It’s easy to snap at someone. They may say or do something that bothers you or they may just look a certain way. In this high stress world that many of us live in, people walk around like ticking time bombs, just waiting to explode. But it’s during these moments that we immediately respond with anger that we may say or do something that we regret. And they can hurt, and even irreparably damage, a relationship.
One piece of advice that I share with my speaking classes is that speaking to groups makes you a better communicator during one on one situations. This is because you learn good habits such as thinking before you speak. The communication that typically gets us in trouble happens in these moments where we speak without thinking. So here are three ways to avoid the angry response.
Take a deep breath or count to ten before responding. This will give the other person time to finish their thoughts. You may be surprised, but if you let people finish what they were saying and along the way they’ve said something inappropriate, they may just catch themselves and either retract it or even apologize. This may happen immediately or it may happen later on, but it’ll only happen if you don’t respond with anger. Often, they’ll thank you for hearing them out.
Conversations are often like chess matches – every verbal move you make causes a response from the other side. In chess you want to take the time to think about how your opponent will respond to each potential move you’ll make, the same advice is helpful in heated discussions. Everything you say will get a reaction, so you want to ensure that what you say is getting you the reaction you want and moving the conversation in the direction you want to go it. When we lash out immediately, this rarely happens – instead the other side pushes back on us and it only strengthens their resolve. So just think it through and take your time responding, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.
I recently came across a humorous video of a religious speaker talking about how he’d often pray during conversations that were about to get ugly. While his intention was to be funny, he offered a great piece of advice. If you’re religious, try praying for strength or patience while a conversation is getting heated. If you’re not religious, try refocusing your mind by thinking positive affirmations. This actually forces you to pause and to think. It also keeps you in the right frame of mind for dealing with these types of situations.
You’ll find that by making this simple change, that your interactions will go a lot smoother. Also keep in mind that people get into bad moods for various reasons and usually end up lashing out at the wrong person. When I was a kid, I worked in a blue collar position alongside people that were two to three times my age. While most of these people were great to me, the occasional bad day came with the territory and I found myself on a couple of occasions in the wrong place at the wrong time. After one such incident, a coworker tried to comfort me by telling me that the person who had just yelled at me was actually angry at his boss and yelled at a number of other people that day. While I accepted that answer, my relationship with this other person changed. Weeks and months later, he’d try to make conversation about our similar interests but I just felt uncomfortable and would cut the conversation short. As an adult, I now know not to take these things to heart and have developed a much thicker skin. But had this person used any of these techniques I listed above, we would have continued to have a friendly relationship.
The point here is that lashing out at someone rarely accomplishes anything good. At best you feel better and the other person feels bad (assuming this is the desired result you seek). At worst, you ruin the relationship. You often regret what you’ve said, not what you didn’t say.