When you meet with someone who is angry, you can use the tools of effective listening to help defuse this anger. Nevertheless, when anger is directed at you, it is much more difficult to respond definitively, because your own emotions are usually involved.
To effectively defuse anger, keep in mind the needs of the angry speaker:
- To vent. An angry person needs to let off steam and release the anger that may have been brewing for a long time – use your communication skills to allow the person to do this.
- To get the listener’s attention. An angry person wants to know that you are paying attention – use your body language to show this.
- To be heard. An angry person wants someone to listen to his/her point of view – acknowledge the feelings you hear so that the speaker knows you appreciate how angry he/she is.
- To be understood. An angry person wants someone to appreciate how he/she feels – try to empathize with his/her experience so that he/she feels you understand the situation, and acknowledge his/her right to feel the way he/she does.
When you’re listening to an angry person:
- Be attentive and patient. Keep in mind that he/she will become less angry as you let him/her express him/herself.
- Be sincere. Empathy and validation must be both honest and genuine.
- Be calm. Try to remove your own emotions from the discussion. Remember that an angry person may say inflammatory things in the heat of the moment, but you do not have to react angrily.