Dealing with someone else's irrational or over-the-top anger can be incredibly exhausting, frustrating, and even dangerous.
Whether it is your highly dependent adult child who is angry at you for doing something that inconveniences them, or your partner who might get angry at you for taking a different approach with your highly dependent adult child than they would have, here are five steps to take when the situation is heating up beyond your comfort level:
1. Remain calm. Your stress levels and anxiety might be rising, but if you manage to counterbalance their negative emotions, the situation is less likely to escalate. You can use gestures such as stepping back and lifting both hands to signal that you aren't interested in a fight.
2. Make sure you are safe. As soon as you sense that things could get out of hand and become physically dangerous, leave immediately if you can. If you can handle the situation or are unable to leave, proceed to step three.
3. Clarify why they are angry. If you know why they got mad, you can say something like: "Wow, you're really mad at me." Or: "I hear you, you're really upset about this change in routine." If you don't know what triggered their outburst, try to establish what exactly they are angry about, for example by saying something like: “I hear what you’re saying. Let me see if I got it right. You’re upset because ____.” It is important to let them finish their explanation without interrupting them or talking over them. Do not try to punish or correct their behaviour, and try to consider what your dependent adult child is trying to tell you instead. Think bottom of the iceberg (unmet need) instead of tip (audible accusation).
4. Postpone the conversation. Tell them that you are not interested in getting into a fight and reassure them that the situation they are unhappy about can be resolved. If possible, create some physical distance between you two, for example by suggesting one of you go for a walk.
5. Get help. If you can at all, reach out for help about this. Ask your family or friends to support you, consult with a counsellor like myself, and certainly call the police or a local domestic violence helpline for ideas if you are being verbally or physically abused on the regular.
What have you tried in the past when you were exposed to someone's anger? Was it helpful?
I'd love to know - message me, if you want!