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Everything you know about dealing with angry people is wrong

22 June 2018

Calm down!

It’s often the first thing we say when we’re confronted by someone who’s angry, but it might actually be the worst thing we could do.

“If people are angry then [whatever the problem is] it’s important to them,” explained former hostage negotiator Richard Mullender on Personal Best.

“The common teaching is to stay calm, be calm” said Richard. But he believes following this rule does more harm than good.

“I think that’s a mistake because if it’s important to me [...] you need to show me that it’s important to you as well.”

How to deal with confrontation

Richard suggests following these points when faced with anger:

  • Don’t say ‘calm down’: this will only antagonise the person
  • Don’t match the their anger; match their energy
  • If they’re shouting, say ʻI want to listen to what you’re saying to me, but I can’t hear you because you’re shouting at me.’
  • Bring them down with your tone of voice

Why are people so angry? Blame modernity

Author Pankaj Mishra believes the massive increase in inequality has led to our age of anger.

He claims that to understand it fully we must look at the ideals that underpin democracy.

'Why are people so angry? Blame modernity'

Pankaj Mishra: Why are people so angry? Blame modernity

Learn negotiating skills

Most of us negotiate in some form or other every day, whether it’s about who walks the dog or how much screen-time the kids can have.

But too often we treat it like a competitive sport, with only one aim: to win. So how to achieve a win-win situation when both sides leave satisfied?

BBC Radio 4: The Bottom Line

Understanding emotions

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