Do you remember when President Bill Clinton stated to the TV viewing audience that he didn’t sleep with Monica Lewinsky? How about when President Bush Jr. reacted angrily towards the 9/11 terrorist attack? Is the calm and complacent reaction of President Obama towards the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster still fresh on your mind?
People around the world had different reactions to how those presidents handled crisis and conflict. And, when President Clinton took a confrontational stance against the trade negotiations with Japan in the early 1990’s, you may remember that the Japanese recipients were quite upset and irritated at President Clinton. Why was that?
In some cultures it is unacceptable to react emotionally-particularly angry. Studies have shown that when anger is part of a negotiation process, Asians, both in America as well as abroad don’t react favorably towards the presence of anger. However, Europeans, both in America and abroad, are more likely to make concessions and compromise-reaching a consensus with the other person.
Asians culturally don’t accept anger as being appropriate. They are taught to be socially passive and to not stand firm on their grounds of belief or viewpoint. Even when “allowed” to be angry in the research study, they still had much lower levels of anger and negativity.
Similar studies have been executed on social norms with anger vs. gender. As expected, men are socially allowed to be more angry and aggressive. Women take a social beating and lose job opportunities, romantic endeavors, and financial wagers if they are more prone to anger and confrontation.
In reputable surveys conducted on vast numbers of people, men were actually considered to deserve a higher salary, a better job, better status socially, to be treated better, and considered more competent when they were aggressive and/or angry. No matter what the job position applied for, and what the applicants brought before the interviewer, aggressive men were offered jobs, status, higher wages, and promotions than women with the same behavior.
Interestingly, when women were asked why they were angry, they were given more slack than men. A man, other the other hand, states the same research, perceived the questioning of his anger as hurtful, degrading, and a sign that the perceiver considered them weak.
These studies can help others understand how to relate to people in other cultures, whether in a negotiation process, in a formal relationship, or just in a casual friendship setting. Often accidental misperceptions can occur without knowledge and sensitivity to cultural differences.