Reacting to another person's anger with negative behavior usually only escalates the situation. How can you deflect their anger while helping to ensure your health and well-being remain unaffected?
Stay “C.A.L.M.” …
- CARE about what they’re saying by simply listening. Do not say anything nor interrupt them. Hear them out until they run out of steam … even if it takes several minutes. Often what people need most when they lose their cool is simply to be heard. Avoid being defensive; most likely you have done nothing wrong. Anger is often rooted in fear; many times what an angry person actually needs is assurance that things will get better.
- ASSURE they have been heard by repeating what they’ve said – “You thought the store opened at 8 o’clock so you drove all the way over there only to learn they’re closed for the weekend. The store hours on their website are wrong. No wonder you’re angry! I understand.”
- LINK to them by showing you have experienced similar frustration – “It’s unfortunate you wasted all of that time. Of course you’re upset – I feel the same way when my time is wasted; you can’t get it back.”
- MOVE forward by focusing on what’s next. Use statements to redirect their thoughts to the future, such as, “What else are you planning to do today?” or “The weather is so beautiful. Are you planning to get outdoors over the weekend?”
When people are upset, it’s best to keep your comments brief. Unless you are at fault, do not apologize. While you can empathize and listen to their frustration, do not accept responsibility or blame for matters unrelated to you.
If needed – especially with individuals who can become volatile or easily provoked – promptly remove yourself from them until their emotions are under control. And, of course, if you ever feel their anger may be harmful to your own health and well-being or that of others, call 911 if an immediate danger arises.
If this person is a part of your everyday life, your health care provider, clergyperson or community resources, such as an Area Office on Aging, are experienced with dealing with such matters and can provide you with the support you need.