By Lavern Nissley
A close acquaintance of mine has lived a life of anger. I can’t remember many interactions with him when he wasn’t angry about something. Occasionally, I’ve been the target of his anger.
Needless to say, it’s not enjoyable being around people who are perpetually peeved! But what to do?
In another blog post (Take a timeout when you're angry, 10/15/18) we addressed this topic when we ourselves are angry. But what if we’re relating to another person that’s aggressive, agitated and on the attack?
I felt like I needed a strategy with my acquaintance because we were going to be interacting more with each other. Would the timeout method work? How would I make it happen?
Having a positive, premeditated approach is better than enduring the emotional torture of an angry person.
Well, it wasn’t long before I got to try out a "premeditated approach" - what I would say and do if anger raised it’s ugly head. Here’s how it went down.
Me: “(His name), I need to step away from this conversation until we’re both calmed down. I’ll check in with you in about 45 minutes.”
Him: (Raising his voice) "Oh, so is that how we’re going to do this? Just walk away? What good will that do?”
Me: (Walking away) “Yes, I’ll see you in 45 minutes.” (Deep breath)
Him: "Well, the problem with you is . . ." (I didn't hear the rest of his statement)
In 45 minutes I returned, wondering what his demeanor would be. I was quite surprised to see him calmed down with a peaceful look on his face. He expressed openness to hearing what he could do differently.
Me: “(His name), I’ve known you for years, and it’s almost like there are two of you. One is at peace, happy, fun to be around. The other is angry, attacking and hurting those around you. Going forward I will simply be stepping away when you’re expressing your frustrations or anger in an attacking manner. Not much good or productive comes out of our mouths when we’re angry. We say things we later regret. By the way, I practice this myself, and we’ve taught hundreds of people to stop talking until they are calmed down.”
Him: “I think I can do that.”
Me: “That’s great! I don’t think you want to hurt people around you, and this will help.”
That was almost 6 weeks ago. And his self control over anger and agitation has been exceptional.
It may not work this quickly or this well for everyone, but having a positive, premeditated approach is better than enduring the emotional torture of an angry person.
Best wishes to you if this is a tool you need to use!
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.