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<xTITLE>The Real Message Anger is Trying to Deliver</xTITLE>

The Real Message Anger is Trying to Deliver

by Tammy Lenski
September 2016

Conflict Zen Blog by Tammy Lenski

Tammy Lenski

On the first day of high school journalism class, Nora Ephron’s teacher taught the class how to write a lede. He began with a set of facts:

“Kenneth L. Peters, principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the faculty of the high school will travel to Sacramento on Thursday for a colloquium on new teaching methods. Speaking there will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, educator Robert Maynard Hutchins, and several others.”

Then Mr. Simms asked the students to write the lede for a news story based on those facts. The lede (or lead), considered an important part of a news story, is meant to catch the reader’s interest and draw them into reading the rest of the story. It should convey the main point of the story very concisely.

“Burying the lede” means to begin a story with secondary details and postpone the important points for later in the story. It’s considered poor journalistic form because it can cause the reader to lose interest.

Ephron and her classmates all typed away, constructing ledes. They handed in their attempts, which relayed more or less what the teacher had dictated, many in the reverse order — “Margaret Mead and Robert Maynard Hutchins will address the faculty…”

Mr. Simms smiled. “The lead to the story is,” he said, “There will be no school Thursday.”

Don’t bury anger’s lede

When we experience our own anger during conflict, it can swamp us and hijack us, embarrass and humble us. It can also make us feel powerful and strong in the moment.

When we experience someone else’s anger, it can startle and frighten us, intimidate and coerce us. It can also jolt our own anger awake, as we push back with our equivalent power and force.

I am asked by clients and mediation colleagues alike, How can I handle anger better during conflict resolution conversations? Often, the questioner is seeking help for managing the behavior, because anger’s behaviors can be unpleasant, even unacceptable.

My answer is this: Don’t bury anger’s lede.

Most times, the main point of anger’s story is not loss of control or unacceptable behavior, the need for better techniques or anger management tools. Any of these may be true, but they miss the main point. We’ve buried the lede.

The main point of anger’s story is that something important isn’t being heard or understood yet. Anger is its frustrated messenger. Understand the anger’s real message and the messenger can leave. [click to tweet this]

Most times, the lede is, There is a message struggling to be heard.


Dr. Tammy Lenski helps people resolve conflict in ongoing business and personal relationships and bring their "A" game to difficult conversations. Since founding her NH-based conflict resolution firm Myriaccord LLC in 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide as a master mediator, executive coach, speaker, and educator. Author of the award-winning book, Making Mediation Your Day Job, she recently received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett award for innovative and pioneering work in her field. Her second book, The Conflict Pivot, was released in 2014.


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