Coping with Someone Elses Anger

Most of the articles on this site are focused on the person who feels and then acts out the anger. This is because it is important to realise that someone can only change if they want to, and that no matter how hard you may wish someone else’s behaviour will change, unless they set out to change it themselves, then it is just a waste of time.  But what if you’re the one who is suffering because of someone else’s behaviour?  What can you do?

The most important thing is to refuse to be sucked into it and to start behaving in the same way yourself.  If you get equally as angry, then you have 2 angry people, who at that moment in time are unable to resolve the situation.  The conflict may escalate and opinions become so rigid that they appear to be worth fighting for.  The conflict then takes on a life of its own until someone walks away.

If you are the person who has not lost control of their emotions then don’t feed the other persons anger, that is, don’t argue and argue in an attempt to explain your viewpoint.  If you do this you are only validating the bad behaviour of the other person and making them become even more entrenched in their viewpoint.

Simply say that you don’t agree with them, but will talk about the problem when they have calmed down.  Walk away!  Don’t say anything smart to them as you go because that will only make them worse.  Remain calm and then get out of the situation.  It may be an idea at this point for you to think back as to why the person reacted the way they did.  Did you do/say something that triggered this response?  Obviously, even if you did, that doesn’t excuse the other person’s behaviour as we are all responsible for our own inner worlds, but maybe you said something that sparked off the reaction that in future you could avoid.

Giving the angry person space will allow them to gather their thoughts, calm down and approach the problem rationally.  They might even regret their outburst.  If they see that their behaviour is not getting them anywhere, then they might take steps to change it, but the important thing to realise is that YOU cannot change their behaviour, only they can do this.

Realise too that sometimes we all have other things going on in our heads, other stresses, strains and worries that can lead us to have a short fuse and take our bad humour out on others.  For the most part we control ourselves so that this doesn’t get out of hand.  Sometimes though, people can react before they have engaged their brain.  If you are dealing with someone who is in a bad place, try to be a bit more understanding about why they exploded the way they did.  When they are calm, talk to them and tell them that it is not ok to behave that way with you or others.  Suggest they seek help with their problems and with their coping strategies.

If a person you have to deal with regularly is unable/refuses to change their behaviour then you must think about ending the relationship/friendship/etc.

This advice is for dealing with an angry person, not an abusive one.  If someone gets violent with you, then find any way that you can to leave the situation….even if it is to agree totally with them, appease them in any way that you can to avoid them hurting you.  Once you are out of immediate danger, you must make the choice to never put yourself in that situation again.  Losing control of your anger to the extent that you injure another person is a criminal offence as well as morally reprehensible.  It is not something that you should accept if this has happened to you.

How you deal with the situation from there on in is really down to the circumstances.  Is it someone you can easily avoid?  Is it someone you see in work or is it someone you live with.  Each situation will require different methods of making sure you are not put in harm’s way again.  You, at this stage, should also consider reporting them to the authorities, if only to prevent them from doing this to another person.

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, I have no other advice for you other than to get out of it.  Seek family and friends support and use the services that are provided to you by the state.  Abusive partners are unlikely to stop until they see the errors of their ways and set about changing their behaviour.  It is not up to you to be their punch bag while they work through their issues.

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