11 Hacks To Help You Diffuse Tense Situations
The reality is, people are going to get angry with you regardless of whether you give them a legitimate reason to or not. You can't really control how someone feels or reacts. But if you are looking for ways to diffuse a conflict situation, there are a few little tricks you can do to keep the peace.
There are certain types of people that you just can't seem to stay angry with, and the big secret here is, these are people that don't get easily angry themselves, author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle. "Their general demeanor is always cool and flowing like water, not hot and fiery," Myra says.
According to her, there's a "universal law" you may be familiar with that talks about action and reaction. When one person is angry, it will often trigger anger in the person they're interacting with. People who easily diffuse conflicts are careful to not respond to anger with anger.
"These are the sorts of people you just can't get angry with, because your anger slips away and vanishes when they don't react or respond to it," she says. "People who have the ability to do this generally go with the flow, are not judgmental and generally stay in a good mood, regardless of what other people do."
But as many of us know, it's quite a challenge to stay cool when someone's going off on you. So here are some small things you can try to diffuse conflict when someone is angry at you, according to experts.
1. Have Open Body Language
"The first step to preventing or disarming anger is maintaining an emotionally grounded and defusing demeanor," executive coach and author, Jason Sackett, PCC, LCSW, tells Bustle. That means, let go of your pride and ego, and maintain open body language. "Be ready to listen without defensiveness," he says. When it comes to conflicts, non-verbal cues can say a lot. You don't want to be expressing your feelings to someone who's just going to roll their eyes at you. According to Sackett, this practice can dissolve about 50 percent of the person's anger on the spot.
2. Address The Other Person's Concerns
When someone's mad at you, it's important to neutralize the situation by empathizing with their point of view. Make sure you acknowledge their feelings. You can do this by repeating their concerns back to them to show that you're trying to understand (i.e. "So you're mad because I'm always late"). As Sackett says, "Even if you get it wrong, your sincere attempt to address others' issues and your willingness to listen further will make it very hard for most people to remain angry at you."
3. Make An Approach, Don't Confront
If you want avoid major fights from happening, Varsha Mathur, Founder of KnowingLuxe™ Coaching, tells Bustle, approach rather than confront, There's a big difference between "Hey, can I talk to you about this issue for a moment?" and, "Hey, I need to talk to you about this right now." The latter is more likely to put someone in a defensive mode. "To diffuse a difficult situation or prevent angry fights, it's good to gently approach the person or situation with advance notice," Mathur says. Making a gentle approach will set the tone for how the conversation will go down.
4. Practice Active Listening
"People who are good listeners and can separate their own 'stuff' from those around them are likely diffuse conflicts much faster," licensed professional counselor, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. Active listening isn't the easiest thing to do when you're in the middle of an argument. Chances are, you're so caught up in your own thoughts and feelings that it's hard to really listen to anyone else. But if you're able to tune out your opinions, really listen to them, and respond in a calm way, you can de-escalate conflicts much more quickly.
5. Use "I" Statements
"The simplest way to tackle any interpersonal problem is to explain how you see the situation and how it makes you feel," Janet Lamwatthananon, ZipRecruiter's career advice expert, tells Bustle. Limit any misunderstandings from escalating by starting statements with "I." For instance, "I feel like people never listen to me when I share ideas." This is a lot softer and a lot less accusatory than, "You never listen to me when I have something to say." When you're able to open up in a more vulnerable way, people are more likely to work with you in a more positive and constructive way.
6. Use Conflict As A Growth Tool And Own Up To Your Mistakes
If you want to diffuse conflict as quickly as possible, don't go into it thinking you're completely blameless. "Use conflict as a growth tool," Candice Thomas, Intuitive Coach and author, tells Bustle. "Think of it as an opportunity to see potential blind spots in your behavior that is keeping you from living the life you want." In order to do this, Thomas says to ask yourself constructive questions like what is my part in this? Will escalating this fight really lead me to what I want? Is it worth it? "Constructive questions take the emotional charge out of conflict and keep us focused on the bigger picture of what we want to experience," she says. If you realize your behavior is making people mad, own up to that. From there, you can decide which changes or slight adjustments you want to make moving forward.
7. Don't Take It Personally And Address Issues As They Come
Sometimes people will be in a bad mood and will lash out at anyone who crosses their path. Although it's not a good excuse, it's just important to remember not to take things so personally all the time. "Even though something can feel like a personal attack, conflict can be constructive under certain circumstances," Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster, tells Bustle. For instance, differing opinions can sometimes lead you to more creative thinking and better solutions that everyone is happy with. But also, be sure to bring issues up as soon as possible. Otherwise it will likely snowball, Salemi says.
8. Bring Your Sense Of Humor
"Anger most often occurs when someone gets stuck in an emotional corner," licensed psychotherapist, Ari Hoffman, tells Bustle. "Therefore, when someone is able to help them out of that corner, the anger will settle." One way to do that is to have a sense of humor about the situation. According to Hoffman, people with a good sense of humor are often able to bring something into a situation even if it's really stressful or heated. But of course, if you are going to use humor, be sure to "read the room." Cracking a joke in the middle of a serious argument can make people even more mad. So be sensitive, Hoffman says. Otherwise, it can be really effective in "interrupting the anger process."
9. Find Some Common Ground And Empathize
When it comes to quick conflict resolution, it's important to recognize that everyone is coming from somewhere. Asking someone, "Why are you mad?" in an offhanded way is not going to make them feel better. Telling someone to not get angry because it's "not a big deal" is also not helpful. According to Hoffman, "When an angry person feels that another person is respectfully listening and even empathizing (not necessarily agreeing, just empathizing) the angry person feels [they have] an outlet to that anger and the intense energy behind the anger will often dissipate quickly."
10. Be Humble
A person who is "confidently humble" presents a very low threat to others, Hoffman says. "That person can naturally feel like a safe place for someone who is angry, to be with and relax."
11. Sincerely Apologize
If you want to diffuse any conflict as quickly as possible, say you're sorry and mean it. "Make it clear you do not want to argue, disagree or upset anyone," Lynne Goldberg, event specialist, tells Bustle. It's hard for someone to get more angry with you when you're not adding fuel to the fire.
When someone's angry at you, it can make for a really uncomfortable environment. Again, you can't control how someone reacts to something you did or said. You can be the most lovable and charming personality in the room and you'll still find that someone who might get angry with you. Conflict in life is inevitable. So luckily, there are a few things you can do to minimize drama and de-escalate conflicts as quickly as possible.