Most of my work looks at how we can understand and manage our own experiences with anger. However, there’s another side to this, since we all have to talk to, or work with, angry people all the time. Those interactions can be challenging—so here are 5 ways to deal with angry people.
In a previous post, I wrote about why people get angry. There’s a fairly predictable pattern based on your mood, the provocation, and your interpretation of that provocation (which is influenced by your mood). What follows all that is the anger response which can look a lot of different ways (anything from suppression to appropriate assertion to violence).
Learning to relax is obviously a useful strategy for dealing with unwanted anger. There are lots of ways to relax, however (see here for examples of mediation, deep breathing, and taking timeouts). One of the best is to use visual imagery where you visualize a relaxing experience from your memory or your imagination (a trip the the beach, a hike in the woods, etc.).
In fact, if you’re not good at coming up with visualizations on your own, you can even find a few websites with free visualization scrips for you to practice with (see here for an example).
When you find yourself becoming angry, try to visualize yourself as calm and peaceful. Imagine yourself relaxed, your voice calm, and your hands steady. You’ll find that as you imagine yourself this way, you’ll start to become this way. Over time, your anger responses will reflect this.
For some people, it helps to have a phrase they repeat over and over. Words or phrases like “relax,” “take it easy,” or “anger isn’t the solution” can help distract people as they get through the initial angry response.
Many people think of guided meditation as a particular type of relaxation technique. While it is relaxing, it has the potential to be even more useful than that. Relaxation has its effect on by decreasing physiological arousal (you can’t be angry and relaxed at the same time). Meditation, however, has the added benefit of offering an opportunity to think through your feelings in a healthy way.