Anger is contagious

No, caring is contagious – that is a wonderful cliche that I use often.  But, it applies equally to other emotions.  When we are confronted with anger, our initial response is to react with anger.  When we do, it escalates.  When we become inappropriately angry and allow it to show, odds are the person we are communicating with will have the same human response – they will react with anger and the situation will deteriorate.

For attorneys, anger is often our emotional response when we don’t get what we want.  When someone is not listening to us, not agreeing with us, or giving us what we asked for.  When someone is not showing us the respect that we feel we are entitled to.  We need to get over ourselves and realize that anger will not get us whatever it is that we want either.

Sometimes it is hard to control our anger in the courtroom, in the office, anywhere really.  We have a high-stress job and a multitude of small slights and annoyances on top of looming deadlines, demanding clients, office politics and events in our personal life can lead to an explosion at the most inopportune moments.

I’ve been there.  Not lately, but I’ve been there and probably will be there again at some point.  This morning in court I saw an attorney throw his papers down and completely lose his composure -over a small thing, and I really felt for him.  I could relate, and wondered what chain of events led him to feel so out of control at that moment in the courtroom.

Often I’ve had the experience with clerks of court for municipalities who lose it on the phone when I don’t tell them what they want to hear (not pleading a criminal case, usually – why the hell does the clerk of court care?).  I imagine this is a mirror to what they get from attorneys or the general public when the clerk is not telling them what they want to hear.  I’ve been there, too.

Unleashing the angry beast, whether it is in the courtroom, on the telephone, or in the office, makes us look like an asshole at best.  We lose respect and credibility, we hurt others, we don’t get results, and our clients suffer as a result.  We have to step back, act instead of reacting, understand rather than be understood, practice infinite patience, and maintain calm in the eye of the storm.

One Response to “Anger is contagious

  • Bill Luse
    9 years ago

    I could not agree more. Being an attorney is a tough and stressful job and in fighting for a client it is easy to cross the line. However being calm, cool and collected is usually what is best for the client. We should keep in mind that clients are coming to us to handle things legally and not in an unlawful or unprofessional manner.

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