Conflict Resolution Series: Tips for Managing Other People's Anger
Anger is a natural human emotion and while we know it will happen we aren’t often sure when it’ll happen nor how bad it’ll be. While “slow to anger” may be the golden rule, some people are cruising in the fast lane headed straight towards a blow up. You may have control over your own emotions, but what can you do to deal with other people’s anger?
Use the 4 S’s of conflict resolution:
- Stay Calm
- Starve Their Dragon
- Speak with Empathy
- Shake it Off
The 4 S’s make it possible to manage someone else’s anger without falling victim to their mood. Here’s how:
It may take practice but staying calm when someone else is full of anger is the first step in conflict resolution. Generally, anger stems from fear or despair. A scared or sad person is not in a good space. Sometimes the only way people can express themselves is through anger which is only a mask for their pain. It, likewise, gives them an outlet to express difficult emotions. If you can stay calm and not reciprocate with your own anger the chances are higher that the person you’re in conflict with will start to calm down. Allow space for them to stop their rage and start to shift their behavior. Try not to hold any resentment towards them for what they may have said or done in their moment of rage. This can be hard, but with practice it can be done.
Starve Their Dragon
Deciding to stay calm is the first step in starving their dragon - the second of the 4 S’s. What do dragons have to do with anything? Fire needs oxygen and wood to burn, our bodies need healthy fruits and veggies to make energy, and dragons need... fresh meat? If we don’t feed anger, it starves. Anger loves more anger to thrive. It becomes energized and hyped up when it battles someone else. If an angry person isn’t fed more helpings of anger, their angry energy will starve. Feed anyone raging at you kindness and understanding - or, at a minimum, neutrality - and the anger and the drama will die down.
Speak with Empathy
Anger is an expression resulting from fear, sadness, and/or confusion. Anger is a reaction to a bigger issue. Some anger is the result of feeling misunderstood. The sooner you can show your understanding of the other person, the sooner they will feel validated and calm down. Though they may not have the words to express how they feel in their rage, they can find them as you express empathy towards them. Using non-confrontational phrases and showing you care will greatly shorten the length of the angry outburst.
Shake it Off
The final, and most important, step is shake it off. Once you have disengaged with an angry person - whether the issue is resolved or not - you’ll need to decompress and shake off the experience. Being in an anger-fueled conflict causes an adrenaline rush and when things are done, the hangover can be intense. Do whatever you need to do - in a healthy way - to process what you have been through and let it go.
Some helpful activities are:
Talk with a trusted friend
Go for a run
Soak in a hot bath tub
Rehearse the situation in your mind
Practice letting it go into the sky like a balloon
Managing other people’s anger isn’t easy. It takes practice to learn to not let someone else’s anger permeate your private space. Using the 4 S’s helps to face them, defuse them, and shake off the experience. Here’s hoping you don’t have to use the 4 S’s often, but when you do, I know they will come in handy.
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