for example, routinely silenced by “angry black woman” stereotypes, have to contend with abiding dangers of institutionalized violence that might result from their expressing justifiable rage.
.. men, as studies find, consider anger to be power enhancing in a way that women don’t. For men, anger is far more likely to be power enhancing.
.. Anger has a bad rap, but it is actually one of the most hopeful and forward thinking of all our emotions. It begets transformation, manifesting our passion and keeping us invested in the world. It is a rational and emotional response to trespass, violation, and moral disorder..
.. It bridges the divide between what is and what ought to be
.. By effectively severing anger from “good womanhood,” we choose to sever girls and women from the emotion that best protects us against danger and injustice.
.. I am still constantly being reminded that it’s “better” if women didn’t “seem so angry.” What does “better” mean, exactly? And why does it fall so disproportionately on the shoulders of women to be “better” by putting aside anger in order to “understand” and to forgive and forget? Does it make us “good” people? Is it healthy? Does it enable us to protect our interests, bring change to struggling communities, or upend failing systems?
.. Mainly, it props up a profoundly corrupt status quo.
.. It took me too long to realize that the people most inclined to say “You sound angry” are the same people who uniformly don’t care to ask “Why?”
.. They’re interested in silence, not dialogue.
.. A society that does not respect women’s anger is one that does not respect women, not as human beings, thinkers, knowers, active participants, or citizens. Women around the world are clearly angry and acting on that emotion. That means, inevitably, that a backlash is in full swing, most typically among “moderates” who are fond of disparaging angry women as dangerous and unhinged.
.. It is easier to criticize the angry women than to ask the questions “What is making you so angry?” and “What can we do about it?” — the answers to which have disruptive and revolutionary implications.