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How to Read People’s Minds During a Conflict (At Work or Home)

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How to Read People’s Minds During a Conflict (At Work or Home)

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

For example:

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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.

For example:

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.

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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.[1] 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.

Remember to:

  1. Identify the type of angry people
  2. Understand their behaviour, patterns and thought process
  3. Approach and react accordingly

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Reference

More by this author

Eugene Cheng

Eugene is Lifehack's Entrepreneurship Expert. He is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark, offering presentation training for companies.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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