Slow to Anger: How to Keep Offensive People from Derailing You

Do you ever have days that you feel completely derailed by someone’s words, actions, and/or attitude? Maybe they have a point of view you vehemently disagree with. Or they refuse to hear you.  Or (one that upsets me more than anything) they assign bad intentions where there are none. How do you keep cool? How do you step back and not let it ruin your day? How do you rid yourself of the negative feelings that are keeping you from being able to focus on more important things?

Some hard medicine to swallow is that in their eyes, you are the asshole.

Yes, you. Always, always consider the possibility that you are wrong.

But I’m not! They’re the one who…

It doesn’t matter. Blameless and well-intentioned as you may be, they are coming at the world from a different angle. Maybe the best thing was to not engage in the first place. You may never see eye to eye with this person. You may never understand how they can see the world from their perspective. But it’s prudent to try. It’s prudent to take a stance of humility and realize that they may be just as angry at you as you are at them, even if it seems totally irrational to you.

You do not grant them the power to ruin your day. No one can make you feel something. It’s your choice to either internalize the situation or let it roll off of you like water off a duck’s back.

Don’t be a hypocrite.

Avoid fault-finding. Even to yourself, never assign intentions to what they’ve done or said. Only they know their intentions, so take their behavior at face value. Making assumptions about their motives could only result in making you more upset, and really isn’t fair to the other person. Always keep the Golden Rule in mind.

And do your best not to take it personally. Chances are, a person in the habit of creating conflict is someone who takes only their own feelings into account. Don’t be that guy.

They only have so much energy to get through their day, too. They’re most likely not looking for ways to upset you. They probably aren’t thinking about you at all. Just be as kind as you can be as you float through your day, and let them float through theirs in their own way.

Boundaries

If they are the type of person that can’t avoid creating conflict, remind yourself that it’s not worth your energy to be around that person. This may sound callous, but if the only way to avoid conflict with them is to disengage entirely, then avoidance is an act of civility.

You have to also love yourself enough to not let them upset you. As a human being, they have a right to their point of view just as much as you do. But it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your well-being.

Sometimes they won’t hear you or respect your boundaries. This is tiresome and anger-inducing, but take a deep breath and tell yourself that they don’t have the power to make you feel a certain way. You have a choice in how you respond emotionally, even when you’re seeing red and emotion seems like something utterly out of your control. You do not grant them the power to ruin your day. No one can make you feel something. You can either internalize the situation or let it roll off of you like water off a duck’s back.

Fake it ’til you make it

Grit your teeth if you have to, but at the very least stay calm on the outside while you defuse your insides. Fake calm until you are calm. Don’t mirror them, and don’t feel like you have to respond in any way. Silence never killed anyone. (Though someone with a short fuse may be confounded–likely even pissed off–at your total serenity in the midst of their anger. And sometimes that is reward enough.)

If you know you don’t share many viewpoints with this person, absolutely abstain from voicing your opinion. Whether or not you agree with what they’re saying or doing is irrelevant to the situation, especially if they’ve given you their unsolicited opinion.

You don’t have to convince them of anything. You don’t have to shame them, you don’t have to change their heart, you don’t really even have to respond at all. Silence is an option if they have proven incapable of respecting your boundaries.

But you will never regret being the bigger person. You may secretly hope that they’re embarrassed and that karma bites them in the ass one day, but you are mature enough not to express or act upon those thoughts. “Man, I wish I hadn’t taken the high road,” SAID NO ONE EVER.

Validation

Is there anything else contributing to your anger toward this person? Did other little things start forming a bad day and this person was just an unfortunate tipping point? Are you projecting? Sometimes without realizing it, it feels safe to make a person that we don’t care for a vessel for all of the characteristics we dislike in ourselves.

Think about why that person upset you so much. Did they strike a nerve? Are there deeper roots to what made you upset?

To be clear, this should all be happening internally. You’re not looking to be right, and you’re not looking for other things they’ve done that made you mad. You just want to put your reaction into perspective. You might as well learn from what you’re feeling.

Catharsis

Go ahead and feel your anger. Don’t deny yourself that and salve it with fake positivity. Acknowledge it first, then ask yourself if your feelings are valid. Then after all is said and done, treat yourself to whatever form of stress relief usually works for you. Write about your experience. Do some meditative yoga. Go for a run or walk. Spend some time with your pet or loved ones. Play some games. Commit a random act of kindness.

(Or scour the internet for pictures of ducks. It’s pretty hard to be mad at anything when you look at cute animals.)

Give your mind and body a break from dwelling on negative feelings. Get outside of yourself and get some endorphins in you.

 

If you’ve been mature enough to get this far, take comfort that even if you are still an asshole in the other person’s view, it’s out of your hands. It’s up to them to deal with how they feel about it.

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2 Comments

  1. You put so succinctly what it has taken me years to learn…and what I have yet to master! Thanks Veronica!

    • veronicabishop

      August 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Thank you! So glad to hear it resonated with you. I think we all struggle to master this on a daily basis. 🙂

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