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how do you deal with someone who is angry

things you do

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Subject: Career question for you

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Doc’s Answer

Great Question Kayleigh, it's important to know how to deal with angry people for a number of reasons.

FIRST – You can calm them down, so that they don't take any action that harms you or others, either physically or emotionally. In doing this, you can break the emotional "spirals of escalation" that can cause so much harm, and you can move toward solving the underlying problems that have caused the anger. It's very natural to get upset when angry people confront you, regardless of whether their anger is justified. You feel under attack, and your body floods with "fight or flight" hormones, which can lead you to become angry yourself. Do your best to respond calmly and intelligently when you face angry people. If you feel threatened by an angry person, trust your judgment. Leave the room immediately if you feel unsafe, or if you're too upset to resolve the situation on your own ask your boss to work with you to resolve the situation. It might also be appropriate to report the incident, especially if the person is completely out of control and you feel there is a risk of violence to others.

SECOND – If you respond angrily to someone else's anger, you can easily end up being seen as the aggressor yourself. This is disastrous in a customer-facing role. It's useful to know how to calm angry people down. When you can defuse someone's anger, it can enhance your professional reputation and help people who struggle to manage their emotions. Sometimes, another person's anger has nothing to do with you. When you recognize this, it can have a major influence on how you cope with the situation. Demonstrate an interest in resolving the situation, and try not to judge the other person's behavior – this shows respect. Think about the last time you felt angry, and remember how you wanted to be treated in that situation. By responding well to angry people, you can build positive relationships with them, and experience less stress and unhappiness as a result of dealing with them. When you respond calmly to angry episodes, you set a good example for others. Your behavior can inspire the people around you, which can transform a others ability to deal with anger.

FINALLY – When you’re dealing with an angry person Kayleigh, you’ve got to make sure you’re safe. People can be angry without being physically aggressive, of course. An angry person is not necessarily a violent person; far from it. However, we need to be aware of the fact that when people are angry, they can feel the urge to lash out, sometimes physically. If you don’t feel safe, get away from the person. Period. If you absolutely must interact with someone who you feel threatened by, make sure you aren’t alone with the individual, and enter the situation with a plan to get yourself out safely should it come to that.
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Scott R.’s Answer

Answering strictly from a professional setting here.
When I've had to interact with upset or angry clients, patients, etc. I've found the best way to make the interaction constructive is to take a few things into consideration.

First, these emotions are coming from somewhere and they should be acknowledged without any preconceived notions. It may not always be immediately apparent where or why these emotions are coming out, but dismissing how someone else feels is a good way to start the interaction off on a bad foot. Their behavior driven by these emotions may be an unwanted factor, but that's the situation you are in and the more you can remain calm the better it is to avoid escalating things and having the situation feed off additional emotions and go off the rails. Avoid engaging in these interactions with too much "back up" support or unintentionally create intimidating environments as well.

The main factor I have found over the years that drives a lot of these unpleasant interactions is based around "control". Not necessarily in a personality trait perspective, but rather the person has lost "control" of their situation in some way, shape or form and this is uncomfortable and upsetting and comes out in people in a lot of different ways.
I worked in a hospital managing physicians and had to often meet with patients who were upset with a litany of things from cold food, poor communication, their recovery timeline, their path of care, etc. What it boiled down to in the vast majority of cases was they were upset or even afraid that they no longer were in control of what was going on around them and their anger was a way to try and regain that. It wasn't great that it was directed at other people who may just be doing their best, but this is often how it crops up and I see these interactions occurring outside of a hospital setting and these same principles hold true.

In conversations with an upset person, once they had the chance to be heard by someone who will give them a listening ear in a neutral and non-intimidating setting (try and avoid going into it with too much "back up" or in a place they are uncomfortable) and they can effectively get their emotions out you should start to hear where the underlying issue really is that is making them feel this way.
If you can be a receptive listener, it goes a long way to someone who doesn't feel heard or feels like no one can help them. The problem they are upset about may seem silly or petty, but making an effort to understand them is something that is often missing.

Avoid being defensive or jumping to conclusions too quickly here, but once you have established this rapport you can start to break down the problem they are facing and begin to bring in your expertise or rationality they may not have been open to in the moment. Once you are able to steer the conversation away from emotions and towards solutions the conversation should be more productive and lead to more civil results.

There might not always be a clean and clear cut resolution to their problem and that is ok, but having someone on their side or even the appearance of someone who sympathizes with them helps diffuse things and generally avoids bringing so much emotional energy into the next circumstance if their problem isn't fully resolved.

Happy to expand on the long-winded answer or follow up!
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Grisselda’s Answer

some future background about me before I answer this question is that I am a behavioral aid within the special education department for the program that is emotional development. What I have found from working with kids with emotional and behavioral situations is that when they exhibit anger it is best to let them cool down. Let them cool down for a minute or two, take a breather, and have their space before approaching them. I’ve found that when you approach people when they are angry it only makes the situation worse and it adds fuel to the fire. After they have cooled down and have had the time to think about why they are angry I suggest Approaching them in a calm collected manner. The purpose of this is not to play the blame game but to simply have a conversation that is less tense so that both of individuals can understand each other. You can say something along the lines of I see that you were upset earlier and I wanted to ask you if you if you wanted to talk about it. I want to understand what made you angry and work out a solution. I don’t push for an answer nor do I push to get a response or for them to want to talk. Sometimes they do want to talk about what makes them angry sometimes they don’t. I also remind them and say okay let’s take a step back and make it better.
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Kerwin A’s Answer

I have found that a soft answer turns away wrath. Many time people are angry with the situation and not the person. The first thing is to pause before responding to individuals. Take a breath to hear what is being said before answering. If you start to get angry, this will only escalate the issue.

Try this FEEL, FELT, FOUND

“I know how you FEEL. I had someone who FELT the same way. However, what I FOUND was….”
Hopefully, this will help you as you deal with customers.
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Rickey’s Answer

Hi Kayleigh,

This is one of the age old questions of life. In my experience, communication is key to everything in life. The first thing to remember is to let people deal with their anger/feelings the way they know how. Some people are processors and some want to talk in the moment, and neither are right or wrong. There are five conflict management styles(competing, comprising, collaborating, avoiding, and accommodating), and we all use all five at different times. So it is good to recognize which is your go-to style and how to deal with each one. Once everyone is cooled off and ready to chat, the best way to approach it is using triangulation to move from blaming statements using "you" and move to the root of the issue "it" to place blame on that and not one person. For example, instead of saying "you haven't taken the trash out in a week. You don't listen, and you are lazy." you could say, "The trash hasn't been taken out all week, which isn't helpful to me." It is also good to talk about how whatever the action was made you both feel and listening to both points of view. Once everyone is heard, then make amends with apologies and next steps to agree upon, like "I promise to not nag about taking out the trash" and the other person saying "I promise to take it out at least twice a week." Then move on! And more than anything, never go to bed angry!
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Dr. Ehijiele’s Answer

Try to understand why they are angry and what triggered the reaction. People do not get angry for no reason. Suggest fun games and any other activities that will take their mind off whatever triggered their vexation. Best regards!
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Priya’s Answer

I think it's best to first calm yourself - never fight fire with fire in my opinion. It is important to not react extremely because that will worsen the situation. Also when someone is usually angry, they will not listen to reason, which may be the same for any person. From my experience, yelling back or trying to reason makes them angrier because they feel that you are telling them they are wrong.
It is best to let it happen and try to understand why the other person is angry - then you will see the root cause of the issue. It would also help to respond with statements that are not contradictory, rather validate their anger and give suggestions after.
Hope this helps!
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Jason’s Answer

Most of the time, They're not angry at you, they're angry at a situation. as hard as it might be- Stay relaxed. Keep your tone of voice low and calm. The -first- thing I do, is to listen. What I mean is, I don't listen to respond. I listen to what they're saying and try to understand things from their point of view. I've been yelled at *TONS* and most of the time, it's because of something out of their control, and probably yours as well.

-Listen to what they're saying
-Ask them if you're understanding why they're mad and what they're trying to achieve
-Let them know that you'll do everything you can to try and help them and follow through. +1 if you can start that process while they're there so they can see- It goes a long way
-Follow up with them once a solution is in place. Make sure that their issue has been taken care of to their satisfaction. If it's something beyond your control or scope (Beyond your extent of action), escalate it to your supervisor. Let them know you're getting the supervisor to help you both find the solution and not just "unloading" them to someone else.


Hope this helps.
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Tim’s Answer

I try to understand where they are coming from and what triggered the reaction. People generally aren't angry for no reason. Suggest reading the book "Never Split The Difference" to help with conflict resolution. Would be good to disarm them with an acknowledging statement rather than allowing yourself to be pulled into an argument. Best of luck!
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