Talking to Angry People

Conflict Relationships



I frequently talk - or rather listen to - angry people. In my work as a psychologist I have so many individuals who come to me because of situations in their lives that they view as unfair and unacceptable.

A long time ago, I learned that emotions come in pairs. Whenever someone is feeling very angry, the underlying emotion is fear. The louder a person becomes, the more afraid that they are. My job is to help them understand this and then identify the fear so that we can develop a strategy for dealing with that.

We are frequented in society with angry people. Road rage is one form of it. The Custom Service Departments in stores often become an environment where angry people congregate. Stressful relationships often result from or create angry people.

People who are facing divorce are afraid that they will lose their children and not be able to feed themselves. They may not have good communication skills or have believed the worst divorce stories so firmly that their anxiety is escalated. As a result, they yell and swear while making threats. This just tells me that I am working with a very scared and hurt individual.

One of the best strategies for dealing with an angry person is to make sure that you listen and ask good questions that will help you to understand their situation and be able to communicate that back to the angry person. Ask what that person would like you to do about the situation. Carefully ask if the behaviour that they are using will help.

Use short, clear sentences spoken in a normal volume to tell the person what you are able to do and what you are not able to do to resolve the situation. If they continue, repeat what you said. Do not allow their emotions to escalate your emotions.

If the person does not calm down tell that person what you will do next. Calmly state, “I have told you what I can do but now I need you to leave the office and calm down."

If you feel that you need help with the situation, calmly call someone into your office with this in mind. Always act in a calm and collected manner so that you don't trigger a bigger outburst,

You likely don't need to be afraid as many angry people will verbalize their emotions but not hurt you. At the same time, however, it would be a good idea to not allow yourself to be trapped in a physical setting where you cannot leave should you feel you need to do so.

Always remember though, you are dealing with someone who is hurt and afraid. That will help you to frame your perception.

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Dr. Linda Hancock, the author of “Life is An Adventure…every step of the way” and “Open for Business Success” is a Registered Psychologist who has a private practice in Medicine Hat. She can be reached at 403-529-6877 or through email office@drlindahancock.com


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