Remember, confrontation is about reconciliation and awareness, not judgement or anger. – Dale Partridge.
(This is a guest post by Stephanie O’Brien of Coach Connection).
Few things suck the sparkle out of your life like a fight with someone you care about.
Whether you’re talking to a partner, child, boss, coworker, or client, it’s important to know how to handle the disagreement in a way that restores love, trust and respect, instead of eroding it further.
The next time someone in your life is angry with you, here are 3 methods you can use to defuse their anger, regain your rapport, and create a mutually beneficial solution!
1. Don’t open with self-defense
When you feel attacked or accused, the natural reaction is to defend yourself. You instinctively want to explain yourself, because if the other person understood WHY you did what you did, they wouldn’t be angry, right?
Unfortunately, this often makes things worse.
Instead of communicating that you had a good reason for your actions, you unintentionally tell the other person that their anger is invalid, they don’t have the right to see things the way they do, and you don’t care enough to hear them out.
It also costs you a valuable opportunity to gain insights into their personal trigger points and vulnerabilities – insights that could help you understand them better and prevent future arguments before they start.
So instead of immediately defending yourself, use step #2:
2. Draw the poison out of them
This step takes patience and self-control, and a self-image that’s strong enough to maintain your faith in yourself even while your good traits are being challenged.
But if you use this method, the result will be a deeper understanding between you and the angry person, and a greater willingness on their part to listen to you.
Before you offer an explanation of your actions, give the other person room to vent. Ask for clarification on their feelings – for example, if they seem to feel that you’ve disrespected them, you could say, “It sounds like (what they’re accusing you of) made you feel disrespected. Is that right?”
Also see if there’s anything else that’s simmering beneath the surface, waiting to boil over.
One phrase you can use for this is, “You’ve given me a lot to think about. Before I answer you, I’d like to know: is there anything else I’ve said or done that bothered you?”
This may feel like self-flagellation, or like giving an attacker an extra opportunity to hurt you. Try to remember that with the exception of truly abusive cases, they aren’t really attacking you. You aren’t their enemy, and they aren’t yours; the source of their pain and anger is.
By drawing this pain and anger into the open, without being offended by it or telling them they’re wrong for expressing it, you create the opportunity to tackle it together. Right now, you’re unearthing potential land-mines in your relationship while they’re close to the surface, so they can be defused before you step on them again.
You’re also increasing the other person’s willingness to listen to you.
The longer you listen to someone, the more they feel understood, validated and cared about. Listening also increases your credibility in their eyes, because your answer isn’t perceived as a canned reply or knee-jerk reaction; it’s an informed opinion based on a real effort to comprehend what they’re saying.
Staying steady during what seems like a verbal attack takes self-control, but remembering the benefits that will come out of it can help you to stay calm and un-offended while the other person blows off steam.
Then, once you’ve drawn the poison out of the offended party, you can move on to step 3:
3. Acknowledge their anger, then explain yourself
First, acknowledge that your behavior could have come across the way the other person perceived it. This isn’t an admission of guilt; it’s simply laying the groundwork for giving your side of the story without creating resistance by making them wrong.
Then, explain that the way you came across wasn’t your intention.
For example, you could say, “I can see how me not calling when I said I would could come across as neglectful or disrespectful. I never intended to do that to you. I think we had a mixup with the time zones; I thought you meant Central Time, but I guess you meant Pacific.”
Then, suggest a way to avoid the conflict in the future. “In the future, would it work for you if we make sure we name the time zone when we’re arranging our calls, so we don’t miss each other again?”
This puts you both on the same side. Now, instead of them trying to wrestle you into meeting their needs, you’re working together to ensure that both your needs are met.
4. Bonus step: what to do if the other person was overly rude or harsh
Once the person you’re talking to seems calm, and you’ve reestablished good rapport, it’s your turn to get YOUR needs met. A good way to start is, “I appreciate you bringing all of this to my attention. Is it all right with you if I make a request?”
This shows respect to them, and helps to get them into ‘yes’ mode.
Then, you can use this formula to effectively express your needs: “When you (the thing they did that hurt you), I feel (what you felt). I need (what you need). Would you be willing to (suggest a specific solution).
For example, “When you yell at me, I feel hurt, disrespected, and unsafe. I need to know that, when you’re upset or need something from me, you’ll let me know kindly and politely. In the future, when something’s bothering you, would you be willing to tell me before you get really upset?”
This communicates your feelings without accusation, and give them a specific and reasonable way to honor your needs.
Do you have any tips for preventing arguments, handling them graciously, or recovering your relationship afterward? I look forward to reading your comments.
About the Author: Stephanie O’Brien is a marketing expert, copywriter, business coach and self-growth addict. She helps coaches and entrepreneurs to attract more clients, build a lifestyle-friendly business, and create group programs so they can serve more people in less time. Find her at www.coachclientconnection.com.
About this site: Hi! I’m Tia. Multi-passionate Sparklepants, Life Lover, Curator of Awesome. I run this website featuring kickass inspiration to help you sparkle through life, no matter what! Go here to ignite your Inner Sparkle — that shimmery part of your spirit that says YES to courage + connection, and NO WAY to ‘shoulds’ + restrictions. Click here to contribute a post.
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