Building on Andrea’s post on teaching the Kavanaugh hearings, I am thinking about whether and how to teach my negotiation students about strategic uses of anger. Obviously such a discussion raises interesting questions around whether and how certain groups are able to display anger, and to whom. (It’s not true that all men can act angry. Only certain men can get away with acting angry.)
It would be good to consider whether there are articulable ethical limits to performative/strategic displays of anger, which in turn would implicate the question that I find so frustrating here — we may advise our students against intemperate displays of anger, especially if they undermine credibility or destroy relationships, but what if those displays appear to work? Put in concrete terms, even if Kavanaugh’s behavior during the hearings has damaged his credibility as an impartial jurist and upset some of his personal/professional relationships, what difference does that make if he ends up on the Supreme Court?
As we’ve all read, apparently President Trump and many Republicans were thrilled by Kavanaugh’s anger. Expected reactions from those in power are obviously relevant to negotiation strategy, so Kavanaugh’s angry behavior was not irrational. It will be interesting to see, over the next few days with the investigation and the nomination, whether the rational choice to appear absolutely outraged paid off (and then to consider, longer term, what that means).