Managing Change Toolkit

People in  Change

Dealing with Their Anger

Dealing with someone who is angry is difficult.

For example, if you are angry, you not very likely to be receptive to listen to reasons and logical arguments. In fact, if the person dealing with you is too reasonable and rational, then you might well just become angrier.

And then there are "Inflamers & Defusers". Although some of the things that the other person says to you may defuse the situation, others may well irritate you further and make you angrier. As an example, saying to someone who is angry "Calm down" rarely helps.

When dealing with someone who is angry, it is important to recognise that until you can get them to lose some of their anger (often simply a cry for recognition and acknowledgement) there is little you can do. We have found it useful to think of handling conflict in stages, as depicted below.

handling conflict in 4 stages

Clearly, such discussions rarely go in a straightforward linear fashion, and often the discussion slips back to a previous stage before moving onto the next stage.

Progressing through the stages depends very much on the behaviour and skills of the manager. The following list covers some common guidelines about this.

Guidelines

Someone who is very angry is unlikely to be rational. They are also unlikely to listen well. These guidelines may help.

  1. Try to get into the right "setting"
    In an quiet office if possible, both of you sitting down - preferably next to each other rather than across a desk.
     
  2. Listen well - this may not be easy.
     
  3. Clarify what the other person is saying.
     
  4. Do not argue back yourself.
     
  5. Do not try to be too rational.
     
  6. Acknowledge the anger - “yes, I can see that you are angry.”
     
  7. Stay calm yourself.
     
  8. State your case assertively.
     
  9. Try to problem solve. If possible, involve the other person.
     
  10. If it is possible, try to arrange to talk at a later stage. The physical emotions may have calmed down.