How to talk to angry people

Here's a tip: Don't say, “You need to calm down.”

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Charlie Perkins.
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Talking to angry people can be so draining. You never know what is going to set them off. One of the worst things you can say to someone angry is, “You need to calm down.” So don’t say that, because never in the history of the world has that worked.

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But, when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems. I’m talking about problems at work, in your relationships, and the overall quality of your life.

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Some angry people may not be able to control their feelings and reactions. Unfortunately, they take out their anger on other people. When someone gets angry, it can be difficult to keep his or her emotions in check.

Here are strategies for reacting to someone’s anger.

  • Don’t respond with anger: We tend to say hurtful things when we’re triggered by someone else’s anger, so calm your initial fight or flight response. Remember that the other person’s anger likely has nothing to do with you.
  • Maintain emotional distance: Don’t take this person’s anger personally. Instead, ask yourself a question: “This person is really angry. I wonder what got them so upset?
  • Speak calmly and slowly: Don’t raise your voice or speak in a tone that conveys anger. Take a couple of deep breaths if you need to, and speak with a level, calm voice.
  • Use non-threatening body language: Having open, welcoming body language can help diffuse another person’s anger. They’ll see you are not being antagonistic.
  • Don’t provoke the angry person: When you know a person’s anger triggers, you might push their buttons to provoke them to anger. This may or may not be deliberate. But when someone is angry, try not to do things that will make them angrier or feel less respected.

These strategies are usually helpful when calming a person down when they’re angry.


About Charlie Perkins

Charlie Perkins is an author, musician, photographer, and videographer based in Rochester. The Chicago-bred Perkins attended Northwestern University concentrating on Radio, TV Broadcasting, and Interpersonal Communications. He spent 29 years at Harris Bank in Chicago and taught “Principles of Corporate Television” Columbia College in the same city. He has also spent 17 years as Unit Manager, Media Support Services for the Mayo Clinic. In a previous life, he covered the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan’s championship run, ’96-‘98 as a freelance photographer.

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