Anger used to scare me because I didn’t understand it.
When I saw someone getting angry, I would try to solve their problem as fast as possible, ignoring their feelings so that I could get out of my own discomfort with their emotions.
As I became more aware of my own emotions, I not only became more gentle and patient with myself, but I also became more patient with others.
I started to see anger as a natural part of the problem-solving process.
I had some resistance to acknowledging my own anger in the beginning because I only wanted to see myself as kind and patient.
But I realized that anger wasn’t the problem.
The problem is that most people respond to their anger in negative ways. And that makes you think that anger is bad.
It’s not good or bad—it’s just another emotion.
It’s a trigger to help you notice that something is off balance.
Knowing this has helped me become a better problem-solver because:
- If you ignore someone’s anger, you’re not fully listening, staying curious, and looking for common ground. You might force a solution that doesn’t really fit the situation because you’re not actually listening to, and understanding, what the person needs.
- If you push someone through their emotions too quickly, the solution is less likely to really stick. Even if the person agrees to a solution, they might not follow through because it wasn’t a win-win for them. You got what you needed, but maybe they didn’t. Maybe you needed to give them more time to brainstorm solutions that could have better met their needs.
- If you rush through a conflict out of discomfort, you’re not actually creating harmony.It’s a perceived harmony because you’re not actually solving the conflict—you’re avoiding it. By avoiding conflicts, you’re not expressing what you want or creating awareness for what the other person wants either.
- If the person doesn’t feel like you understand what they’re going through, the trust between you starts to break down. Even if you have good intentions, there will be more discord because you aren’t truly understanding them.
If you prefer to avoid drama and stay calm, that’s normal. I’m that way, too. And as a “nice girl,” you might have learned to hold back or hide your anger, too.
But when you try to make everything perfect by ignoring anger, you have a harder time adjusting to changes and resolving conflicts.
One way to help someone feel heard is to repeat back what you hear the person saying—not a literal word-for-word playback, but a general summary of what you hear.
Here’s the catch. Don’t just say the facts. Be sure you also say the feelings you hear.
For example, if your partner says, “I’m so mad that we missed my work Christmas party because you had to work late tonight!”
You can respond by saying something like, “If I’m hearing you right, you’re mad that I had to work and we missed your work party. Is that how you’re feeling?
You can also add, “Do you mind telling me more about that?” or “Is there more that you’d like to tell me about that?”
Then, you’ll let them clarify or give more details about what’s bothering them.
Everyone needs to feel heard and understood as part of the problem-solving process—that includes acknowledging even the most intense emotions.
Practice this in small ways each day, so that you’ll be more prepared when the bigger issues come up. That way, the bigger issues and emotions will be less likely to throw you off balance.
Wishing you only the best!