How To Respond When Someone "Makes You" Angry

You know the feeling. When someone says or does something rude to you and you retaliate without a second thought with a response that is equally as venomous. We often refer to it as “they just pushed my buttons” or “they caught me at the wrong moment”.

It happens everywhere every day.

But it doesn’t help you thrive.

You believe you have a valid reason for your response. I mean they started it. They were rude to you first. You can’t let people get away with behaving badly like that etc. etc.

Be responsible for your emotions

What if you disarm them immediately? Instead of increasing the stress and tension, you offer them a bunch of empathy and a smile. In other words, you manage your emotions. It went like this …

I was standing in line for that delicious first coffee. It’s 7am. With absolutely no coins and only a $50.00 note, I know it’s probably not going to be received well. Unfortunately, I’m not the first. Three people in front of me have done the same thing and by the time it’s my turn the cafe owner’s usual cheery demeanour has headed south.

“What the hell is wrong with you people. I’m not a bank! I can’t change that!”

Who is in the wrong here? Well, no one is really. It’s no one’s fault.

It’s true that the cafe owner wasn’t being her best self but here is where I can make a difference and be my best self by managing my own emotions well, and in the process, minimising my stress.

Here are your options

Option A is to bite back. Get angry, witty, screamy - or all three.

Option B is to manage my emotions and say “hey, I’m really sorry. Of course you’re not going to have hundreds of dollars in change at 7am. I get that.”

I went with option B.

Before I had a chance to offer up some alternatives, I could see her face soften. She smiled and said she recognised me as a regular in the morning coffee queue. She continued to make my coffee and handed it to me with an apology and my $50.00 note. “Pay for it next time” she said.

Don’t take the easy route, take the best route

It’s pretty easy, almost instinctive, for us to raise the heat when emotions are involved. As Michelle Obama so beautifully said “when they go low, you go high”. When their anger escalates, de-escalate yours. Stand back and get perspective. Take a breath before responding.

If your apology is met with more anger then apply even more understanding. It’s hard to be angry with someone who agrees with you. If they’ve got no one to argue with … the tension quickly fades.

Managing your emotions like this, even when an angry response of equal proportions could be rationalised, will give you a greater sense of control. You haven’t given your power over to someone else. You’ve retained it.

And at the same time you’ve minimised your stress and anxiety.

When they go low, you go high.

Michelle Carlyle