5 tips on handling anger or strong emotion coming from others

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15 February 2017
Written by Speak First Linked-in icon

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When we're feeling a strong emotion towards someone such as anger, and they mishandle this, we often feel a hit to the relationship, whether it's personal or professional. Of course, sometimes, when we're on the other end of that experience, we ourselves can get worked up or feel unsure of what the next appropriate step would be. But often, simply recognising and acknowledging this is critical to re-building a relationship, and these 5 tips will guide you through the rest. 

1. Acknowledge 

Show the person acknowledgement of their emotion, whislt also checking you have got the right label for that feeling

2. Ask

Probe what has caused the feeling, always referring to the word the person used to describe the feeling

3. Focus on behaviour not the person

When dealing with anger and conflict, remember the maxim: focus on the behaviour not the person. Ensure your language reflects this

4. Seek clarity

If the anger is directed at you, seek clarity as to the reason and show acceptance that the anger is due to the person’s perception of the situation. Typically, while you may be the recipient of anger, the real reason may not be just to do with you. It may involve other issues relating to their current situation, relationship with others or the organisation

5. Summarise

Check what you have heard by summarising both the content and the feelings behind the person’s message. Don’t be defensive as this can fuel the anger further and affect your credibility and the relationship. Imagine you are a sponge, able to absorb the negative feeling(s), knowing that you can squeeze them out. Alternatively, imagine that you have a protective bubble that allows you to dissociate from reacting to the anger and focus only on helping the person calm down. Once you have openly accepted that the person feels angry, ask what needs to happen for him/her to move on

Remember that anger may not be overtly demonstrated as in shouting, blaming, ointing, put-downs etc. Repressed anger can be felt just as strongly. 

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