What should I do when someone else is mad? Is this my fault? Should I try to fix this?
Have you ever wondered about these things? Dealing with anger in others is never easy. Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take. In this post, we’ll walk you through three positive steps you can take when someone else is mad.
My Story of Dealing With Anger in Others
The thought of upsetting someone used to make me cringe. If someone became angry, I assumed it was my fault. Fortunately, today I know better. Yet, I also realize that I am not the only one who has struggled with the fear of upsetting others.
But what if there is no need to fear after all?
Dealing with anger in others can actually serve as an opportunity to deepen the relationship! If you feel excitement welling within you, then read on. This post provides a simple formula for working through everyday drama. You’ll learn tools for dealing with anger that leads to a deeper level of intimacy. These tools are easily applied, and I enjoy using them. Since I like this process so much, I wanted to share it with you. Today, feelings are no longer a danger to be avoided but an adventure to be explored. I believe this can be true for you as well.
Laying the Groundwork
The first step to dealing with anger in others is understanding that many intense feelings are not about you. In college, one of my favorite professors would say, “When someone’s reaction is more intense than the situation calls for, it says more about what is going on inside of them than it does about you.” Everyone has a history, and no one is completely baggage free. There are two primary reasons people get upset:
- We are offensive.
- There is something much deeper going on inside of them that got stirred up.
Sometimes, innocent actions uncover old wounds. If a friend was abandoned by Mom or Dad as a child, then not immediately return a phone call or not being available to hang-out, might dredge up old feelings of abandonment. Sometimes hurts are buried deep.—so deep others don’t know they are there.
Instead of jumping to self-blame, when someone else is mad, here is a better solution.
Three Steps for Dealing with Anger In Others
Step #1: Pause for self-examination.
When someone else is mad, the first thing to do is to pause for self-examination.
Ask yourself, “Did I do something offensive, rude, or mean?” If the answer is “Yes,” then apologize quickly. Seek to make amends and move on. Everyone makes mistakes, and triggering someone’s anger does not make you a bad person. Instead, mistakes make you human.
If the answer is “No,” then move on to the next step.
Step #2: Get curious.
“All behavior is communication.” This quote also comes from Dr. Barry Lord. Everything a person says and does provides a glimpse into their inner world. When a person’s reaction is greater than the situation calls for, it signals that something deeper is happening inside them. These triggering events can serve as an opportunity for deepening the relationship.
Coaches, mentors, parents, and spouses can take advantage of these feelings by asking good questions.
You might ask:
- I’m curious, what is it that’s causing you to have such a strong reaction right now?
- What is it that you’re feeling?
I define intimacy as into-me-see. Intimacy is the ability to peer into someone’s inner world. When someone else is made, it opens up an opportunity to learn more about them. So change your perspective. What if dealing with anger others is really an opportunity to connect?
Step Three: Offer Your best guess
If the person doesn’t know–and there is a chance that he won’t–then it’s time to take a guess. You might ask:
- “I’m wondering if you’re feeling ______________ (sad, mad, frustrated, lonely, etc.) because________________.”
Remember, this is your friend, so it’s likely that you know him or her well enough to be correct. At the very least, your guess will help clarify the feelings.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” By seeking to understand, we help others move past intense feelings and deepen the relationship in the process.
What if this doesn’t work?
Remember, dealing with anger in others is not your job. Your loved one’s anger is their anger. Allow this person to own it and don’t make it mean you did something wrong.
You can always walk away, allow that person to cool down and return to the conversation latert.
Sometimes, when we are dealing with anger in others or with anger in ourselves, taking a break to breathe is the best thing to do. Unless the problem is a life-threatening emergency, there is no reason it must be solved now.
A Quick But Important Anger Reminder
Oh, and one last thing. If you are connected to someone with intense anger issues, it’s time to get professional support. Physical violence, ongoing put-downs, and threats all signs that deeper issues are present. They also call for different tools that start with you keeping yourself safe. However, for those who are anxious about upsetting others during the normal, day to day interactions, I encourage you to test-drive this process.
Continue the Conversation
Let’s keep the conversation going. Here are a few questions for reflection and discussion.
- How good are you at dealing with anger in others?
- What do you do when someone else is mad?
- Have you used any of the strategies mentioned in this post? If so, how did they work?
- What will you do differently next time someone you know gets mad?
- Are there any pressing thoughts you would add to this post?
- Based on these ideas, are there any actions you need to take right now?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about dealing with anger in others. It’s your turn to keep the conversation going in the comment below.