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How to Handle Other People's Anger Like a Pro

Anger and Aggression

  • Anger: An emotion felt when we believe we have been wronged.
  • Aggression: is an act of expression of the anger, by our words our actions. Aggression can be insults, sarcasm, shouting or physical forms like breaking things. It can also manifest itself in stress, loneliness, anxiety, guilt, or awkwardness.

When we criticize the anger, we are providing fuel to the fire, leading to further aggression on the angry person's part. If we ignore and give in, we are setting a wrong example and the person learns that it is ok and effective to be angry.

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How to Handle Other People's Anger Like a Pro

How to Handle Other People's Anger Like a Pro

https://nickwignall.com/other-peoples-anger/

nickwignall.com

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Key Ideas

Anger and Aggression

  • Anger: An emotion felt when we believe we have been wronged.
  • Aggression: is an act of expression of the anger, by our words our actions. Aggression can be insults, sarcasm, shouting or physical forms like breaking things. It can also manifest itself in stress, loneliness, anxiety, guilt, or awkwardness.

When we criticize the anger, we are providing fuel to the fire, leading to further aggression on the angry person's part. If we ignore and give in, we are setting a wrong example and the person learns that it is ok and effective to be angry.

Validation and Boundaries

  • We can try and validate the anger felt by an individual by making them know that their anger is maybe justified while putting firm but respectful boundaries on their aggression.
  • We then need to be clear about what type of aggression we are willing to tolerate, setting boundaries on the unacceptable.
  • We may have to put our foot down and be ready to leave the conversation or escalate the issue, without falling into the trap of guilt and emotion.
  • If possible, we need to restart the conversation when things have cooled down, and diffuse the issue in a calm way.

Avoiding Speculative Self-Talk

Unchecked self-talk can easily turn into self-delusion. The stories we create almost always make you look like the good guy and cannot be termed as objective.

  • The way to get out of this speculative self-delusion is to avoid any speculation about other people's anger, at least initially.
  • Make sure to note down the facts of the situation. This can make the story less according to your gut instinct, and more towards the objective reality.

Patterns of Anger

There are certain predictable situations, times, events and triggers where anger appears. Sometimes when we act spontaneously or reactively, the other person can get stressed and defensive, and the symptoms for those emotions can be misinterpreted as anger.
A way out of this is to approach conversations in a planned way, with thought and preparation. If we can understand the patterns of other people's anger, we can anticipate them and handle them better.

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Anger ≠ aggression

Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behavior. They differ entirely in one central dimension - control.

  • You can't control your emotions directly. In the legal system, nobody gets sent to prison for how they felt, regardless of how angry they were. They get punished for what they do.
  • You can influence your emotions indirectly by how you think and behave. For example, when you focus on how terrible all the drivers in your town are, your anger will likely increase. But, if you listen to music and think about how grateful you are, your anger will probably subside.
Expressing anger

While you can't control your emotions of anger directly, you have control over your aggression, which is a decision to express your anger.

Aggression does not only involve acts of violence. Being overly-critical or judgmental of someone in your mind is an act of aggression, as is replying sarcastically or rolling your eyes at someone.

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Relationships nowadays are regularly in the doldrums, with certain factors that tend to ruin them. These same factors can be ‘reverse-engineered’ to help us strengthen and improve these relations.

Validate, Not Solve

When someone talks about their problems, we are jumping in the problem-solving mode straight away. While dealing with people, this approach can backfire. A better approach is to just listen and validate their struggles, make them feel heard and understood.

Actions Have Underlying Functions

Many times, the external appearance of behaviour isn’t the full story and has underlying functions. It is just a symptom and not the problem.

Example: When a teenager is mad for no reason, it helps to understand the underlying problems they usually have in this age, and be compassionate.

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Finding Emotional Balance

Recognizing that you need to choose your battles keeps you from becoming overly anxious and burning out.

Although anger can be positive and lead to action against unacceptable situations, thinking of the consequences of your reactions leads to more effective strategies.

Emotional intelligence (EQ)

The ability to recognize and understand emotions, and use that information to guide decision making.

Strong emotions as a puzzle

Instead of viewing someone’s bad mood as a problem to be fixed, if your perspective slightly and try to see it as a puzzle.

When you shift from problem-thinking to puzzle-thinking, your mi...

Reverse empathy

Rather than putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, try to remember a time when you wore the same shoe.

Try to recall a time when you struggled in a similar way and with a similar set of difficult emotions and moods. It's a powerful way to appreciate someone else struggle.

Get out of the “Fix-it Mode”

Most people struggling emotionally don’t want someone to fix their pain, they went to feel understood.

Use Reflective listening. It means that when someone tells you something, you simply reflect back to them what they said, either literally or with your own slight spin on it.

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Manipulation by passive and covert aggression
Manipulation by passive and covert aggression
  • Passive-aggression is an indirect way to go on the offensive. An example is when someone tries to "get you back" by resisting cooperation and giving you the "...
What a covert aggressive looks like
  • They pretend to be innocent, ignorant, or confused when they did something awful. This tactic is to make you question your judgment.
  • They don't give a straight answer to a straight question, but evade the question or change the subject when cornered.
  • They lie by omission or distortion by deliberately being vague.
  • They may either respond with charm and flattery, of will suddenly be angry.
  • They'll play the victim and make themselves out to be the one in distress.
  • They rationalize by giving a plausible excuse for engaging in inappropriate behavior, or they will downplay their behavior.
  • Covert aggressives don't feel bad, but they know you do. They will send you on a guilt trip so you will lighten your accusations.
How to deal with a covert-aggressive person
  • Let go of the pretense that if you play nice, they will play nice.
  • Know your vulnerabilities and focus on the one thing that really needs to change: yourself. You can only control what you do.
  • Set some boundaries for yourself. Be prepared for the consequences and set a support system.
  • Memorize the list of tactics used by an aggressive person. Then it is easier to recognize the attack.
  • If you're willing to accept an excuse, know that they will fling excuses at you until one stick.
  • Stay calm and polite, and avoid sarcasm, hostility, or threats.
  • Without being rude, be specific about what you expect or want from the other person. Aggressives will only participate if they can get something out of it. If they have to lose, they'll make sure you go down too. Ensure you propose win-win solutions
Analyze vs. speculate

Assuming folded arms are a sign of lying behavior is speculation. 

Instead, consider whether the behavior is a result of your question, or possibly just nervousness.

Manage your bias

Deceptive people can flood you with truthful answers and make you believe that they are good people. 

Filter through all the information that is meant to deceive you to get to the real untruths.

Recognize evasiveness

A deceptive person will talk around the issue without actually answering the initial question. 

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Personal responsibility

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Strong communication skills

To take responsibility for yourself, you have to know the things you are responsible for.

It is critical to communicate so you won’t make a mistake due to assumptions. Ask questions and seek feedback. And if you do make mistakes, communicate with people about them.

Creating boundaries

Avoid over-committing and evaluate your workload before adding more to your plate.

Learning to say 'no' or 'not right now' will help you create the necessary boundaries so you'll be able to uphold your responsibilities and achieve all your goals.

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Anger is an emotion that can be harnessed, with collective anger being able to spearhead entire movements and disruptions.

Anger has a strangely energizing effect and helps people deal with trauma and grief. Anger is the one emotion that encourages action.

Anger Is Impactful

People listen to an angry person, making it a salient powerful emotion for interpersonal connections.

Entire movies are made of characters taking revenge as they are angry and resentful due to a reason that the audience loves to hear about.

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Upholder anger

Upholders are very good at execution, and they often feel angry when others struggle in situations where an Upholder wouldn't: people that slow down processes with their questions; people th...

Questioner anger

Questioners need reasons and justifications, and they're angry when other people act, or expect them to act, for reasons that are unexplained or arbitrary.

They're frustrated when others won't give them the answers they expect, or won't give them time to research.

Angry cry of the Questioner: "Why do people just follow along like lemmings, and expect me to do the same for no good reason?"

Obliger anger

Obligers feel the weight of outer expectations. Their anger is often tinged with resentment and indignation, a feeling of being exploited or neglected or treated unfairly. Of the 4 Tendencies, the Obliger Tendency is the biggest (for both men and women).

Angry cry of the Obliger: "Why am I the only one doing anything around here? Why am I meeting other people's expectations, but not meeting my expectations for myself?"

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The role of anger
The role of anger

Anger is not actually bad for us - it alerts us to the fact that we've been wronged. The racing heart and hot face is your body preparing for a fight or flight response, energizing you to confr...

Managing your anger

Managing your anger is all about managing your thoughts. Your thoughts will determine how you respond.

Strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy can teach people healthier thought patterns.

The Angry Cognitions Scale (ACS)

It helps a user read a set of blood-boiling scenarios and rates how likely they are to have each of six possible reactions. It enables you to recognize unhelpful thoughts that cause a knee-jerk reaction. For example: When you are driving through a residential area, and someone backs their car out of a driveway and nearly hits you. There are six possible reactions:

  • "They did that just so I'd have to stop." This is a fallacy known as misattributing causation - you don't know the other person's intentions.
  • "They almost totaled my car." It catastrophizes a scary situation into utter destruction.
  • "Nobody knows how to drive anymore" overgeneralizes a specific situation into a universal truth.
  • "I was here first. They shouldn't have gotten in my way." Here you make an unreasonable demand that somehow other people should know where you're going.
  • "That dumb jerk!" is inflammatory labeling that dehumanizes and insults the other person.
  • "He must not have seen me" is adaptive and more likely to calm you down.

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