Can you be angry without being aggressive

You can use these tricks to calm angry people down

Calming angry people down is not always easy. Often one wrong sentence is enough to escalate a situation. As in an example that communication trainer Claudia Berghaus describes: One of her clients works in the complaints department of a travel outfitter. One day a man with a red head came into the shop. He stood up in front of the counter and brandished a broken paddle in his hand. He had bought it there with a set of oars a few days earlier. The first time it was used on the water, it broke - he capsized.

So now he complained about the poor quality and wanted a replacement immediately. However, the employee knew that he could only send in one pair of paddles. The customer had left the unharmed paddle at home. "Please get the second paddle so that I can send the set in," said the employee. That made the irritable man even more angry. He started screaming and wanted to speak to the boss.

If the complaint employee had reacted differently, he could have avoided an escalation.

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"One possibility would have been to break the stimulus-response scheme - for example by doing something that the other person does not expect," says Berghaus. "The offer to first sit down and have a coffee while the employee is pulling out all the stops to meet the customer's requirements would have irritated the stimulus-response scheme." Like a fire that needs wood to to continue to blaze, anger also needs nourishment to stay alive. The employee delivered this to the man with his reaction that a single paddle would not be enough for a complaint.

Although it was clear to the employee that he would not be able to regulate anything without the second paddle, the offer to make the customer a coffee would have saved him time. Later he could have explained the conditions for a return to him in a more relaxed position.

Get to know yourself better

In order to be able to react confidently, however, you first have to know your perception filters better, says Berghaus. “The client was completely fixated on the product. He was not able to grasp the overall situation so quickly and only looked blindly at the one paddle that he could not send in on his own. ”He only perceived the cursing man next to the product selectively. Communicatively, he was not up to the situation and had not actively listened.

“When you practice situations like this, you get to know your perceptual filters better and you can react better the next time you are in a situation like this,” she says.

The fact that without practice we do not react confidently when we face an angry person also has to do with our brain, as communication trainer Susanne Lorenz explains. “We still have a reptilian brain that pops up at such moments fight or flight switches. ”The problem is that other systems in the body are then shut down. This includes the ability to think logically, says Lorenz.

Therefore, another tip is: First of all, do nothing for a moment. This moment helps to become aware of the situation and to gain time. Then you can react more calmly - for example with a question. "That's always good. Ask a detailed question, such as: 'What exactly happened?' "Says Berghaus. This “exact” is important because someone who is very emotional likes to generalize, says communication trainer Jessica Wahl. “The demand for the exact decelerates the situation. If you want to describe the problem exactly, you have to think and calm down, ”she says.

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The third important step: show compassion. For example, who says, “This happened to you in the middle of the river? That must have been terrible for you ”, signals to the other person that he takes his need seriously, says Wahl.

Also, it often helps if the angry person can let off some steam. “The great art is to stay calm,” says Susanne Lorenz. “Exhaling three times or clenching your fist can help. But it's all a matter of practice. If I haven't internalized this mechanism, I'll have a hard time. You need an inner stop sign, ”she says.

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All of these tips could have helped reassure the customer - and only then address the issue with the second paddle. “Before the anger subsides, factual discussions are hopeless. Because if you are angry, you don't really listen, ”writes Albert J. Bernstein in his book How to deal with emotionally explosive people. The American is a clinical psychologist and author. He gives tips on how to best deal with angry people. They partly coincide with those of the communication trainers. Here are a few more:

1. Do nothing for now

When faced with an angry person, you act instinctively and rashly. But to react cleverly, you need to be able to think. It can therefore be helpful to pause for a moment, take a deep breath and say, for example: "Give me a moment to think about it." According to Bernstein, a positive effect: the angry person also has a moment to think about the situation.

2. Grant the person the right to be angry

According to Bernstein, one of the worst mistakes is the following sentence: “There is absolutely no reason to be so angry.” Instead, the person should be granted the right to be angry - but if possible without using the word itself, because that's what angry people want People just don't hear. Instead, say something like, “I can understand that you are upset.” This sentence does not mean that you agree with the angry person's opinion. And those who show compassion take the nourishment out of anger.

3. Don't try to explain the situation

Even if it is difficult, you should suppress the urge to explain yourself. Why? Most of the time, the angry person screams. And whoever screams cannot think at the same time - and therefore cannot absorb any logical information. According to Bernstein, an explanatory sentence usually only does one of the following two things:

  • He demonstrates dominance: I have all the facts ready and they show you are wrong and I am right.
  • Escape attempt: It wasn't my fault, you should complain to someone else.

Both of these reactions will make the angry person even angrier. For her, an explanation goes something like this: "If you are not really completely stupid, you will see that you have no reason to be angry because you are the one who is wrong."

4. Asking: "What would you like me to do?"

The question “What would you like me to do?” Can work wonders, according to Bernstein, because it interrupts the other person's anger and forces them to think about what they actually want. In most cases, angry people don't know exactly what they want. So you have to think - and that will lead to a joint solution to the real problem.