How to control an angry person
Dealing With Angry People - Communication Skills From MindTools.com
What can you do to tame your angry team members?
Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. – Mark Twain, American writer.
How many times have you had to deal with an angry person?
Perhaps a customer was unhappy with a poor delivery, a colleague was annoyed because you were given a project they wanted, or a supplier was upset because of a late payment?
It's easy to get flustered or upset when you're confronted with an angry person – and, if you don't know how to respond, you can easily make the situation worse. However, when you respond calmly and with empathy, you can stay in control, and you can defuse the situation in a professional, courteous way.
In this article, we'll look at several strategies that you can use to deal with angry people.
Why "How to Deal With Angry People" Matters
It's important to know how to deal with angry people for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you can calm them down, so that they don't take any action that harms you or others – either physically or emotionally. In doing this, you can break the emotional "spirals of escalation" that can cause so much harm, and you can move toward solving the underlying problems that have caused the anger.
Secondly, if you respond angrily to someone else's anger, you can easily end up being seen as the aggressor yourself. This is disastrous in a customer-facing role.
Thirdly, by responding well to angry people, you can build positive relationships with them, and experience less stress and unhappiness as a result of dealing with them.
Finally, when you respond calmly to angry episodes, you set a good example for others. Your behavior can inspire the people around you, which can transform a team's ability to deal with anger.
Types of Anger
We all know what normal anger looks like.
However, people can sometimes suppress the visible signs of anger but seethe with fury under the surface. In these cases, anger can be expressed in quite subtle, "passive aggressive" ways.
Passive-aggressive anger is common in the workplace, and signs of it include the following:
- Pretending not to hear or understand requests.
- Avoiding involvement, or acting "distantly."
- Spreading gossip or rumors, or telling hurtful jokes to retaliate.
- Sulking or withdrawing.
- Engaging in self-defeating behaviors, or setting others up for failure.
- Behaving secretively.
- Ignoring others.
- Demonstrating an "angry smile."
Be alert to passive-aggressive behavior, and use these same strategies listed below to help deal with it.
Strategies for Dealing With Angry People
It's useful to know how to calm angry people down. When you can defuse someone's anger, it can enhance your professional reputation and help people who struggle to manage their emotions. Employ the strategies below.
Stay Safe, and Involve Others
If you feel threatened by an angry person, trust your judgment. Leave the room immediately if you feel unsafe, or if you're too upset to resolve the situation on your own.
Ask your boss or a trusted colleague to work with you to resolve the situation. It might also be appropriate to report the incident, especially if the person is completely out of control and you feel there is a risk of violence.
Don't Respond With Anger
It's very natural to get upset when angry people confront you, regardless of whether their anger is justified. You feel under attack, and your body floods with "fight or flight" hormones, which can lead you to become angry yourself.
Do your best to respond calmly and intelligently when you face angry people. Learn how to manage your emotions, and practice deep-breathing, so that you stay relaxed during tense interactions. If you feel yourself getting upset, politely take a break from the conversation and go for a walk to calm down.
Distance Yourself Emotionally
Sometimes, another person's anger has nothing to do with you. When you recognize this, it can have a major influence on how you cope with the situation. A 2012 study found that when people understood that they didn't cause another person's anger, they weren't upset by the situation.
Perhaps a team member received some bad news, and are taking their negative feelings out on you; perhaps they feel overwhelmed by their workload or personal life; or, perhaps, this person is subconsciously using anger to make themselves feel better. If you can recognize this, you can distance yourself from the anger emotionally, and you'll find it much easier to cope with.
(At times, however, you may be the cause of another person's anger. Here, it's important to take responsibility for your actions: don't distance yourself.)
Identify the Cause
Next, you need to determine why the person you're dealing with feels angry.
Use effective questioning techniques or the 5 Whys method to get to the root cause of their anger. Encourage them to explain why they feel angry, don't interrupt them while they speak, and keep on asking questions until they have fully explained themselves.
Try to see things from their perspective as they express their feelings. Use active listening, so that you really listen to what they say.
When it's your turn to talk, speak slowly and calmly, lower your vocal tone, and use non-threatening body language. This will often encourage others to calm down.
Try not to use generic statements, such as, "I understand how you feel," or, "That sounds really frustrating." Instead, use specific, clear statements that rephrase what the other person has said (don't overdo this, or do it in a thoughtless, formulaic way). It's also important to communicate with empathy.
For example, if your colleague says, "I needed that report last week and you've been ignoring me," you could say, "So, you feel that I neglected you when you needed information from me, is that right?"
Demonstrate an interest in resolving the situation, and try not to judge the other person's behavior – this shows respect. Think about the last time you felt angry, and remember how you wanted to be treated in that situation.
Pursue a Solution, and, Ideally, Apologize
Once you have understood the situation, try to avoid making excuses or defending your actions (or those of your team or organization). Defensiveness can make others feel even angrier than they are already.
Instead, ask what you can do to resolve the situation and make things right.
If you or your organization are at fault, think carefully about whether an apology would expose you to a significant risk of liability litigation. If it wouldn't (and people sometimes over-emphasize this risk), then apologize appropriately.
In many cases, this will calm the situation down and give you the opportunity to rebuild the relationship with the other person. (It will be much harder to rebuild a relationship if you don't apologize.)
One way to defuse a person's anger is to focus their attention on something else. One 1998 study found that rumination increased feelings of anger, while distraction can decrease them.
You can do this with laughter, if it's appropriate – it's impossible to laugh and be angry at the same time. A funny joke, an online video, or an amusing blog post can take someone's mind off their anger.
People who experience intense levels of anger might be unwilling or unable to change the subject, however, and you may annoy them further if you try to get them to focus on something else. This strategy will likely work best with people who are only moderately cross.
Help Them Control Their Anger
Angry outbursts from someone on your team can affect the whole group's productivity and morale.
Become a coach or mentor for these people, and encourage them to learn how to control their anger. Our articles "Coaching to Develop Self-Awareness" and "Helping Your People Develop Emotional Intelligence" can be useful here.
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Practice Defusing Anger
If you work in an emotionally demanding role, chances are that you have to deal with angry people regularly. This "emotional labor" can be particularly draining, especially when people are not equipped to handle these situations.
Use role-playing, so that team members can practice dealing with angry and upset customers. They'll also benefit from developing emotional intelligence, good communication skills, and assertiveness.
Our articles on "Dealing With Unhappy Customers" and "Delivering Bad News" offer further guidance on how you and your team members can learn to cope with anger in specific situations.
Communicate How You Feel
You may work or live with a person who frequently experiences angry outbursts. If so, once the anger has passed, it's important to communicate how this person's anger makes you feel.
Try to avoid accusatory "you" statements, which can make the other person feel angry and defensive. For example, if you say, "You upset the rest of the team when you yell and scream during meetings" to someone, they are likely to feel angry.
Instead, be respectful but assertive with the other person, and use "I" statements to communicate how you feel. For example, you might try "I feel upset and frazzled when you yell and scream during meetings, and it makes it hard for the team to come up with good solutions."
Anger is a universal emotion, and, no matter what you do, it's important to know how to deal with angry people calmly and assertively.
Start by finding the root cause of their anger by asking open-ended questions. If this seems too daunting, you could introduce your team member to resources that will empower them to become more self-aware, such as Williams' 12 Strategies for Controlling Aggression.
If you or your organization are at fault, apologize appropriately (but be careful of liability issues), and work on finding a solution. Ask them what you can do to resolve the situation.
Try not to get angry yourself. Stay calm, speak slowly, and use non-threatening body language. A calm, rational response can go a long way toward calming angry people down.
Click on the thumbnail image below to see Dealing With Angry People represented in an infographic:
How to Deal with Angry People I Psych Central
Dealing with someone who’s angry can be challenging, but there are ways to defuse their anger and ease a tense situation.
It’s natural to feel angry sometimes. Many of us have developed strategies for working through anger when it creeps up. We know what may irk us and what works best to calm ourselves down.
But when we find ourselves face-to-face with someone else’s anger, how to act becomes less clear. What are we supposed to do?
Understanding how to deal with an angry person can help you defuse the situation and protect yourself from potential aggression or volatility.
Anger comes in many forms.
While various terms are used to describe the types of anger experiences, most types fall under one of three categories:
- Outward (or external) anger. This is expressed outwardly at a person or thing, such as raising your voice or throwing something.
- Inward (or internal) anger. You express toward yourself, and you may engage in self-isolation, negative self-talk, or even self-harming behaviors.
- Passive (or passive-aggressive) anger. This refers to the indirect ways we express anger, such as making catty remarks or using sarcasm.
Some specific types of anger can include:
- deliberate anger
- behavioral anger
- addictive or habitual anger
- moral, judgmental, or righteous anger
- fear-based anger
- frustration-based anger
- volatile or sudden anger
- chronic anger
- manipulative anger
- pain-based anger
- self-abusive anger
- psychological anger
A 2015 study suggests that anger is most often triggered by:
- other people
- a person’s environment
- psychological or physical distress
- intrapersonal demands environment
- unknown causes
There are several ways you can tell that someone is experiencing anger or aggression. They may express their feelings physically or show it in how they act — or react.
Physical signs of anger include:
- clenched jaw
- clenched fists
- frowning or scowling
- raised voice
- trembling or shaking
Particular behaviors can also signal anger, such as:
- shouting or yelling
- being “snappy” or quick to react
- giving curt or “short” responses
- displaying physical aggression
- having sudden outbursts
- holding a grudge
- using insults
- expressing annoyance or irritability
- making accusations
- sulking or moping
- showing intolerance
- turning to violence
- hurting themselves or others
When you’re dealing with someone angry, it can be difficult to know how to react in a way that won’t escalate the situation and make it worse.
Here are some strategies you can try.
A word of caution
These strategies may not work for everyone. If the person becomes violent or has been violent in the past, trying to diffuse a tense situation might make it worse.
If things are escalating and you’re afraid for your physical safety, there are ways to safely navigate that situation and keep yourself safe in the process.
You can find some helpful tips by checking out these Psych Central pages:
- How to Deal with Domestic Violence
- How to Leave an Abusive Relationship and Not Go Back
- How to Deal with Abuse
For more tips on safety plans and safer browsing, consider visiting the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.
Respond rather than react
When someone else’s behavior is heightened, it can be easy to jump to the defensive. We may quickly — and perhaps harshly — react rather than take a moment to consider our response.
While it can be hard, listening, remaining calm, and keeping your replies measured can help you get through what can be a stressful situation.
Try to avoid becoming angry or agitated during the interaction. Instead, try to respond with empathy and care.
This will show the person that you hear what they’re saying, understand their point of view, and reaffirm that their feelings are valid.
Don’t take it personally
While you may feel like you’re receiving the brunt of someone’s outburst, it’s may not even be about you.
Anger can be triggered by a current situation or rooted in something else.
The person’s anger may result from something another person said earlier, a stressful presentation at work, or simply having a rough day.
A 2012 study suggests that people are less upset by a situation when they know that they’re not the cause of someone else’s anger. This can help you remain calm and avoid becoming agitated to more easily handle the other person’s behavior.
A distraction can sometimes be exactly what’s needed to stop someone in their angry tracks.
Distracting someone expressing anger or upset may interrupt their tirade and give their feelings a chance to pause. This allows them to step outside of their anger and potentially reflect on their behavior.
Providing a way for the person to shift focus can allow them to shift their focus to dealing with their anger rather than resting in it.
When using distraction, try to be mindful of interrupting the person or invalidating their feelings. This strategy is a way to help them reset and refocus and is not meant to make them feel as though their anger doesn’t matter or isn’t justified.
Look for solutions
When someone’s angry, you may feel the need to find a way to resolve what’s causing them so much agitation. One way to help is by offering up solutions.
Not sure how to best solve what’s upsetting them? Don’t be afraid to ask!
Gently stop the person and ask how you can help them feel less angry. Once you know what they need, you can work with them to develop positive and proactive solutions.
This can also help ease their anger and create calm by shifting their attention from negative feelings to positive action.
Whether you’re a person who feels deeply or it takes a lot to rattle you, setting boundaries can be crucial to maintaining mental and emotional balance. Before you’re faced with managing someone else’s feelings, try to establish your limits.
You can do this by deciding what behaviors are too much to handle and understanding how to recognize the signs of aggression or danger.
While only about 10% of anger experiences lead to aggression, it’s crucial to remain safe.
Knowing your boundaries and sticking to them will help you know when it’s time to remove yourself from a potentially harmful situation.
If, or when, you feel threatened in any way, it may be time to leave.
What not to say when someone’s angry
Certain things are sometimes better left unsaid. Consider avoiding the following when faced with someone who’s angry:
- Using accusatory statements. Try not to lay blame on the person or use “you” statements (such as “you’re being difficult” or “this is your fault”). This can make them feel defensive, which can fuel their anger. Instead, try to use “I” statements to show them how their anger affects you (such as “I want to help you” or “I feel scared”).
- Ignoring or invalidating feelings. Anger is a natural emotion. By acknowledging how the person feels, you’re validating their feelings and showing them that you understand. Ignoring their feelings may only agitate them further.
- Getting angry or defensive. Responding in anger might simply make them more upset and leave you feeling angry. Instead, try to manage your emotions and remain calm. If you find yourself becoming agitated, consider excusing yourself from the situation and take a moment to yourself.
Everyone experiences anger. But while experiencing our anger is one thing, it can be quite different to cope with someone else’s.
When dealing with an angry person, it can be easy to let ourselves get agitated and respond with anger or an upset tone. But remaining calm, looking for solutions, and setting boundaries can help manage the other person’s anger — rather than fuel it.
If you find yourself facing a person whose anger won’t subside or who is becoming volatile, it may be time to remove yourself from the situation. Though most expressions of anger don’t turn into aggression, your safety is important.
Protect yourself and walk away if you feel unsafe in any way.
How to repel outbursts of anger - Lifehacker
June 8, 2020
The feeling of anger is familiar to all of us. We encounter it almost daily. At work, in transport, at home. It is believed that anger is a normal reaction of the body to external stimuli. At the same time, it is generally recognized that this normal reaction can and should be fought.
But often we become not the perpetrators, but the victims. No one asks if we are ready to act as lightning rods. Let off steam quickly bounce back. We remain resentful and in a bad mood for a long time. How to deal with it? To find the answer, let's turn to theory.
What is anger
Psychologists consider anger to be a normal emotion.
Anger is the body's reaction to resentment, hurt pride and mental suffering. The man gets angry and screams, trying to protect himself.
According to other experts, anger is not just an emotion, but a form of affect. Such an emotional process is characterized by intensity and short duration. For a few minutes, not only the mental, but also the physiological state of a person changes dramatically: muscles contract, blood rushes, breathing becomes difficult.
In anger, the body works itself out. And throwing out negative energy, gradually calms down. That's why we feel exhausted after a big quarrel with shouting and breaking dishes.
At the same time, scientists believe that, like the instinct of self-preservation, the feeling of anger is inherent in all Homo sapiens and is inherited. After all, bursts of aggression happen even in children.
The form and depth of its expression depend on the characteristics of socialization. If it is customary in the family to speak in raised tones and watch “Saw” at dinner, the child is more likely to become an impulsive person, ignited by any spark.
Anger is also generated by devotion to one's own views on what is right and what is wrong. So, a pedantic person is infuriated by inaccuracy, an introvert - talkativeness. Irritates everything that does not fit into the value system, encroaches on it.
What conclusion can be drawn from these statements?
Everyone experiences anger, regardless of gender, age or race. A person in a rage often does not control his words and actions.
How to protect yourself
Anger is destructive. He destroys us from within. Those prone to aggression often have a sick heart, hypertension, migraines, problems with the skin and the gastrointestinal tract.
Even more dangerous is the so-called incoming anger - negative energy directed at us. How do you feel when a colleague, spouse, neighbor breaks down on you? Resentment, indignation, fear are common reactions. But often one outburst of anger gives rise to another, reciprocal. It's hard to stay calm when you're being yelled at.
In order not to become locked in a circle of negative reactions, one must equally resist not only one's own outbursts of anger, but also those that come from other people.
How to resist someone else's anger
Changing your breathing is the main recommendation for self-control. Once in the field of view of an angry person and feeling that his excitement is being transmitted to you, start breathing slowly and deeply.
Try only 6-10 breaths per minute. Definitely through the nose. Intentional delays allow you to bring your pulse and pressure back to normal, to calm down.
2. Be distracted
From childhood we were taught not to listen to the interlocutor impolitely. No one added that this rule does not apply to angry people.
If you begin to delve into the message of an angry person, there is a danger of getting into fruitless polemics. In order not to listen, remember some children's song or rhyme. “Our Tanya is crying loudly ...” - everyone knows these lines, but it is not so easy to reproduce them in the head in a critical situation. And this is good.
Remembering the good tunes familiar from childhood, you will involuntarily be distracted from the opponent's angry speeches and miss his barbs.
3. Be ironic
Bulging eyes, twitching movements, saliva splashes in different directions. A man in a fit of anger looks quite comical. If you manage to distract yourself from his words, you will certainly notice it. And if you imagine him in a Budyonovka and with a saber unsheathed, you get a frankly funny picture.
But one should not mock a person who is in extreme emotional excitement. It is better to remember that an angry fist does not hit a smiling face. Smile better. And, perhaps, rage will be replaced by mercy.
4. Move away
If possible, don't get caught in a hot hand. Go to another room, take a walk, do something. Let the person let off steam.
But if there is really no chance to eliminate yourself, then do it in your head. Imagine that there is a brick wall between you and the person shouting at you. Write down the details: white or red brick, is the masonry even, are the seams neat? This will help build psychological protection.
Perhaps this is the main recommendation. In anger, a person is not aware of what he is doing (remember: this is a form of affect). And when the rage has passed, he feels guilty. Sometimes he doesn't even know how to look at you.
Be the first to speak. Make it clear that you don't hold grudges. So it will be easier for the broken-hearted to sincerely repent and resume a constructive dialogue.
Follow these simple tips and remember the ancient Indian wisdom: whoever does not respond with anger to anger saves both himself and the angry person.
Read also 🧐
- 10 standard phrases that indicate hidden aggression
- How to pacify anger and why it is important to do it
- Anger management: how to turn anger to your advantage
How to quickly and reliably calm an angry person
Gazeta.Ru has found out how to quickly calm an angry person with the help of an effective psychological technique without dropping your authority.
“An effective anger management strategy is based on the need to focus on the angry person. He should be given the opportunity to vent his anger and at the same time try to correct the state of affairs that led to an outburst of rage, says Jack Schafer, professor of psychology, former special agent, author of Turning on the charm according to the methods of the special services. “This approach breaks the vicious circle and allows you to resolve a critical situation without ruining the relationship.”
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It's true that if, in the course of settling a conflict, you manage to elevate your opponent in his own eyes, then you can not only calm him down, but even please him. And here's how you can do it.
1. Do not try to explain anything to an angry person: he is not capable of thinking sensibly.
Anger triggers the fight or flight response in the body, which physically and mentally prepares the person for conflict. At the moment of this reaction, the body reacts instinctively to the threat.
As the danger grows, a person's ability to think rationally completely disappears. Angry people behave the same way because anger is a reaction to a real or perceived threat. They speak and act without reasoning, and the degree of cognitive impairment depends on the intensity of the anger.
The more angry a person is, the less inclined he is to process information logically. In this state, people do not notice the obvious, because their minds are clouded.
2. Give him time.
It takes about 20 minutes for an angry person to calm down and regain the ability to think clearly. He will not accept any explanations, solutions and ways to resolve the conflict until he again masters his mind.
3. Offer a simple solution right away.
People always want to feel that they are in control. An angry person is looking for the lost meaning and order in the world. The inability to return to the usual track causes confusion, and confusion is expressed in anger.
Saying an explanation for such behavior or voicing the problem often helps to restore the previous picture of the world and cool down anger.
4. If the simple solution doesn't work, formulate a "compassionate statement."
When an angry person hears that you understand him, at first it causes him surprise and confusion. If sympathy is expressed unexpectedly, it may even arouse suspicion. But if you reinforce your words, then it becomes difficult for a person not to appreciate the participation of the opponent. Empathy quickly leads to trust.
5. Assess the emotional state of the interlocutor.
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It will be very helpful to express sympathy without being too false. Be empathic and learn to discern the nuances: anger can consist of different emotions (resentment, rage, sadness, wounded pride, etc.). You can use this to direct the person to the solution you need.
Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal responses. Watch for the slightest changes in facial expressions.
Listen for voice modulations and the use of certain words expressing emotions.
6. Let the angry person let off steam.
Most likely, it will not be possible to blow off steam at once. Remember that the first discharge is usually the strongest. It allows a person to relieve tension, get rid of most of the anger and enter into a dialogue. Subsequent times are less intense, especially if no wood is thrown into the furnace of anger.
After each discharge there is a natural pause that should be filled with a sympathetic statement.
An angry person will throw out more anger, although the intensity of the outbursts will decrease with each time. This must be done until the anger subsides completely. A sigh, a long exhalation, hunched shoulders and a lowered look indicate that the anger has dried up.
7. Make a guess.
Guessing directs an angry person's thinking toward conflict resolution. It must be formulated in such a way that the interlocutor could not deviate from the course of action imposed on him.
The ability to make assumptions requires the skill of active listening, since the assumption made directs the power of anger towards a conflict resolution acceptable to both parties.
Formulate the suggestion in such a way that it is difficult for the person to refuse the recommendation.
Here is how, for example, you can apply this technique in a work situation:
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Manager: I expected your report to be ready this morning. Your behavior is unacceptable (anger) .
Subordinate: I couldn't finish the report because I didn't get the data from the sales department. They were promised to be sent within the hour (simple explanation) .
Chief: This is not an excuse. I had to go to the sales department and demand the data. You must understand how important it was for me to receive the report this morning. I have an appointment with a client this afternoon. I don't know what to do now (rejects proposed explanation) .
Slave: You are upset because the client is expecting a report this afternoon (sympathetic statement) .