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How do I Cope with Someone who Becomes Angry with me and Loses his or her Temper Before Others?

Don’t get angry yourself. This may be difficult to do but it is absolutely essential if you’re going to calm the other person down. Don’t interrupt. Let the individual vent his or her feelings. Once the individual has his or her say, the person may be more prepared to listen to you and your side of the disagreement. You may want to defend yourself or your company, but it is better to stay quiet until the person has calmed down by saying his or her piece.

Pause once the person is through. Use your eyes and face to say to the other party, "I hear you and I want to help." Mirror the individual’s position and posture, if possible. Getting on the same physical level as the other person can help to build rapport. Sit if he is seated. Stand if he is standing. When it is your turn to respond, speak in a calm voice. Don’t rise to a screamer’s level. Instead, cause him to lower his voice to your level.

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While the individual was yelling, you should have been listening. If you are going to offer possible solutions, you have to know exactly what has angered the other party. If you don’t try to interrupt the other party, you will also be sending another message—a nonverbal one—that you are interested in his or her opinion and he or she can trust you.

When you finally speak up, make an empathetic statement. Say something like, "I can see why you feel that way" or, "If I believed that…, I’d probably feel the same way as you do." Don’t sound patronizing. Resist the temptation, too, to accept responsibility on your organization’s part or another employee’s as a way to put an end to the confrontation. It will only create further difficulties.

Rather, ask questions. Your intent is to determine the nature of the problem. Sometimes, the comments made by the other party are only a smokescreen. Or the other party isn’t as correct about the situation as he or she thinks.