If someone in your life is having trouble controlling anger, the erratic and volatile outbursts can be scary and unforgettable. You love and care for this person, but the behavior may become intolerable. Keeping the relationship with your friend, spouse or child in tact while letting the person know there is a big problem mounting is a delicate task. But with the right knowledge and the right tools, you can help your loved one take the helm on anger.
You probably know what makes your loved one tick, so avoid those triggers if you can. Don’t intentionally push buttons. Don’t escalate the issue or argument. And if you notice someone else doing so, try to intervene and vouch for your loved one. Try not to allow others to intentionally cause an outburst. Bring the intensity and tension back down to conversation level, from boil to room temperature.
2. Objective perspective
Keep your view clear and objective. Don’t play into that person's version of events. People with anger issues tend to see themselves as victims — of circumstance, of foul play, of attack and of their own emotions. Make sure you remind your loved one of the events as they actually transpired, not as that person might remember them. Don’t let anyone cloud your view, or bully you into believing only one side of the story.
3. Cool down
During or after an episode, let an angry person cool down before confronting him or her if you can. Take a break, leave him or her alone for a little while. Don’t let it go necessarily, but let the moment pass. Give everyone involved time to divert their attention, or reflect on the incidents they’ve caused.
4. Emotional ownership
Remind your loved one that everyone is responsible for their own emotions. They cannot control anything else in the world. They can only control themselves. If a person is angry about something, it is a problem only that person can fix. The problem isn’t everyone else, anything else or the rest of the world. The problem is the anger. There will be plenty of uncomfortable or undesirable circumstances in all our lives and anger cannot be our staple reaction to all of them.
5. Anger management
Suggest enrollment in an anger management class. If aggressive outbursts have caused physical harm or property damage, this may be court ordered. But it is better for a person to seek help for anger issues voluntarily as a preventative step, rather than as a punishment for past criminal behavior.
I personally keep my distance from people who seem to have a hard time controlling anger. It is a symptom of a much bigger problem, one that person will have to seriously work on to remedy. When someone in my presence becomes aggressive, manipulative, loud or even just nasty, I make the behavior explicitly known. And inform that person that I won’t tolerate it. Generally, that shuts down the escalation. People usually realize quickly that I won’t put up with their disrespectful behavior and edit their future interactions with me. Sometimes people simply push this misplaced emotion onto someone else. Someone who they know will put up with it.
Angry, abusive people know who they can walk all over, and who they can’t. If you let them take advantage of your time, attention and care, they will. Show them you care about them, but don’t let them steal your joy. Give them a reason to care enough about themselves and the people who love them to get help. It’s available. All they need to do is ask, or accept.