Navigating the fiery waters of an angry person is a delicate art. Are you the lucky person who always finds themselves saying the wrong thing at the worst possible time? When you try to comfort someone when they are heated, but instead you add fuel to the fire? We’ve all been there, playing linguistic roulette and losing terribly.
Here are the top five phrases to avoid, with suggestions on how to be more helpful than harmful.
Ah, the classic “Calm Down,” two seemingly harmless words that, when combined, have a pretty awful impact. Calm down? CALM DOWN?! It’s almost like you’re asking for someone to lose their mind! It’s right up there with telling a teething baby to ‘chill out’ or expecting a cat to be excited about a water bath. Instead, try acknowledging their feelings with a thoughtful, “I can see you’re upset about this. Let’s work through this together, so we can remove some emotion from the situation.” If you validate someone’s feelings, they feel heard and seen. Miraculous, isn’t it?
“Relax, It’s not a big deal.”
If the person opposite you is sharing something that has hurt their feelings or made them feel inadequate, I guarantee you, it’s a big deal to them. Dismissing their feelings is like inviting a bull to the China shop after you just cleaned the shelves. A better approach? “I can see this is really important to you, and I understand why you feel this way.” As we like to say, two things can be true at once. You may not see it as a big deal, but to someone else it is the biggest deal. That is what makes us unique! Differing perspectives are OKAY.
This gem is essentially saying, “Your feelings are invalid, and my opinion matters more.” If your aim is to be the human equivalent of sandpaper, congrats, mission accomplished! Try substituting it with “I’m sorry, this wasn’t my intention.” You become less sandpaper and more of a soothing aloe vera gel. “Let’s find a solution together.” This says, “I’m with you”. Which allows you to become a solution oriented partner, not a critic.
“You’re being too emotional.”
Nothing says ‘I love invalidating your feelings’ like accusing someone of being overly emotional. Newsflash: Anger IS an emotion. It’s like telling a chocolate cake it’s too chocolatey. Instead, how about you say, “I’m here for you. Let’s talk about this when you’re ready.” You’re accepting their feelings and promoting dialogue, which is all people want when they are voicing a stressor.
Let’s be honest, unless you’re a mind-reader, you probably don’t. This phrase, though well-intentioned, can sometimes feel dismissive or insincere. Instead, display genuine curiosity with “Can you help me understand why you’re upset? I am trying to understand your perspective so I can be helpful” It’s like asking for the recipe instead of assuming you know the secret sauce.
Ultimately, the key to navigating someone’s anger is validating their feelings and being a good listener. It’s about empathy, patience, and a dash of well-placed humor. Each angry outburst is a cry for understanding, masked in fiery language and loud voices.
And remember, we’re all humans. We say silly things, make mistakes, and lose our tempers. If all else fails, a heartfelt apology and a box of chocolates can work wonders. Or pizza. Pizza always works.