Never, Ever Say This To An Angry Person

There’s a way to take the edge off a situation without using triggering phrases that can make people even more irritated.

The last thing that most of us want to deal with is an angry person in our face. But chances are, sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

So what do we do? And, maybe more importantly, what shouldn’t we do?

Those are some of the questions that we — Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, the co-hosts of HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast — recently posed to Ryan Martin, better know as the Anger Professor, to find out how to “do anger better.”

“You had a great tweet,” Michelson said during the conversation. “You said something like, ‘Never in the history of “calm downs” has “calm down” calmed down someone.’ So I’m guessing ‘calm down’ is not the thing you want to say.”

“I think ‘relax’ is even worse,” Punjabi added.

“No, ‘relax’ has never relaxed anyone,” agreed Martin, a psychology professor and an associate dean for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“This is a case where … people are elevated and they’re not necessarily thinking as rationally, and they’re a little defensive. You’re not going to make as much progress with those sort of direct statements that you want to make,” he added. “Telling people to do things like ‘just breathe’ aren’t going to have much of an impact.”

Instead, modeling those actions yourself is going to be more effective.

“One of the things I think is funny is that often when people tell someone to ‘calm down,’ they yell it or they say it in a very loud, stern voice,” said Martin, the author of “How To Deal With Angry People” and “Why We Get Mad: How To Use Your Anger for Positive Change.”

“But if you actually back up a little bit and you start speaking softer than normal, you start to communicate in a little more gentle tone, people will sort of inherently match that. This also is rooted in our evolutionary history, that we tend to match the people around us in tone.”

This can help take the edge off the situation without using those triggering phrases, which tend to make us even more irritated.

“It’s, frankly, manipulative. … You’re actually decreasing that elevation,” Martin said. “So speaking in that more gentle voice, staying calm yourself, finding ways to ultimately, if they’re venting, [offer] some minimal encouragers to let them get through that.”

Once there’s less intensity, you’re more likely to have an opportunity to respond.

“I don’t think you want to agree with someone if you don’t agree with them,” said Martin. “But if you can frame a response that seems validating, to let them know ‘you’re obviously really upset about this, let’s talk through some solutions together’ — ways that you can validate their feelings without necessarily validating the cause of their feelings.”

We also discussed the three questions that you should ask yourself before you get angry, what you should do before you send an angry email, and much more. After you’ve had a listen to the full episode above or wherever you get your podcasts, subscribe to “Am I Doing It Wrong?” so you don’t miss a single episode, including our investigations of the ins and outs of tipping, how to score the best deals on airline tickets, how to apologize or vanquish your credit card debt, how to find love online or overcome anxietyonline shopping, tips for taking care of your teethpooping like a pro, the shocking truth about doing your laundry, and secrets to booking and staying in a hotel.

Need some help with something you’ve been doing wrong? Email us at, and we might investigate the topic in an upcoming episode.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Source: Never, Ever Say This To An Angry Person

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