When things go wrong and you feel someone has done something to you to cause that, you may feel eager to tell that person off -- whether in person, on the phone, or in an email. But when you still feel very angry and vengeful, such a response can often make things worse -- much like what happens with road rage. Someone does something stupid on the road, such as cutting you off, and you get ready to yell out, give the driver the finger, or even get out of your car and tell him or her off. Well, you know how that sometimes ends, with the person who originally felt the victim not being heard and understood but even being further victimized -- from getting their car smashed to getting beaten up or even dead.
It works the same way when you feel angry about something someone has done to you. It could be anything, from not showing you the appropriate respect at a meeting or insulting your work to unfairly grabbing a job you expected to get to not paying you for hard work you have done for them. Whatever it is, you are feeling highly incensed.
So what do you do with that anger? And how can you turn that anger into something beneficial for you? I had that experience when I did some editing work for a publisher who didn't give me some early feedback, asked me to continue working on the project, stopped the job halfway through, and then refused to pay me, because the job he stopped wasn't completed. After I described the experience to several other writers, I discovered that this publisher had a long history of problems with writers and professionals in the field, including suing a few individuals and organizations for complaining about the quality of its publications.
Armed with that information, I felt ready to blast off a letter to the publisher not only asking for payment, but pointing out how I was onto the company's bad behavior and stating that as a result I was glad the publisher had cancelled an agreement for me to work on a book together, because I didn't want my name associated with that publisher any longer given what I had learned. But should I actually send that letter? The answer came back loud and clear from other writers and a website owner who publishes a list of publishers and agents behaving badly. Such a letter would probably not only not get me paid, but it would upset the publisher with a penchant for suing and attacking others even more. So sending such a letter would be much like sticking one's hand in the proverbial hornet's nest -- a sure way to rile up the hornets and get bitten. Instead, one writer urged: Just explain why you are owed the money. Just send a few bills for the amount due, said the other. And don't expect that you will eventually get paid, they both said.
In short, the message was to respond graciously, without any expectation of results, and move on. And certainly, that was the most sensible thing to do.
But what about the feelings of anger and betrayal I felt? That's where writing a letter to the person you feel wronged by come in. In fact, psychologists and therapists sometimes recommend this approach to their patients. For example, that's an approach recommended on the All Women's Talk website, which suggests that a woman angered by her ex should:
... sit down by yourself without any distractions and write a letter to your ex. It's important to get all your feelings out on paper and maybe even pretend that you're going to send it when you finish writing. An unsent letter allows you to reach internal closure regardless of whether or not you ever receive external closure.
As another example, Lori Day, an educational psychologist, in a HuffPost blog, suggests writing down your feelings in a Word document and reviewing it in the morning, so you give yourself some time to "come to your senses."
So writing down your thoughts and feelings is a good first step to release your anger. Then I would suggest a few additional steps to turn something bad that happened into something good -- the lemons into lemonade approach. And as a writer, you can do even more to profit from this bad experience. Here are some other things you can do.
-- Realize that if you were badly treated, many other individuals might have been, too. So start an Internet search by the company's name or by the name of the leaders of that company. You may find there is already a wealth of information about what the company has done to harm others, and you can use that to help inform others about this company's bad behavior.
-- Write about what happened to you in an article or blog, though don't use any names, so you don't get into legal trouble.
-- Find out from others in your community if others have been victimized; if so, there's strength in numbers, and you can pass this information on or maybe pursue some remedy together.
-- Post information about this company to the owner of a website that provides warnings about bad behavior by such companies on a website to warn others, such as Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware for writers.
-- And possibly you might find inspiration in what happened to write a novel or non-fiction book about the issue, which you can then sell to a publisher or publish yourself.
In short, don't just get angry and direct your anger at the individual or company who "done you wrong." Instead, try writing out your feelings to release your anger. Then, see how you can turn your anger into something productive from informing others to getting justice or even getting paid for what you do as a result of the experience.
Gini Graham Scott, PhD, writes frequently about social trends and everyday life. She is the author of over 50 books with major publishers and has published 30 books through her company Changemakers Publishing and Writing. She writes books and proposals for clients and has written and produced over 50 short videos through Changemakers Productions. Her latest books include: TRANSFORMATION: HOW NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY ARE CHANGING YOUR LIFE and THE BATTLE AGAINST INTERNET BOOK PIRACY.