Don’t Get Angry, Get Creative

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.  

                                                        – Ghandi

For all the strides women have made in the workplace over the past 50 years, dual standards still exist that cause roadblocks to career success.

Meghan Casserly’s article on Forbes.com called The Bitching Point highlights the bind that assertive women often find themselves in: act with too much authority and you’re given the ignominious B-word label; not enough and you’re deemed unsuitable leadership material.

Yes, these double standards tick women off. In fact, if we let it, our anger could really get in the way of progress. 

Lucky for us though, it doesn’t. 

Historically, women have not had access to many of the societal levers of power— land ownership, voting rights, marital equality and so on.  Therefore we’ve had centuries of practice in learning to creatively overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of our goals. That history works in our favor, according to Yale psychology professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema.  Nolen-Hoeksema is the author of The Power of Women and she has uncovered an interesting differentiator in the way that men and women handle anger. 

Women don’t get mad. They get creative.

Well, actually, of course women get mad. But it’s what they do with the anger that sets them up for handling obstacles in a uniquely female way. Dr. Nolen-Hoeksema cites research in which men and women were asked to recall and write about a personal experience that made them angry. Similar percentages of both genders were able to easily write a brief synopsis of the event that elicited anger. Then, the participants in the studies were given a choice: choose to continue writing about the event, or move to a new task. Nearly twice as many women as men chose to move on to a new activity. 

The researchers concluded that while both genders are equally predisposed to experience the emotion of anger, women were able to move to problem-solving more quickly than their male counterparts, choosing to focus on overcoming the obstacle rather than seeking some sort of resolution or retribution.

Dr. Nolen-Hoeksema sees this ability to focus on solutions rather than retribution as part of a larger skill set of “mental strength,” which allows a woman be “very creative in finding solutions, focusing on getting things done, not just on doing things their way.”  This creativity is what propels us forward, helps us manage the still-present double standards that impede our acceptance as true leaders in the workplace.

For all the women out there still struggling with those dual standards, take heart. Your sisters before you coped and you can too. The next time you’re feeling ticked at an inequity, acknowledge your anger and then, use it as a catalyst to help you devise a creative solution that will propel you towards your goals.

Photo credit iStock Photo

About the Author

Jennifer Miller

For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferVMiller.

3 Comments

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Don T Get Angry Get Creative…

[…]Similar percentages of both genders were able to easily write a brief synopsis of the event that elicited anger.[…]…

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Ruth

I wonder if it’s time to declare that men and women really are different? They are still socialised differently. Girls take up 60 times less space in the playground than their male counterparts. Is it time to start recognising qualities rather than gender? Passion rather than apathy? Dysfunction rather than anger? Get in touch with your passions, discover your heart and the gender ‘inequalities’ cease to be uppermost in our minds.

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