Keeping Calm: Don't Lose Face

I got angry and swore and shouted during a business meeting recently, when I felt someone was doing a poor job. Ultimately this reflected poorly on me, not the other party. I should not have done it, and will strive to do better in future.

When I stub my toe, I swear and shout a bit, and I feel better. This isn’t just me - swearing has a hypoalgesic effect:

Research into the hypoalgesic effect of swearing has shown that the use of profanity can help reduce the sensation of pain. This phenomenon is particularly strong in people who do not use such words on a regular basis.

But swearing and shouting doesn’t always make us feel better. It can make us feel worse. In Chinese culture, it is considered a loss of face to get angry:

It’s relatively easy to lose face in China. You lose face when you lose your temper. You also lose face when you make a mistake or do something that makes you look foolish in front of others.

Depending on the situation, both parties may lose face if a shouting argument erupts. While Western business culture is more tolerant of dissent, it is still a poor look when you swear and stamp your feet. It shows a lack of professionalism.

I also find that if I’m reacting from a defensive or angry place my thinking lacks clarity. There are different schools of thought on this, but I find that I will later regret what I said, and be disappointed with the way I expressed myself.

You might get what you want this time, but you will lose influence over time. Next time you get angry, people will be less likely to respond. Keep doing it, and people will stop engaging with you, and start ignoring you. Do it long enough, and you will be completely isolated.

So I will do my best to not let it happen again. I will not let myself be drawn into an aggressive argument, or react out of anger. I will either respond calmly, or not at all.

And hey - it’s only work. There are far more important things in this life.