Faced with an angry colleague, don’t interrupt. Let the individual vent his or her feelings. Once the individual has his or her say, the person may be more prepared to listen to you and your side of the disagreement. You may want to defend yourself or your company, but it is better to stay quiet until the person has calmed down by saying his or her piece.
Pause once the person is through. Use your eyes and face to say to the other party, “I hear you and I want to help.” Mirror the individual’s position and posture, if possible. Getting on the same physical level as the other person can help to build rapport. Sit if he is seated. Stand if he is standing. When it is your turn to respond, speak in a calm voice.
While the individual was yelling, you should be listening. If you are going to offer possible solutions, you have to know exactly what has angered the other party. If you don’t try to interrupt the other party, you will also be sending another message—a nonverbal one—that you are interested in his or her opinion and he or she can trust you.
When you finally speak up, make an empathetic statement. Say something like, “I can see why you feel that way” or, “If I believed that…, I’d probably feel the same way as you do.” Don’t sound patronizing. Resist the temptation, too, to accept responsibility on your organization’s part or another employee’s as a way to put an end to the confrontation. It will only create further difficulties.
Rather, ask questions. Your intent is to determine the nature of the problem. Sometimes, the comments made by the other party are only a smoke-screen. Or the other party isn’t as correct about the situation as he or she thinks.
And here’s an important point: sometimes, controlled anger can make clear how important an issue is.
I know a manager who doesn’t get angry at any of his employees when they make a mistake. Rather, she focuses on the situation itself, shouting about the problem the mistake has caused, demonstrating how important the error is and thereby encouraging more care by her employees in the future.
This isn’t to say that you can’t get angry at an individual. If you think that seeing your anger will serve your relationship well, then expressing anger, in a controlled manner, may be helpful. It communicates your displeasure about something. The key is to sustain control over your anger. You can yell and scream—but such behavior will only make you look overly emotional and unprofessional. Ideally, rather than lose your temper, express your feelings of anger: “I feel angry because….”
Controlling your temper involves four steps:
1. Recognize that you are angry.
2. Identify the cause of your anger.
3. Understand why the situation produced anger.
4. Deal with the anger realistically.
If you let yourself get out of control, and exchange angry words with either a customer, your manager, or one of your employees, you only make those parties uneasy. Your angry words won’t change the minds of these parties. You aren’t listening to what they are saying, nor are they listening to you.
Better to become analytical during such situations. Everyone has what he or she believes is a good reason for behavior that looks irrational, childish, or worse. Ask yourself what the other person’s justification might be. Still, if you think you can blame another for your loss of control, forget it. You are the only person who is in control of your emotions. And you only injure yourself when you relinquish your control over your emotions.