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8 Strategies to Respond to Someone Who’s Angry

Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.

Benjamin Franklin

Have you ever found yourself in that awkward situation where someone you were with became totally frustrated and angry? Besides feeling weird, you have to figure out how to de-fuse the situation graciously. Now we have obviously made two assumptions here. You are not going to: a) storm off, or b) blow your stack and punch their lights out. The good news is that you can equip yourself ahead of time so that you can navigate these unconfortable situations better.

1. Just listen. When you feel angry, most of the time all you really want to do is to vent your feelings to someone. And this usually fall on who are in close proximity at the moment. So, a great first strategy to use is simply to listen to the person express their anger until they “wind down.” Hear them out using your authentic listening skills.

2. Don’t analyze. Don’t worry in the heat of the moment whether you completely agree with them or not. Your thoughts and feelings about the situation are best kept to yourself when someone is angry.

Unless they’re angry with you and you are personally involved in the situation, refrain from sharing your own feelings about whatever is going on that is agitating the other person.

3. Say you’re sorry. Even though the situation that angered the person may not be your fault, it’s perfectly appropriate to say something like, “I’m sorry you’re upset.” Often, when an angry person hears this, it is enough to calm them down.

4. Try to relate. You could say something like, “I don’t blame you for feeling that way. I would probably feel the same way if that happened to me.” When the other person feels that he isn’t all alone in the world, he just might calm down. When you relate with him, the angry person might feel justified and understood and, therefore, his anger can dissipate a bit for a saner discussion.

5. Protect yourself. Trust your instincts to protect yourself. Although most people won’t become overtly threatening or physically aggressive when they get angry, trust your instincts here. If at any point you feel threatened or in danger, leave the area immediately, without hesitation and without saying anything else to the person.

6. Re-direct. After some minutes have passed, change the subject. When you believe the person has had enough time to talk through or vent his anger or frustration, work at making a shift in the conversation to some less anger-provoking topic. It often helps to move to family matters, unless that’s the issue. Ask him about his son who plays baseball or his wife’s new job.

Often, the person who is angry feels relieved when someone provides a reason for them to shift their attention away from the source of their anger.

7. Offer moral support. It’s appropriate to say, “Is there anything I can do” or “What can I do to help this situation” whenever a person is venting anger about something. For many, asking one of these simple questions is a wonderful way to help the person recognize he has someone right there who cares about how he feels.

8. Be encouraging. If you know the person well and they are comfortable with you, you could provide some verbal encouragement during the challenging situation. “I’m sure that you will be able to get this straightened out with them” or “Perhaps if you make that phone call right now you will be able to resolve the situation quickly.”

Determine in the situation how you can best be encouraging and then do it.

Knowing how to respond effectively to people who are angry is a wonderful “tool” to have in your arsenal of social skills.


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