Have you ever been in the awkward situation where someone you were with felt totally frustrated and angry? Maybe the anger wasn’t towards you, but they were in a difficult situation. How are you supposed to react to something like that?
Are there ways to diffuse the situation graciously?
Prepare yourself with the following strategies to help you manage this uncomfortable situation:
1. Just listen. When angry, many of us want to vent our feelings to someone. And it’s usually done to those who are in close proximity at the time. So a great strategy to use is simply to listen to the person express their anger until they “wind down.”
2. Don’t worry about whether you agree with them or not. Your thoughts and feelings about the situation are best kept to yourself for the time being when someone is angry.
* Unless they’re angry with you and you’re personally involved in the situation, refrain from sharing your own feelings about whatever is happening to agitate the other person.
3. Say you’re sorry about how they’re feeling. Although the situation that angered the person may not be your fault, it’s perfectly appropriate to say, “I’m sorry you’re upset.” or “I’m so sorry that you’re feeling so upset about this.” Interestingly, when an angry person hears this, they often calm down because you are listening to them and giving them the respect they desire.
4. Attempt to relate. You could say something like, “I don’t blame you for feeling that way. I’d probably feel the same way if that happened to me.” When the other person feels he isn’t 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 may dissipate.
5. Trust your instincts to protect yourself. Although most people won’t become threatening or physically aggressive when they get angry, trust your instincts. 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. After some minutes have passed, change the subject. This may help to diffuse some of the emotional volatility at the time. When you believe the person has had enough time to talk through or vent his anger, work to make a shift in the conversation to a less anger-provoking topic for him. Ask him about his son who plays baseball or his wife’s job.
* Those who are angry can actually feel quite relieved when someone provides a reason for them to shift their attention away from the source of their anger.
7. Offer moral support. It can be comforting to the other person to ask, “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 or she feels.
8. Be encouraging about being able to solve the situation in a peaceful way. If you know the person well and he’s comfortable with you, you could provide some verbal encouragement during the challenging situation. “I’m sure you’ll be able to get this straightened out with them” or “Perhaps if you make that phone call you’ll be able to resolve the situation right now.”
* Determine from 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.
Apply these strategies: listening, keeping your feelings out of it, and stating you’re sorry for the person that is upset. Also, try to relate to the person, trust your instincts to stay safe, and changing the subject to help diffuse the emotional volatility. Finally, give moral support and be encouraging.