Success with confrontational people involves remembering three essential truths.
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Many people around the world have been under stress for months. Tensions can be high when we are stressed, and with high tensions comes frustration—and often anger.
Are there people in your life who seem to fly off the handle at the slightest perceived insult? Do you know people who throw verbal barbs and biting accusations your way whenever you try to engage in conversation with them? Odds are very high that all of us have experienced these reactions from others, especially given what we have been going through over the past year.
Success with occasionally angry people, as well as the chronically annoyed variety, involves remembering these three essential truths:
People who anger me, control me.
Those who talk the least have the most power.
Questions create thinking, statements create resistance.
The first truth reminds us that we maintain our personal power only when we choose to separate ourselves from the other’s anger. Empathy enables us to maintain this power. That’s right! When we perceive the other person as hurting, rather than obnoxious, we are far less likely to be triggered by their ire.
The second truth reminds us that ears are mightier than the mouth. Some people remain angry and confrontational regardless of how well we attempt to understand their point of view. Most, however, calm significantly when they see that we care enough to listen.
The third truth reminds us that thoughtful, sincere questions can cause others to think. Examples include:
How long have you felt this way?
What do you wish would happen here?
Can you tell me more?
One educator shared with us his surprise at how well these skills worked with his adult son: “I was ready to use the skills I learned with the parents of my students. I wasn’t prepared for how well they worked when my 25-year-old son blasted me for saying “no” to a loan. Instead of us fighting over the phone, we ended the conversation with some mutual dignity.”
The power of empathy when others are pushing your buttons is described in Keeping Cool When Parenting Heats Up. Although this is meant for parents working with their kids, these truths will work with anyone in our lives, not just with our children.
Thanks for reading! If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend. Our goal is to help as many families as possible.
Dr. Charles Fay

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