© 2016 ThenWhen

Using reflection to diffuse anger

November 15, 2016

 

Quora: What are some tips for dealing with someone who is angry and/or confrontational?

 

Put on your asbestos bodysuit and make absolutely sure they know you are hearing what they say.  Repeat their main points back to them, for example. "Let me make sure I understand.  Whatever language they used to describe their upset?  And you're whatever emotion word they used about this."

Keep your attitude neutral, you are only clarifying.  You are making sure you understand.  It's important to use the language they are using if they are very angry.  Don't paraphrase or be a thesaurus. The person wants to find something to disagree about, and language is something to disagree about.  ("I'M NOT FURIOUS YOU IDIOT, I'M FRUSTRATED!")   So if they say they are frustrated, use "frustrated" in your reflection. 

Sometimes they will ask you for emotional validation.  "OF COURSE, I'M FRUSTRATED!  WOULDN'T YOU BE FRUSTRATED?"  This is not a time for them to get to know you and your emotional climate better. This is a firefight, not a bar-b-que.  Simply say "Yes. I would be 
whatever emotion word they used, too."  Even if you disagree, you can preface your emotional validation internally with "If I saw it the way you do."  If they ask for empathy, give it to them. Unconsciously, they're working to diffuse their own anger so throw the drowning man a rope.

Once an angry person is heard, they will begin to ask for what they want.  Put on as neutral and understanding a face as possible and wait for them to ask for something.    Sometimes a person is so triggered that their asking is angry and aggressive and seemingly targeted at your listening to them "I DON'T WANT YOU STANDING THERE LIKE AN IDIOT REPEATING WHAT I SAY! I WANT YOU TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS SITUATION!"

So you say, "You want me to do something about the situation."  At this point  you might simply say, "I'm listening." (Listening is doing something about the situation.)  This is both an answer and an invitation.   It's likely that the next thing the person says will be their first offer to settle the situation.  You can take it from there. 

Once the person moves from their venting/yelling mind to their planning/talking mind, they are ready for a discussion about possible outcomes.

 

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