The person is separate from the behavior. Behavior changes hour to hour based on mood, weather, stress levels, etc. but the person expressing the behavior is distinct from the behavior. This understanding helps us when dealing with a person expressing anger. Hit the pause button and think – is he/she always like this, if not why is he acting like this now? What might be his/her cause of stress or anger?
So instead of blaming the person with “you” statements (e.g “YOU are so rude”) express your honest feelings in “I” statements (e.g “I feel hurt by your behavior”). Next, address what might be the cause of the problem that is eliciting this behavior (e.g “Is everything ok?”) and address the problem (e.g “Did I do something to offend you?”)
Caution: Don’t try to guess the cause as the person might feel judged.
This approach is very helpful in saving relationships from going sour and breaking into fights. But yes, it is not easy to go through the steps. It takes practice.
Overcome Anger in 3 Steps
- Try to hit the “pause button” when confronted with an unpleasant situation.
- Look back in history to check if this person is really like this or has this person always been a well wisher.
- If the person has been a well wisher, then feel the gratitude in your heart, respond in “I statements” and try to understand and address the problem with empathy and a motive to reconcile.
Hitting the pause button isn’t easy since most of us are conditioned to react instantly. This comes from our innate nature to defend when attacked. Staying silent is also not the solution as clear communication is key to any healthy relationship.
Try to remember the three steps and if you forget and react anyway, that’s OK. Remember that you forgot to try it out and try again in the next situation. Try and try till it becomes habit.
Generally the mistake we all do is to address anger with defense and try to prove our point. Then is becomes am ego war where both parties are trying to prove to the other person that he/she is right.
Our approach here is trying to transform “I am right, You are wrong” to “Please help me understand your pain, so that we can reconcile”.
If you approach the angry person with the mood of trying to understand him/her, chances are that the other person will reciprocate. You will find your relationship getting stronger after every disagreement. I have tried these steps with many colleagues and friends and it has always resulted in better and stronger friendships.
Let me know if you have other tips to share on overcoming anger…