Get a Good Mad Going – It Might Be Good For You

Following is a chapter in my forthcoming non-fiction book That Th!nk You Do. The book is based on a series of blog posts I wrote back in the mid-to-late-2000s for a California-based company. The editor at my new publishing house found the posts and thought they would make an excellent series of books. The posts/chapters are based on my research in a variety of fields – neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, … – and were quite popular in their day.

You’re about to enter a meeting and you’ve been warned you’re going to be challenged…a lot.

Is it better

  • to seek a quiet place, to calm yourself, to find your center and go into the meeting relaxed or
  • to focus on the idea of being challenged, being put on the spot, possibly being singled out in front of your peers?

Based on studies performed in Boston and elsewhere, it’s better to enter confrontational situations a little hot under the collar. Just so we’re clear on things, I’m not suggesting you go in armed for bear and looking to take no prisoners, nothing of the sort.

That offered, chances are you’ll come out of the meeting or situation better if you go in with your blood up. The reasons are (evolutionary-wise) simple. Knowing a confrontation or some unpleasantness will take place gives your mind and body an evolutionary advantage, the “fight” aspect of what used to be called the flight-or-fight response. Just knowing a challenge is looming causes changes to your body chemistry, especially your neural chemistry. You go from prey to predator mode and your body adjusts itself without your realizing it’s doing so. Your movements, your voice, your expressions, even your irises start giving off “Keep your distance, bucko!” signals that other people, equally without realizing it, pick up and respond to.

Walk Like a … Predator

Long ago I taught women’s self-defense and there was very little combat technique involved. What I did teach them was how to walk like a predator – on their toes – without obviously walking on their toes. Why walk like a predator? Because when you’re giving off “predator” signals it’s very difficult for others to consider you prey.

In addition to toe-walking, keep your eyes forward, and look from side to side by moving your whole head. Tilt your head slightly forward (and keep your neck straight up from your shoulders). Blink as seldom as possible and open your eyes wide without being obvious about it. Walk with your hands empty and open, palms towards your body, elbows just slightly bent. Match your breathing to your movements and remember to relax.

Synchronize your large body movements – swinging the arms and legs – so that your motion is both smooth and effortless (this is good regardless as any Alexander or Feldenkrais practitioner will tell you). Predators conserve energy until they need it and this style of walking shows that conservation in action.

The kicker is flaring your nostrils. Really. Flared nostrils are one of the most primitive aggression displays humans possess. The next time you’re being bothered by someone – in a meeting, in conversation, on the subway or something – stare at them, don’t blink, and flare your nostrils. Not obviously so, just enough. They’ll excuse themselves or find someone else to harass without knowing why they want to get away. At the very least they’ll ask if everything’s okay without knowing what they’re really asking about.

Next time we’re at a conference together ask me to demonstrate it for you. When you know what I’m doing it’s pretty funny to watch.

I would appreciate both your comments below and hearing from you as I am seeking testimonials, endorsements, reviews, back cover copy, etc., to help promote my book following release. Please reach out to me directly if you’re interested in receiving an Advance Readers’ Copy.

Thank you!



Joseph Carrabis
Joseph Carrabis
Joseph Carrabis has been everything from a long-haul trucker to a Chief Research Scientist and holds patents covering mathematics, anthropology, neuroscience, and linguistics. He served as Senior Research Fellow and Board Advisor to the Society for New Communications Research and The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future; Editorial Board Member on the Journal of Cultural Marketing Strategy; Advisory Board Member to the Center for Multicultural Science; Director of Predictive Analytics, Center for Adaptive Solutions; served on the UN/NYAS Scientists Without Borders program; and was selected as an International Ambassador for Psychological Science in 2010. He created a technology in his basement that's in use in over 120 countries. Now he spends his time writing fiction based on his experiences.

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  1. The proposed suggestion is very interesting and can be taken into consideration especially when it is known that conflicting elements will make the discussion not easy.
    However, I believe that the basis of a “healthy” comparison consists of a few fundamental points: – knowing oneself: we are not all fantastic speakers, we do not all have a mild character, we are not all geniuses capable of formulating a thought while listening to it another – to know who is in front of us: is he susceptible? Does he like to listen or talk? Do you prefer to listen to solutions or propose them? – look for a point of understanding that creates empathy – always be sincere: it is useless to pretend to be someone else or hide behind an easy “okay” and then dwell on it for weeks – carefully evaluate how important the Topic of the discussion is for the participants at the meeting: one of the most common mistakes is precisely underestimating how much our interlocutors care about that particular issue.”