The Value of Anger

Silke Hansen

CRS Mediator, Denver Office

[Full Interview]

The other thing that I have found and at first, I was surprised, but I've gotten now to where I almost expect it is that when I have those initial meetings with the community, I get a lot of venting. I hear a lot of the anger. To some extent, it is almost directed at me. But I know it isn't really; it's just that I happen to be there at the time, and they're saying, "Well, you're an official, so why can't you fix it?" I can see that there are some very angry, frustrated people there, and I usually say, "Look, I hear the anger, but I want to make sure that you can express that anger to the institution and help them understand why you're angry." Then, when we get to the table, all of that anger has already dissipated to some extent. I can recall at least one case where I actually called a caucus because the community was so calm, and said, "Wait a minute. You were chewing my butt yesterday and you were ranting and raving. What's going on here?" I almost had to remind them of the points that they wanted to bring to the table. Now that they were actually at the table and communicating that was such a big achievement already that the rest of their issues almost didn't matter anymore. My concern wasn't to advocate for the community, but if those issues weren't brought to the table, that would undermine the effectiveness of any agreement. So I thought it was important for an effective agreement to make sure that all of that was on the table.