You're Caught in the Middle of Someone's Angry Outburst... Now What?
It may be a shouting, angry boss, a dysfunctional family member, an unruly child, or a difficult neighbor. People who struggle with anger can come in all shapes and sizes. No matter how this person is connected to you, it is probably someone you can't avoid dealing with, or you wouldn't need help with it in the first place! Keep reading to gain some tips and tricks for dealing with a person with anger issues, while not losing your cool yourself.
Evaluate the Situation, then Act Accordingly
If you are not in any physical danger, and the person is just upset and going on a rant, there are several steps you can take. If you are in physical danger, you will need to remove yourself and others from the situation right away and seek help.
Tip #1: Use Humor
It's important to evaluate the situation to determine what the correct response should be. If the person is just getting upset because he/she is disappointed or hurt, or frustrated in some way, and he/she has not gone into a full-blown rant, it may be a good idea to use humor to try and diffuse the situation. If you know the person has a silly side, slipping in a humorous or sarcastic, funny comment (not maliciously sarcastic, mind you) may be a good way to distract the person and help him/her find the humor in everything. Pretty soon you may be laughing instead of arguing, and the whole situation can be reversed.
Tip #2: Walk Away
If the person is obviously beyond finding anything funny at this point, it may be best to just walk away. An angry person is fueled by the reactions of those around him/her. As he or she is ranting and raving, those around him/her are probably getting upset too about the behavior being displayed. But telling an angry person to stop reacting in a negative fashion, in the middle of the outburst, will not help. It will only fuel the person's anger in the heat of the moment. It's best to walk away, whether in a different room, or go for a walk, or tell the person you will hang out with him/her later when he or she is calm. Do not get mad, simply calmly remove yourself from the situation. The person's anger will not have a place to go at that point, and it also will not be affecting you negatively because you have removed yourself from the situation. You're also sending a clear message to the person: your angry outbursts won't be tolerated by me.
Tip #3: Don't Be Easily Angered Yourself: Respond Back in Love
It's important not to allow yourself to be easily angered, either. Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." If your friend is in a bad mood and makes a negative comment, and you respond back with a snarky remark, you are only fueling the negative feelings and causing the argument to escalate. However, a gentle response lets the person know: I am not playing your game; your anger ends right here because I won't keep the negative vibes going. Respond back lovingly and gently next time, and see how fast the anger can be diffused (in some cases).
Tip #4: Stay Silent
If you can't walk away, like if you are in the car with the person or have to see him/her at work because it is your boss or a co-worker, the best thing can sometimes be to remain silent. Do not respond to their angry outbursts, cursing, or negative comments. If the person asks why you are not responding or saying anything, simply let him or her know that you are choosing to ignore anything negative. Staying silent when negative or upsetting comments are being made, lets the person know something: Your angry outburst does not elicit any response from me. Seeing that their rant/rave is not getting anywhere with you, the person's anger will have no where to go, and he/she will probably move on to ranting to someone else who will give them the reaction they are looking for, thus fueling their anger again. At least that person won't be you! Or, hopefully your silence will have the opposite effect, and the person will realize that he/she is overreacting or reacting in an inappropriate manner. Staying silent allows the person to hear themselves and realize the error of their ways, without you saying a word (because deep inside, they already know -- trust me!) **Note that this is different than giving the person the silent treatment. Use this method only when negative comments are being made. Once the person has calmed down and is speaking in a rational way, continue engaging with them as usual.**
Tip #5: Pray!
Pray for this person. Pray that God would indwell his/her heart and show this person how to respond better to difficult situations and control his/her anger. Pray that the person would be in a right relationship with God. Pray for yourself, to be able to handle these negative times in the best way possible, and to have the right words to say (or not say!) The Bible tells us to pray for those who mistreat us. Luke 6:27-28 says, ""But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." I know it seems overly simple, but sometimes praying for this person can really be the best and most powerful weapon you have! God already knows his/her heart, and is the only One who has the power to ultimately turn the situation around. Praying for this person will also unlock a right attitude in your heart towards him/her, because as you pray for them you will start to have more compassion and mercy towards them.
Nicole K (author) on July 18, 2020:
Yes, it can definitely be very difficult when you have a moody boss. I hope some of these tips are helpful to you and that your work environment becomes more peaceful soon!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 10, 2020:
My boss is a temperamental person. Once she is in an argument, she needed someone to support her view, whether right or wrong. I always became the white sheep.
Nicole K (author) on January 04, 2016:
Denise, thank you for commenting! I'm so glad that strategy worked for you in dealing with the conflict with your employer. You sound like a wise woman!
Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 22, 2015:
This is great advice! I have an employer that used to become angry at the slightest provocation when I first started working for him. I found than any response from me would be twisted and turned into increased fuel for his tirade. I finally decided that I was not the one with the problem, it was his problem, and that I would simply be silent. It worked! My lack of response during his tirades decreased both the frequency and intensity of them. He no longer has angry outbursts in my presence and I am eternally grateful!