You’re Making Me Angry

Posted on November 12, 2011

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I was called a stupid fool.  I was, really.  The last time I was shouted at, the Hulk called me a stupid fool and I became a hulk myself and called him a little girl.  Ok, the last bit was a lie, I didn’t call him that, but I definitely wanted to and to throw a cream pie in his face.  When someone berates us, it triggers an almost undeniable emotional response (check out the link for a related post) that can range from fear to an anger greater than our attacker.  But not so many of us can react to the Hulk in a neutral and calm way.  I struggle particularly in this area, because I can’t help but essentially mirror the behaviour I’m seeing.  So when the green giant comes knocking, I can end up turning into a giant of sorts myself, with the result being two outraged egos, a damaged relationship and possibly some broken furniture to dispose of.  We know that this isn’t the best way to deal with such people so what can we do?

Unfortunately there isn’t a magic potion made up of gingko biloba and an ear of newt to drink so this problem can be fixed.  Hulk’s out there have become hulks because they’ve consolidated this behaviour over their whole lives.  You can certainly mention something and take the approach that I used in my <a href=””>previous post</a>, but I think that will only bring temporary change at best.  I think there’s another approach, which when mastered, is deeply satisfying and can even bring you a chuckle next time you deal with Mr Green.  I want you to think about how you reacted the last time the Hulk had one of his episodes at you.  Particularly think about your emotional response. Was it anger, fear or frustration?  Was your internal dialog along the lines of “what the hell is he doing?” or “why does he have to act like this?” or simply “aaaaaarrrrgghhh”?  Think about it quite deeply and visualise what happened at the very point that you started to react to the berating.  What has helped me get past my negative way of dealing with such people, is to identify the point at which I react and then rewrite my response.  What happens now is my reaction is my new response, which is to think “what is his simple, core message?” I ignore the tone being used and even the words he is using, with the purpose of distilling all the cr@p that he is sending me to get the actual message.  When people react in such a way, they’re usually venting their emotions at you.  Sure they shouldn’t be doing it like they do but typically, their actual message is a simple one.

The other week I had a colleague start shouting at me and when I got to the message he was trying to tell me, I felt a lot calmer and capable in handling this guy and his furious questions.  In the end, his 10 solid minutes of scolding was boiled down to the statement “I am frustrated that the solution you have come up with does not provide more immediate results and I’d like to arrange something slightly different.” Trying to get to the his simple, core message, took away any focus I had on the screaming and negative tone.  It distracts the primitive part of your brain that makes you want to whack things when you’re angry or to cry when you don’t get your own way, and gets the rational part of your head buzzing to solve the problem. The challenge of this, as you’ll soon realise, is overwriting your natural response.  The primitive brain wants to donk the perpertrator on the noggin.  Don’t give in to this, persevere and you’ll no doubt succeed.

When you’re able to identify the point that you react and focus your mind on getting to the real message of the shouting, it becomes empowering to have that control.  Your mind becomes lucid, you’re more agile in coming up with arguments and the verbal battering just becomes another discussion.  I even end up having a laugh to myself because I think how stupid it is for the Hulk to come around flapping at me for what ended up being a simple problem.

Let that pursuit, of the simple and unemotional message, be your goal in that 1 way scream session.

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