It can be scary to face another person’s anger. Often another’s anger can trigger your own, which may even be scarier for some. Introverts can have difficulty dealing with anger.
Two German researchers in their study Who responds how and when to anger?, looked at how someone’s personality relates to their response to anger. The researchers found that “control subjects scoring low on extraversion or high on neuroticism reacted with high denial, that is, with stronger physiological and behavioral than experiential anger.”
While introversion is not a lack of confidence nor does that mean you are shy, we have hard time of admitting our own anger. We also have a habit of withdrawing within ourselves. In conflict, this feels safer to do rather than confronting the difficult situation.
You need to be aware of yourself first and then you can know how to deal with people’s anger. This lets you be an effective person in the workplace and in your home life.
What I share with you in this article is secondary to your safety. Anytime you fear you’re in danger, it isn’t a matter of better communication. Go somewhere safe. Let’s go on with three easy techniques that help you manage, cope, and deal with your own anger as well as another person’s anger.
1. Manage Yourself: Understand Your Response to Anger
Chances are if you are lost at how to deal with a person’s anger, they are in fight mode. They are shouting, yelling, and abusing. When someone gets angry, their fight response triggers us to fight, flight, or freeze if we’ve yet to develop conflict management skills.
If you communicate a fight response, you become aggressive. Fight responses include shouting, tense muscles, heavy eye contact, pointing, and a lack of oxygen to your brain. You cannot effectively deal with an angry person when you’re highly stressed and your brain lacks oxygen to process their words.
A flight response has you run away. Flight responses include avoidance, accepting their abuse, feelings of victimization, depression, and an unwillingness to voice your opinion.
The lesser known response in conflict is freeze. You freeze in conflict when you’re uncertain about what is to come. Your body literally stops itself from being detected so it can survey the environment to judge whether it’s safe to engage its surroundings.
Understand your fight, flight, or freeze response to better equip yourself to manage conflict, cope with the stress, and deal with people’s anger. You cannot manage someone else until you first develop the self-awareness to manage yourself.
2. Give everyone their one minute
Ever wondered why your wife, husband, or manager doesn’t listen to you when he or she is angry? Their brain is oxygen-starved and biologically incapable of hearing what you have to say. The last thing you want to do in conflict when someone is angry is try to reason with them.
I have a principle called “give everyone their one minute”. Forget your point of view for a moment and just listen to what a person says. Develop your active listening skills. If the person attacks you, you can assertively respond, “I want to listen about the problem, but do not call me an idiot.” You don’t have to be a verbal punching bag.
If you have problems in making non-judgmental observations and assertions, I suggest you study the non-violent communication process. Usually after one minute or less, the person will be breathing again normally and open to hearing what you have to say.
3. Quickly reflect your understanding
Try to avoid saying, “I understand” or “I hear you”. These statements have become trite that no one believes you actually understand or hear them when you say this.
Instead, quickly summarize their concerns. Spend too long sharing your understanding and their anger could increase again. Here’s a good sample: “It sounds to me as though you need space in your office and this move is taking that away from you.”
You will notice these three steps are not about saying tricky things or manipulating people. If you first get yourself in control, then you create space for another person to correctly express themselves. You can then share your understanding to create alignment. If you do these three steps, you will reduces a person’s anger because they have become understood.