Everyone is periodically faced with an angry person, and can be challenging to deal with. I’d like to share a few ideas in how to react to another’s anger, whether it’s a spouse, friend, or even a stranger. Some of these will also apply if you are angry yourself, which of course is something to avoid in the first place.
Listen – Let the person vent a little, and get their words and feelings out. If you interrupt them too quickly to defend yourself, it’s going to just make things worse. Wait for them to finish or for a pause. Being a good listener is an important skill in many other situations also. A good technique for listening is to ask questions. It not only helps you understand them better, but shows them you truly care to understand.
Stay Calm – Don’t go into anger mode yourself, it just compounds the situation. Just remind yourself that anger is unlikely to accomplish anything good, so why do it.
Validate – Validate their anger, do not just dismiss their emotions just because you feel it’s unjustified. The fact is that they feel this way, and you will help the situation by accepting and acknowledging the way they feel. Let them know this with phrases such as “I see that you’re really upset with me and am sorry this had to happen”.
Take Responsibility – Don’t let you ego assume that you are totally without fault in their anger. You may not be fully aware of how you come across or what you did. Just accept that your actions could have been responsible, regardless of whether the actions were justified. Find things that you can freely admit you were in error about, and this may help resolve the other person’s anger.
Time-Out – If possible, take a time-out, and let the other person cool down. Trying to debate the situation immediately will often make it worse. Give ti some time to settle down, and then discuss it if necessary. People will require different amounts of time to release their initial anger, so be adaptive to their needs.
Agree to Disagree – Sometimes you’re not going to ever decide that someone was right or wrong, and the debate can go on endlessly with each party trying to convince the other. In these cases, it’s best to just acknowledge that you each have different options, and leave it at that. We don’t always have to agree on things. Just “Agree to Disagree” then change the subject and move on to something else quickly. If you can find a win/win solution to the issue that’s great, however it’s not always possible.
Keep Perspective – Keep things in perspective, and ask yourself how important the topic of the argument really is in the big picture. It’s so easy to get into a huge argument over what is a trivial thing, and the debate becomes more a personal issue of proving something which really doesn’t matter. Be willing to just let it go.
Release the Anger – If you’re holding a lot of anger yourself, find a good way to release it. What works best will be different for each of us, but some ideas include: talking a walk, go for a bike ride, play a video game, work in the garden, phone a friend, go shopping, take a bath, or anything that will take your mind off it. Time is a great healer.
Avoid Violence – Never use physical violence against another in anger, if you are doing this you should seek professional help before you hurt someone. If you are the recipient of violent anger, then you need to physically get away from that person, as quick as you can.
With anyone you spend a lot of time with, you should work together towards ending anger. Make a pact to try to avoid this emotion which does your relationship no good. If you can both become better listeners, it will go a long ways towards reducing anger, because people will know they can count on you to listen to them. Anger will otherwise become their tool to get your attention.