How To Defuse Someone Else’s Anger

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OK, so now you’re


knee-deep in self-control


     So, what’s next?  Well, now that you have a firm grip on yourself and total control of all those latent late night and early morning temper tantrums, what’s next on the agenda? How about some practical how-to stuff for defusing OTHER people’s anger? Oh, joy!

     First off,  you’re not likely to get an angry associate, employee, friend or family member to instantly calm down just because you can now wave printouts of this blog site at her or his face and point out that the angry feelings are a CHOICE. Right. That’ll get you a subway fare to Madison Square Garden and a sharp stick in the eye.

     What then can I do, oh Anger Guru? What then can I do?  You can START by really paying close attention to the person who’s angry and by listening carefully to what’s being said. To begin, when we lose sight of the present moment and make a conscious or unconscious choice to feel angry about something or at someone, our brains take us rushing into a past who-did-what-to-whom accounting of past wrong-doings OR into an imagined scenario that hasn’t yet happened (and may never)!

     The goal then is to try to help the individual who is angry to come back to the reality of each passing moment as it passes,  to be focused on the here and now. BUT, unless you’re a shrink (and especially if the rampaging bull is wielding some instrument of destruction), it may be in your best interests to simply pretend you’re a rock. Assuming though that the anger is something less than maniacal in measurement, consider the following:

1)  Ask the other person if they would be good enough to please slow down the torrent of complaints long enough for you to be able to write them down on paper so that you can give serious thought to solving each problem (or addressing each issue) one at a time. [Then do proceed to write down each point as a separate item on a list]

2)  Ask the angry individual to help you prioritize each of the items listed so that you can number them as 1: First most important to take care of, 2: Second most important to take care of, 3: Third most important to take care of, etc., etc.

3)  Attack the items in order of the ranking by paraphrasing what was said about each (i.e., “Now let’s see, if I understand you correctly” or “Do I understand you correctly to mean that when Mary pulled John’s toupee off, he reached for it and she went to bite his hand but her dentures fell into the mixing vat and got processed into the pickle jars that were just loaded on the truck that left twenty minutes ago? Is that what you’re saying?”

Repeat and paraphrase until the angry person agrees 100% with your understanding of what the upset is all about, then complete that with a positive comment: “Good. I’m glad I understand this.”

4)  Ask for help in resolving the issue at hand, or at least provide some alternative action options for the angry person to consider.

     Be consistently and pleasantly adult-like and rational and logical and unemotional throughout.  This may be harder than it sounds, but if you’ve done steps 1-4 above, odds are you will already have effectively taken the wind out of the sails and restored some calm and order. As you proceed through the list, items will simply dissolve.     

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