When you most want to smash someone in the face or run out of the room, remember this ironic opportunity. Cooling off someone else’s anger can be a way to actually bring that person closer. Warning: Don’t add fuel to the fire by suggesting that they calm down.
Hint: “the opposite of anger is not calmness, it’s empathy,” notes Mehmet Oz. So, when someone’s angry at you, that empathy must start with you.
Here are five actionable tips that have helped me, when I’ve used them, which is not often enough. None will work all the time, and some will work better for your personality style than others.
One: Lighten Up
When others begin to act “hot,” we instinctively tend to either:
A. Escalate: Become like them and get loud, more hostile, or exhibit other mimicking reactions.
B. Withdraw: Adopt a drawn expression or poker face, and shut up until you can escape the situation.
Either approach gets us out of balance. Both are self-protective but self-sabotaging reactions. They are akin to saying “I don’t like your behavior — therefore I am going to give you more power.” Instead, slow everything down: your voice level and rate, and the amount and frequency of your body motions. Maintain an understated warmth. Be aware that you are feeling a hot reaction to the other person. Instead of dwelling on your growing feelings 9which we women are most prone to do) , move to a de-escalating action and leave room for everyone, especially the person in the wrong, to save face and self-correct.
Two: Take the “Three A’s to Get Past Anger” Approach
• Ask for more information. That way, the other person feels heard. Plus you both have the opportunity to cool off, so you can find some common ground, based on their underlying concern or need.
In your mind, “warm up” to the part of the person you can respect. Focus on it mentally and refer to it verbally: “You are so dedicated” or “knowledgeable” or whatever their self-image is that leads them toward rationalizing their behavior.
• Add your own. Say, perhaps, “May I tell you my perspective?” This sets the other person up in a position of power, to give you permission to state your view, as you have already given them.
See the rest of the column over at Forbes.