How being bad-tempered helps you earn more, live longer

People who are cranky may be better negotiators, decision-makers and cut their risk of having a heart attack Screnngrab

People who are cranky may be better negotiators, decision-makers and cut their risk of having a heart attack Screnngrab

Although self-help books and inspirational quotes may tell you that optimism is key to success, research has found that being bad-tempered can actually work in your favour.

People who are grumpy and cynical can actually earn more, live longer and enjoy a happier marriage. You only have to look at geniuses like Newton and Beethoven, who were known to be extremely short-tempered. Same is true for many in the Silicon Valley, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is famous for his outbursts and insults.

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People who are cranky may be superior negotiators, more discerning decision-makers and cut their risk of having a heart attack. Good moods, on the other hand, can have its disadvantages. They can sap your drive, dim your attention to detail and make you gullible and selfish. Positivity is also known to encourage binge drinking, overeating and unsafe sex.

Researchers believe that anger, sadness and pessimism are feelings that evolved to serve useful functions and to help us thrive.  In 2009, Matthijs Baas from the University of Amsterdam decided to investigate whether there was a link between anger and success. He found that angry volunteers were better at moments of haphazard innovation, or so-called “unstructured” thinking. “Anger really prepares the body to mobilise resources – it tells you that the situation you’re in is bad and gives you an energetic boost to get you out of it,” said Baas.

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The research also suggests that venting your anger is better than keeping it bottled up. In 2010 a team of scientists found anger had no impact – while suppressing it increased the chances of having a heart attack by nearly three-fold. Although it is still not clear why this is so, other studies have supported the findings, suggesting that suppressing anger can lead to chronic high blood pressure.

Anger can also help with negotiating. Research suggests that pulling faces when angry can increase our physical strength in the eyes of our opponent. It can help you advance your interests and increase your status – it’s just an ancient way of bargaining.

In fact, scientists are increasingly recognising that grumpiness may be beneficial to the full range of social skills – improving language skills, memory and making us more persuasive. “Negative moods indicate we’re in a new and challenging situation and call for a more attentive, detailed and observant thinking style,” says Joseph Forgas, who has been studying how emotions affect our behaviour for nearly four decades.

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Further, research has also found that feeling slightly down enhances our awareness of social cues. And it can also lead to you being fairer towards others. “People who are feeling slightly down pay better attention to external social norms and expectations, and so they act in a fairer and just way towards others,” says Forgas.

Happiness prevents us paying due attention to dangers such as binge drinking, overeating and unsafe sex. It functions like a shorthand signal that we’re safe and it’s not necessary to pay too much attention to the environment,” he says.

This article originally appeared on BBC.

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