- Posted by Janet Zaretsky
- On January 24, 2017
- 0 Comments
There is almost nothing that is more upsetting for most people than to be at odds with other people, especially people they care about. I have heard stories galore, I have had my own share of anger at and from others. Today, with all of the social media and the relative ‘safety’ it provides, there is more and more anger and upset. I have witnessed and been the victim of directed anger. It is not pretty and it is not fun.
So, what can you do to deal with it, effectively? After coaching thousands of people, I can tell you some things that work. Some work better than others and there is not a magic bullet, but doing what you have been doing that isn’t working is not the answer. You know one of the common definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result! If you are ready and willing to first understand what is happening and second, try something new, read on.
First let’s examine why people get upset. There are generally only three reasons. Really.
The first and most common reason is people get upset when they have expectations that are not met. They, (and you where this is true for you), don’t live as if they have an expectation, they live and believe they have an agreement. So, what is an expectation- it is a belief someone has about something that should be some way. An example that used to get me upset—at the holidays, I expected my family to react with joy at their gifts and when they did not react the way I thought they should, I got upset. It seems silly now, when I write it, but I used to always experience disappointment and mild irritation at the holidays until I identified that I had an expectation. I had never talked to my family and they had never agreed to act this way, so it was simply my expectation. Once I identified that, I let it go and now, holidays are so much more fun.
The second reason that people, (and where for you this is true), and you get upset is because you wanted something to happen and it did not. You intended to accomplish something and you failed. Failure is a major issue for people because they, (and you if it fits), identify not getting what they want, which is all failure really is, as personal. As if failing means “I am a failure” and no one wants that, so you get upset. And if you can identify the who interfered with what you wanted to accomplish, you blame and get upset with them. This can also be more than one person, but a whole class of people.
The last reason for people, and you, getting upset is when you have not said what you wanted to say to someone. You either stepped over something in the moment of something happening or you have been holding onto undelivered communications. And they pile up. With the piling, up of these undelivered communications is all the upset. It is like you are sitting on a powder keg and every time that person speaks, without them knowing you haven’t said anything, you get annoyed.
If you look at all the times you get upset, even when you get in social media fights with people, one or more of these reasons are at play.
So, what do you do to diffuse all this anger, and upset when it is directed at you?
First and this is really critical: Do NOT RESIST. If someone is upset at you or directing their anger toward you and you push back, the almost certain outcome is you both will be upset. You will be stuck. Nothing gets accomplished and the upset does not get diffused. I can almost hear some of you arguing with me about how it is not fair and you can’t let them get away with that, etc. Here is the thing—I really do get that, but pushing back with your own dose of anger does not resolve anything, ever.
Next, say something like “That is interesting, why would you say that?”, and then listen. Keep your tone neutral and discover what is really going on. Stay in a questioning stance. Now that you know they have either an expectation that did not get met or something they wanted to have happened that did not or they have failed to communicate something you can ask questions to help them, and you, discover what is going on. Most of the time, this diffuses the emotional out of control component and allows for dialogue to happen.
A caveat- sometimes the person who is upset is out of control of their emotions and will not calm down. The best strategy in this circumstance is to withdraw from engaging. They can’t fight if there is no one pushing back. I recently had to do this with a distant family member. It really works!
As adults, we don’t nor will we ever agree on everything, but we can get interested in discussions and open dialogues. We may even agree to disagree. However, when we can diffuse the emotional reaction of an upset and start talking and listening to each other, we can move conversations and issues of disagreement forward.
I created an infographic for you to remind you. You can get it here.