Oh man, dealing with angry humans is never fun no matter who you are or how good you are at managing conflict. Fortunately there are a few things that seem to nearly always work for me (and as a mom and a therapist, I’ve dealt with A LOT of angry people of all ages). Try these next time you find yourself in a conflict with someone.
- Get on their level. And I mean this literally. You want to actually lower yourself so that you are at the other person’s eye level or lower. If you’re arguing with an adult, sit down in a chair. If it’s with a kid, crouch or kneel down to their height. This instantly changes the dynamic of the fight; by lowering yourself you are much less threatening. You’re also showing the other person that you aren’t on a major power trip and that they don’t need to get ready for a showdown.
- Keep your own voice and emotions in check. Make sure to use a calm voice and model the tone and volume you want to see. Remember, if you freak out, they’ll usually freak out too.
- Change it up. Change of scenery or distraction works really well with kids. Try changing tactics by offering a snack or going into another room. Adults also usually respond well to a change of scenery. If you are arguing with your husband in your bedroom, try moving into the kitchen and resuming discussion at the kitchen table over coffee. You’ll both probably find that your tempers are a little cooler.
- Offer choices. Examples for kids might look like “you can go to your room, stay here and snuggle with me, or I can leave the room”. Just make sure that are all acceptable to you; do NOT give a choice that you aren’t prepared to follow through with. I.e., don’t offer them the choice to go outside if you don’t actually want them to do that. Also, don’t offer more than two or three choices. You run the risk of overwhelming them with choices which can just increase their frustration level.
- Take away the audience. If your teenager is screaming at you and their younger siblings are around, either remove the younger siblings or go into another part of the house with your teen away from the other kids. This is because people often feel like they have to “defend their honor” and win the fight/have the last word when others are looking.
Obviously, use common sense with these. If you’re in a situation where someone is threatening your life, you’re not going to sit down and offer them choices! But in most run of the mill tantrums or arguments, these tips can go really far. Let me know if you have other tips for cooling down fights!