By Debra K. Waranch, LCSW-C
Often in our daily lives we come across people who are upset and angry. These encounters can leave us feeling dismayed or hurt, or feeling as if their anger transfers onto us. This recently happened to me, but I refused to let the person’s anger attach to me. I realized the anger was this person’s alone, but I also knew he would go on throughout the day doing this to others. It saddened and concerned me.
Making a person feel bad or belittling another only reflects poorly on the aggressor. “Disrespecting” another person can damage his or her self- esteem, and it can lead to retaliation and even violence.
We all make mistakes and at times lose our cool, not always purposely, but because we are all human, busy with our own lives, and rushed.
When you are on the receiving end of someone’s losing his temper, what can you do? Instead of internalizing the person’s anger, take it as an opportunity to help someone out. You have been given a teachable moment, a gift of an opportunity to help another person by providing guidance with information you may have.
How can we learn to manage anger when it is directed at us? Here are some guiding tools:
- When feeling the zing of anger towards you, do not immediately respond back.
- Take time to assess what you are feeling.
- Ask yourself: will my response back make a difference to this person? How?
- Ask: will my response thwart that person’s anger or raise it up?
- Smile—it gives a peaceful message. The unexpected response of a smile (if it’s not in a mocking spirit) may disarm the other person or distract him from his anger.
- Calmly and slowly state your reaction in a non-defensive manner.
Each of us is responsible for how we express our feelings. We need to own our anger, and sometimes to check it at the door before proceeding. Meeting others’ anger with calm and kindness can often defuse it. This will make you feel better, and it can often also make the angry individual feel better. You may even be protecting someone else from the anger.
These are good guidelines not just for adults; we can also use them to help our children learn how to manage their own anger and how to react to the anger of others. By watching how we respond to anger, our children will learn that verbal attacks are not OK and that we need to respect others’ feelings.
As a community, if each of us kept our anger in check, imagine the peaceful world we could live in.
By Debra K. Waranch, LCSW-C, Therapy Services, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
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