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Angry African American woman using computer.

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Passion and anger are often confused in the workplace. For instance, you left the meeting feeling you’d stood your ground during the key decision-making process of a tense brainstorming meeting. Your coworkers saw a fire-breathing dragon ready to cremate anyone who dared to get in her way.

Here’s how your actions could be presenting you as the “Angry Black Woman” versus the thought leader making power moves.

Facial expressions

Many women have trouble concealing true feelings when they’re unable to control their facial expressions. You hear something bizarre and immediately launch into the head tilt, twisted face look before you know it. In reality, you’re simply trying to process the information to make sense of it, but others assume you have an attitude. Non-verbal cues help others gauge whether it’s safe to approach or engage with you. It is no secret black women are characterized as sassy, outspoken and opinionated – although we’re actually just animated, passionate, boisterous or exuberant about the things we care about most. If you show your thoughts and feelings on your face, check yourself!

Hand gestures

It’s very annoying when others mock black women by using overzealous hand gestures, lip popping and neck rolling. However, this has been the stereotype for many years. Most can admit that we may partake in a handclap or two when getting a point across, but there’s a stark contrast in how this is interpreted in the workplace versus among friends. A male counterpart is simply frustrated when fist-pounding every syllable at the roundtable. A black woman is deemed angry for using her index finger to tap on last month’s report of plummeting sales numbers. Being mindful of perception and removing aggressive hand gestures such as pointing during conversations will help black women deviate from an inaccurate interpretation of their views and feelings.

Tone of voice

It’s not what you say but how you say it. Well, it’s also the tone associated with it. You can say, “no” six different ways and it can have different meanings based on tone. On one hand you’ve plainly answered a question and on the other, your coworker felt you were being short or rude. If your voice carries, focus on speaking slower and softer. Rapid speech is often misinterpreted as “going off” when it’s just a normal rhythm for you. Smiles can be seen and heard. Making that simple adjustment when speaking can improve the outcomes of difficult discussions tremendously. It’s hard to say something in an angry tone when smiling – much like frowning while enjoying an ice cream cone.

Every black woman isn’t angry although she has a laundry list of reasons why she should be. You can’t control what others think of you but you can change your attitude and communication style if it affects your pockets.

Ashley Watkins, of Write Step Resumes, LLC, helps job seekers and career changers find the career of their dreams by creating the perfect resume, providing interview preparation and career coaching. She can be found on FacebookTwitterInstagram, Pinterest, or via


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How To Avoid The Dreaded ‘Angry Black Woman’ Perception At Work  was originally published on