Another person's anger isn't always easy to understand, especially when their anger covers up other emotions they may be experiencing. Some emotions can be hard for them to talk about or to admit, even to themselves. Sometimes it's obvious why another person is upset, other times it's more difficult to understand. You might even know why the other person is angry but you can't figure out why they are so angry, especially if you feel that the situation is not a big deal. When feelings aren't worked through, they build up. If this is happening in one of your relationships, it important to talk about it.
Usually when someone is angry we hear their angry words. Instead try hearing the unspoken, "I am scared, I am frustrated, I am insecure, I am vulnerable, I am threatened.
– Dr. Charles Glasssman
Check out this example:
Lizzie is late for curfew. When she walks in the door her father is angry. If Lizzie only sees her father's anger and does not take time to see the emotions below the surface, she is missing much of the story. She may be tempted to roll her eyes and blow it off thinking her dad is overacting again.
What if Lizzie took the time to think about the emotions her dad is feeling under the surface? She might see that her dad was really anxious about Lizzie driving by herself late at night, and got more worried the later it got. Her dad may have felt hurt or disrespected when Lizzie did not follow the curfew that was set. Her dad might also be exhausted because he stayed awake waiting for her.
When it comes down to it, Lizzie's dad could be scared-mad, hurt-mad, or tired-mad.
When you see an angry situation starting to build, try these steps:
- Take a time out. You can't have a productive conversation when someone is angry. Use some coping skills to calm yourself down and allow feelings to settle.
- Set a later time to talk once things have calmed down.
- Reflect, write down what you know about the situation and what emotions you felt and observed.
- Know that you may be missing part of the picture, so prepare yourself to calmly ask questions for clarity and understanding
- Name your emotions by using "I feel" statements. When you are able to name and talk about your emotions, you are able to work through them and communicate what is really bothering you.