Dealing with Angry People
By Dr. Charles Fay, www.loveandlogic.com
Is there anyone in your life who seems to fly off the handle at the slightest perceived insult? Do you know anyone who throws verbal barbs and biting accusations your way any time you try to engage in conversation? If you have vital signs, the odds are very high that you do.
Success with occasionally angry people… as well as the chronically ticked-off variety… involves remembering these three essential truths:
- Anyone who angers me controls me.
- The person who talks the least has the most power.
- Questions create thinking… statements create resistance.
The first truth reminds us that we maintain our personal power only when we choose to separate ourselves from the other’s anger. Empathy provides a powerful tool for accomplishing this. That’s right! When we perceive the other person as hurting… rather than as obnoxious… we are far less likely to find ourselves being triggered by their ire.
The second truth reminds us that ears are mightier than the mouth. Some people remain angry and confrontational regardless of how well we understand their point of view. Most, however, calm significantly when they see that we care enough to listen.
The third truth reminds us that thoughtful, sincere questions cause others to think. Examples include:
- How long have you felt this way?
- What do you wish would happen here?
- Can you tell me more?
In our audio, Putting Parents at Ease, we describe how teachers can apply these skills with difficult parents. One educator relayed his surprise at how well the skills worked with his adult son:
I was ready to use the skills I learned with the parents of my students. I wasn’t prepared for how well they worked when my 25-year-old son blasted me for saying “no” to a loan. Instead of us fighting over the phone, we ended the conversation with some mutual dignity.