How To Deal With Angry/Irritated People?

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by Ryan&Amber2013, Nov 9, 2018.

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  1. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    So how do you respond to someone that is quick-tempered, easily irritated, angry, emotionally unselfcontrolled, etc? Both in the church and outside of it. To be honest, there are many people in my life who seem to display these characteristics on a regular basis.

    My normal response is grace, mercy, gentleness, and love. But is there something I can say or do that will help change someone (other than prayer) at that moment when they are sinning?

  2. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    You are on the right track, per Prov. 15:1. Soft answers help to defuse the situation.

    It also helps to quietly feed back (without injecting your own opinions) what you are hearing to the person such that they see that they are being listened to and heard. A few times of doing this usually results in calming the person such that more reasoned discussion can proceed.
  3. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Wump them up 'side the head?

    Seriously, it's hard to keep your head in this situation. Sometimes trying to shift to the perspective of a disinterested observer helps. Thanks for the reminder -- I am facing an emotional weekend.
  4. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    It should depend on the person and the circumstances. If it's someone that's not normally that way, then you should probably try to figure out what is causing the stress, and see if you can help them through their struggles.

    If it is someone lacking self awareness, a simple 'who peed in your Wheaties this morning' might assist them in self assessing how they are projecting themselves.

    And if it is someone who is used to bullying their way to getting what they want through fear and intimidation, it can sometimes be beneficial to show them that they aren't the biggest (redacted in deference to more sensitive members of the board) in the room.

    And finally, if you've had your fill of them, you can really play dirty, and refuse to engage.
  5. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

  6. Relztrah

    Relztrah Puritan Board Freshman

    Is there something you can say or do to change that person? My answer is no. I have a close relative who lives across town who fits your description perfectly. Your response of love, grace and gentleness is that same that my wife and I have taken toward this individual. But long ago we abandoned any expectation that she would change. She is a believer and our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will convict her of her sin. And we ask ourselves how are we also showing anger, selfishness, defensiveness and irritability without being aware of it.
  7. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    A good tactic is, through conversation, attempt to get them to acknowledge aloud what they are feeling. For example, you may lead with saying something like, "I notice your eyes keep shifting to your phone. Is there a reason for this distraction?" or "You just rolled your eyes. Is there something bothering you?" This can open up a discussion to recognize what is happening between the two of you and lead to them recognizing the hurt they are causing to themselves and/or others.

    The general framework is to:

    1) Note an observation about them (their physical act or behaviors) - This gets them to acknowledge a reflex that they might not be as self-aware about. Don't do this in a "gotchya" way, but in a, "Huh, I noticed you did/are doing this thing a lot lately..." - We have many tells, and sometimes just pointing it out brings someone to attention. "I did what?"

    2) Prompt them to explain what it means - this is where, hopefully, you get them to acknowledge "I'm angry" or "I'm upset" or whatever reason may be influencing such behavior. Some personalities might lead naturally into this because #1 caused such a wakeup call to them.

    By simply being able to recognize the emotion they are experiencing, that may ease them to let down their guard and allow them to be more introspective and process through why they are doing things. Sometimes we often don't realize we act as we if others who can see it help to guide us to that acknowledgement, we might realize our faults, which may lead to rectification. Discussion in this part of the process would hopefully lead to a re-conciliatory step.

    3) Reconciliation. "I didn't mean to..." or "I'm sorry..." - Depending on the personality of the person, this may come more suddenly once they realize they may have harmed another person's feelings, or simply realizing what they were doing. This may also be harder to come to. #2 is probably the longest portion for some.

    4) Making a gameplan for the future aka how do we communicate/interact after this - Always helpful to have a winding down discussion of steps to take to prevent future ill behavior (accountability steps/people/strategies), and/or develop a "rule" for how you will address similar issues in the future with one another

    And this doesn't have to be like this 20 minute counseling session - it can be a couple minutes, 5 minutes, of just eliciting that acknowledgement.

    "I noticed you kept tapping your pencil on your desk all day, are you anxious about something?"

    "You were a little loud when you corrected so-and-so today, did it really bother you?"

    "I keep seeing you pace back and forth to the water fountain, is something the matter?"

    Either your observations will be affirmed, or they may correct you in acknowledgment of the real reason to their actions. It may at least be a good starting place for you to know how to better be gracious, and better cater your conversation to help this person.

    It's sometimes easier said than done--but this is a common tactic used by people who work with children. I am already finding it helpful as a teacher working with teenagers. This can also work for all stages of life. I think it also reflects some of the same steps in which a Christian may repent. To repent, we must first be brought to the knowledge of our sin. Without that acknowledgement, we cannot continue into the path of reconciliation, because we don't see what need we have.

    Call everyone to loving obedience and repentance, whether that is to now reconcile with their neighbor as in these everyday offenses we make, and/or to bow the knee to Christ.
  8. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    When they act out, ask them why they're so angry. Or if they're having a bad day. Some people need it pointed out to them the way they're coming across.

    This is how my wife deals with me. :encourage:
  9. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Indeed. I have taken to just signaling that I am having a bad day early on and those around me tend to give me a wide berth. ;)
  10. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Much good stuff has been said particularly what Jo added. My answers are for dealing with the general public but I suppose they can be applied to mentoring and counseling situations.

    A person needs to be in a deescalated state in order to have any kind of fruitful conversation from the weather to systematic theology or especially to address negative behaviors. Doug Noll has written a very helpful book for addressing people in a highly emotional state but that are not yet behaving violently. The trick is to identify emotions and reflect them back toward the person. "You're angry, you're fed up." Noll has sample dialogues for different situations. At work the other day an employee was doing a pretty convincing Yosemite Sam about an unpleasant experience with a customer when I just said, "you are mad." That was enough for her to close her eyes for a second and crack a smile.

    Of course if violence has ensued then other actions are necessary. That's a different conversation.

    If you are going to give feedback to a person who is deescalated but prickly then address his specific inappropriate behavior only. This can save you from coming across as judgmental and subjective. Don't use the words "you always" or characterize the person. Don't say, "you're lazy" or "you're a jerk." Instead say, "when you say you wan't to get breakfast before work and you don't show up for it two times in row without notice, I am thinking it really isn't that important." Instead of saying, "you and your wife are vulgar, intolerant hot heads" say, "when you suggest that you would like to have polite, respectful discussion of our political beliefs and within a couple of sentences you call my wife and I %[email protected]#s we've decided it is best talk about other things during our time together. Topics like sports, board games and our kids' activities are things we all enjoy. I don't want political conversations to damage our friendship."

    In the church, especially in counseling and mentoring situations it is indeed appropriate to get to motives, intentions and characterizations but not in more casual settings. Just stick to behaviors. In any case don't address those problems when a person's (including a child) emotions are high. He won't budge.
  11. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    I once had a discussion with a man who came to me about anger-issues.
    I started asking simple questions about the problem. When I asked him if he is attending a church, he responded angrily: "It's none of your business!" And then he left.
  12. LilyG

    LilyG Puritan Board Freshman

    I would like to know the answer to this question about my strong-willed 4 year-old. :-D
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