Let’s face it. Conflict is inevitable. We’ve all had our fair share of arguments or fights, be it with a colleague, family member or friend. However, you’ll also notice that one person in your life that can easily diffuse a conflict just as it had started.
You wonder, what’s their secret? It’s like they know what the other party is thinking and with a snap of their fingers, they’ve deescalated the situation.
Unfortunately, not everyone automatically becomes an expert in handling conflicts. Furthermore, the people we encounter are all diverse – not one are the same. What could be offensive to a person may not be to another.
To truly get to the bottom of the issue and resolve the conflict, you need to read between the lines, observe their actions, behaviours and listen more than you talk. In short, you need to read people’s minds.
However, this is easier said than done. More than often, people let their emotions get the better of them, making the conflict bigger than it should’ve been.
Here’s a simple guide on how to read the minds of others during a conflict and how to resolve it.
Table of Contents
Identifying different types of anger that lead to conflict
Firstly, it’s important to take note of the type of angry people during a conflict. Once you identify where he or she falls in the category, it’s easier to read their thoughts through their behaviours and wants. Only then can you work on how to approach them and come to a solution.
1. Behavioural anger
This type of anger is unpredictable, expressed physically and directly. It can be so overwhelming, he or she may lash out angrily at the target. This person may resort to breaking or throwing things around in a fit of rage.
How to deal with them:
Let go of your ego and pride.
Although it’s tempting, don’t fight fire with fire.
It’s extremely important to not push their buttons. Instead, find a way to calm them down. This is because they’re at an extremely vulnerable state, sensitive to everything that’s being said to them. One wrong word will only make them defensive and lash out, making the situation worse.
Do not fight with them about who is to blame, who is right or who is wrong. Instead, ask how they propose on solving the problem.
Let them cool down.
If your attempt to talk calmly and rationally fails, let them be. There’s no point trying to talk sense into them as all logic flies out of their brain once they are mad.
2. Verbal anger
This type of anger is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that deeply hurts the target via words. The person expresses their anger through shouting, insulting, threatening, sarcasm and criticising.
These people lash out their anger with the intention to hurt the other individual. Afterwards, it’s common they feel ashamed and regretful after they’ve calmed down.
How to deal with them:
Don’t take it to heart.
Verbally aggressive people speak to hurt. Rather than taking their words to heart, understand that words cannot hurt you if you choose not to. You have a choice to respond. You can either get hurt over what they’ve said or brush it off.
Not only that, avoid saying things out of anger just because the other person did. Do not stoop to their level. What these people often say are mostly driven by their emotions than facts, hinting at their fears, frustrations and bruised ego.
Remember, once this person has calmed down, they’ll most likely regret what they’ve said to you. If you do take their words to heart, it doesn’t help them – or you – feel better. If anything, it’ll just cause more tension.
Respond with humour.
If you cannot resist snaking up a comment or two back to the person, try joking with them. Although no one likes to be made fun of, cracking up a joke or two will help loosen the tension in the air between you and this person – the joke can even be one at your own expense.
Set limits when they’ve crossed the line.
Sometimes, these people who lash out at you tend to say things that cross the line. These people who are verbally aggressive may not necessarily be angry with you but they may be angry at others and are unconsciously venting it out on you.
If you feel like they’ve gone too far, tell them in a non-accusing but firm manner that they have crossed the line and you won’t take any of it.
Another option is to say in a calm tone that although you understand why they’re mad, they should not take it out on you.
If neither of the options worked, it’s totally okay to stop the conversation and let the person cool down. Always remember to stay in control of the conversation.
3. Assertive anger
This is the most constructive and healthy way to manage anger. These individuals make use of their feelings of anger and channel it to drive positive change. They openly communicate the problems they have with others in a calm and logical manner while still being firm and objective over the situation. Then, they discuss ways to resolve the problems with the other party.
In summary, they don’t avoid confrontation, keep their anger in or resort to physical and/or verbal insults to get their message across. They drive for positive change in the world and in others – without causing tension or destruction.
How to deal with them:
Express your understanding.
People with assertive anger do not come with the intention to hurt you but to resolve an issue rationally. However, this does not mean they will sugar coat their words either.
Listen sincerely to how they feel about the situation and empathise with them.
If a person is telling you they don’t like how you don’t adhere to the deadlines of a project at work, show that you understand by saying you know the consequences of being late with submissions and you’ll work to improve it.
Avoid saying you know exactly how the other person is feeling because you don’t know all of that for sure.
Give them what they want.
Find out what they want from you. These people are seeking change and usually it’s for the better. Hence, find out what you can do to help them or fulfil their needs after they’ve addressed the issue.
Once they have brought up the issue, discuss with them what you can do about it to improve from there.
4. Passive aggressiveness
A person who is passive aggressive avoids confrontations and represses any feelings of anger with the other party. As a result, these people express their negative feelings subtly through their actions instead of handling them directly. This creates a blurring line between what they say and what they actually mean.
Let’s say you propose a vacation plan in Hawaii. A person with passive-aggressive behaviour may disagree with the plan secretly but instead of saying so, they agree with you. Since they’re actually against it, their actions show through. This can mean lack of participation in the discussion, purposely making errors or backing out of the vacation at the last minute.
In short, they find ways to undermine the plan.
How to deal with them:
Be assertive when talking.
Just as mentioned, the passive-aggressive person avoids their negative feelings, not addressing them head on. Therefore, it is up to you to confront them about it.
Address the issue and animosity surrounding the both of you. Tell him or her how you feel about how they’re acting around you to let them understand where you’re coming from. Then try to clarify if they’re mad at you and then get them to tell you about it.
Don’t entertain them.
Sometimes, the passive-aggressive individual may say something but their intention may mean another.
Here’s an example:
You took a little more time to return a book you’ve borrowed from them and when you finally got the chance to return it, they say, “Wow took you a month to return the book but it’s okay, thanks!”
Instead of falling for the bait and asking what they really meant, do not think too hard about it and reply back to the content of the situation – not the context.
Hence, you can say, “you’re welcome!” meets the person where they’re at, but doesn’t take their bait, which is a great way to disarm them.
Renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini also shares a similar concept of Reciprocity in his book: ‘Influence’ that can be used in this circumstance. By giving something, expecting nothing in return to the person, you’re leaving room for the person to return the favour.
Summing it up
And there you have it, if you’re able to identify the type of angry people, you’ll be able to understand how to appropriately deal with them and resolve the conflict just as fast as it started.
- Identify the type of angry people
- Understand their behaviour, patterns and thought process
- Approach and react accordingly
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