Handling Others’ Anger Effectively

Defusing Emotional Landmines

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation only to have it unexpectedly turn into an argument? Have you ever said something kind to someone dear to you, only to be met with a surprisingly angry response? Have you ever felt like you were walking on egg-shells around someone in your home who seemed like a time-bomb ready to go off any minute? Chances are, especially if you have spent any time in a blended family, that you have experienced all of these situations, many times over.

There are many underlying emotions of hurt, disappointment, anger, and sadness just below the surface – waiting for a safe enough place to be expressed. The more safety and love you provide, the more likely you will meet up with what I call the discharge of your loved-one’s emotions.

Here are some tricks to not being caught so off-guard (as well as not having to feel so guarded all the time). People actually let you know in a number of ways that they are seething below the surface – some obvious, some not even apparent to the person whose buttons have been pushed.

Obvious indications are their body language: arms crossed over their chest, scowling brow, frown and/or clenched jaw, and slouching posture (even more so than usual for teens). Other obvious indicators are rolling of the eyes, being shot a look-that-could-kill, and particularly biting sarcasm aimed at you.

The not so obvious indications can be found in their particular word choice. If you are in conversation with someone and they use the words “always” and/or “never”, you can bet that they are experiencing unexpressed anger below the surface, and they may not even be aware of it themselves. When someone is expressing thoughts of always and never to you, let those words be a clue that they are probably not being rational. Trying to respond with helpful advice or with a defense proving their statements invalid will only serve to fuel the fire of their emotions and you’ll have a full blown argument on your hands.

Action Step

If your loved one is giving clues of sub-surface anger, your best bet is to simply reflect back to them what they are saying. “So you feel that…” and restate what they’ve said. You can also choose safety-producing statements, such as: “Tell me more”, “What’s that like for you?” and “Thank you for telling me that.” If you want to share your own thoughts or suggestions, you can try something like: “May I offer you an additional thought?” If the answer is yes, then say “How possible is it that . . .(and add your thought)”. But be prepared for their emotions to flare even more if they do not like what you have to say.

The more prepared you are to deal with strong emotions, the less anxious you will feel around outbursts, and the more peaceful you will be as you help to navigate and support your loved ones from a place of pain to a place of peace. NOTE: Use of this article requires links to be intact.