Dealing with angry people can be very difficult. Have you ever tried to calm down someone who is already raging? People who are angry don’t really take the time to listen so how do you help them? Worse, some people develop habits of anger that can surface at the slightest provocation. There is a very revealing verse in the Bible that helps define the psychology of an angry person.
Proverbs 22:24 — Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
The warning is very poignant. Angry people are exceptionally difficult to deal with. But many people don’t have the luxury of avoiding an angry person. Perhaps you are already friends with an angry person. Perhaps you’re married to a person who has a short temper. Maybe one of your children has a short fuse.
Dealing with an angry person is problematic at best. You need to be aware of several things.
YOU CAN NOT RATIONALIZE WITH AN ANGRY PERSON
So don’t even try. When someone is angry, you won’t even be able to rationalize with them. It’s possible to calm someone down to a point where you can rationalize with them, but until they are calm, you won’t be able to point out ways to help them.
Your goal isn’t to expose their erroneous thinking process, but rather get them to a place where they are willing to listen. Angry people don’t listen. Have you ever argued with someone and both of you were angry? What were you able to accomplish? In most cases, you didn’t even listen to what the other person had to say. Your anger just propelled you on with little regard to what the other person was saying.
So the first step in dealing with someone’s anger is to focus on getting them to calm down and reach a place where you can help.
BE CAREFUL ABOUT TRAPPING OR EMBARRASSING AN ANGRY PERSON
In your effort to calm down an angry person, you must be careful not to trap them. If you corner a wild animal, no matter how docile it may appear to be, it will defend itself. If you trap someone, expose their faults in front of others, or embarrass them, they will just get angrier.
Anger is a defensive measure that people retreat toward when some fear, conscious or subconscious, is evoked. People will defend an indefensible position out of anger, or become destructive when disappointed, or violent when feeling threatened. Be very careful about backing such a person into a corner. You will not like the results.
You may win the fight. But your relationship may be damaged beyond repair. Thus you may end up losing the war.
HOW TO CALM AN ANGRY PERSON DOWN
Your words may only exasperate their sense of injury. Saying nothing may irritate them. Walking away may frustrate them. Trying to calm them down may only make them feel that you are patronizing them.
So how do you calm someone down? That largely depends on the person and what they are angry over. For most people, there are three things that will help them calm down when they are angry:
- They feel the problem is being appropriately addressed.
- Time and distance from the source of their anger.
- The sudden realization of their own irrationality.
If you can make a person feel that the problem is being addressed, they may calm down. For many people, it takes time to calm down. Some require a sudden shock of how irresponsible or embarrassing they appear to others before they will help calm down. For example, I’ve said to an angry man before, “Your children are watching you.” That shocked him into calmness. In some cases, I’ve told people to take a walk and then come back. The time helps them wind down. Sometimes I’ve said, “Do you think I can fix this? Do you trust me? Then let me do it.” This last lets them understand that the problem is being dealt with.
You need to know the person well enough and the situation well enough in order to step in. If you are the source of a person’s anger, then the only thing you can do to calm them down is to apologize and take the blame even if you are not responsible. Sometimes, the relationship needs to be more important than who’s at fault.
NEVER GET ANGRY YOURSELF
Two angry people are like hand grenades threatening each other. When one goes off so does the other. Anger only fuels anger. You can’t win a fight if you get angry.
Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try to understand the source of their anger. Don’t let their anger towards you offend you. Shove it aside and try to focus on solutions. Don’t blame, accuse, rail, yell, defame, or anything else that is attached to anger.
Trying to out “rage” each other is like adding oil to fire. It doesn’t put out the fire.
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