Why People Are So Angry This Election Cycle

First – let me state clearly, this blog is not about MY personal political views or degrading or uplifting any politician. This is about understanding humans (integrating my own learnings on human behavior based on research & experience) and about why this specific presidential transition and election period has been so full of anger, Facebook wars, and aggression towards the opposition.

Anger is a VERY important emotion. It tells us when something is a threat or violates our values or our sense of safety. During the most recent election/inauguration, many people felt like their sense of safety and values were threatened on both sides and so, anger was a natural response. But if we really get to the heart of this anger, we will find a much more vulnerable emotion that can be hard for people to talk about — fear.

Many people are afraid they are in the hands of a leader that is unsafe while others are defending themselves for supporting the leader they felt was more safe. Emotional safety is highly important to all of us, and we gauge the people around us all the time for safety without even thinking about it. When it comes to who will be president, our desire for a safe and trustworthy leader heightens all the more.

During the election and into the inauguration many people feared that candidates on both sides were untrustworthy, unsafe, and would lead our country to doom.

But why are we so afraid?  And what makes us feel more safe?

Brene Brown, a research professor specializing the study of shame and vulnerability, outlines the traits of safe people with the acronym BRAVING. The more someone possesses these traits, the more trustworthy and safe they are.

As you read through the following, I challenge you to think about both sides of candidates — which traits did each possess? Which traits were they missing?

B- Boundaries. Do they set healthy boundaries, communicate them clearly, and respect the boundaries of others? Do they listen when people say no, or tell them they need space?

A trustworthy leader knows when to set boundaries and defines them in a clear, respectful way. They also respect the boundaries of others.

R- Reliability. Do they do what they say they will? Are they clear on their limitations so they don’t overcommit? Do they consistently follow through with their words?

A trustworthy leader knows their limitations, and commits to things that they can and will do over and over again. They do what they say they will.

A- Accountability. When they make a mistake (as all humans will) do they own their mistakes? Do they apologize and make amends? Do they hold grace for those who apologize to them for their wrongdoings?

A trustworthy leader owns their mistakes and let’s others have grace for the mistakes they own.

V- Vault. What you share with them in confidence will be kept in confidence. When they hear a rumor, they will not spread it and instead go directly to the source. Being a vault means that they don’t engage in gossip.

A trustworthy leader focuses on what they know, and doesn’t participate in gossip or spreading information that people tell them in confidence. They hold private information in privacy.

I- Integrity. Do they act from a place of integrity? Are they the same person they claim to be in multiple settings?

A trustworthy leader leads from a place of authenticity even when the people surrounding them disagree with their values. They lead by practicing their values even when it is hard, unpopular, and they don’t change what they say based on who they are around. They are the opposite of chameleons.

N- Non-judgment. When people need help, do they help them without judgment (but not without boundaries)? Do they try to uplift people  and help them find their strengths even when they are struggling? Do they empathize with those who are struggling?

A trustworthy leader, helps people become better without judging them for where they are. They help people find their strengths and have empathy for the struggles people face.

G- Generosity. Do they assume the most generous thing about people’s words or actions when someones does mess up or hurt them? After this assumption, do they check-in to see what’s going on with that person first hand?

Trustworthy leaders assume the best about people’s intentions and actions until they know otherwise vs. assuming the worst. They take a stance of generosity on people, and when they are being hurtful set the appropriate boundaries and consequences.

Based on the anger from both those on the left and right, you can see how most people believe neither Trump nor Clinton possessed all of these traits. For their strengths, let us be grateful. For their weaknesses, let us be understanding as to why people are afraid, angry, and resistant.

It’s scary to put our trust in a person to lead our country. Many of us ask ourselves, “Will this person have me and my loved one’s best interests at heart? Can we trust that they will do what is best for our country?”

It’s hard to know. And it makes sense that when they don’t possess all or most of these traits, we will have our doubts and instinctively be fearful. And when humans act from a place of fear, it often comes out the other end as anger, isolation, or withdrawal.

What can we do with this fear instead of getting angry?

We can talk about it in a way that identifies our fears instead of pointing fingers at others. We can take action by writing others or donating to causes that will defend the things we are afraid of losing. We can empathize with those who respond in anger and ask them how we can help them feel more safe if they disagree with the candidate we support. We can accept and support our candidate in growing in the areas he is lacking trustworthiness and become better leaders to those around us by working on our own trustworthiness.

I hope this helps us all remember that fear is a powerful motivator, but usually leads us to act in ways that are unkind, unsafe, and opposite of our true intentions. Let us recognize our fears, but not react to them — and instead take positive and encouraging action with it. Let us empathize with those who are struggling with their fear and anger. We are all human after all.

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