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  • Writer's pictureMisti Luke, LCSW

Navigating the Storm: How to Deal with Angry People with Compassion and Confidence

A man wearing glasses operates his cell phone, calmly.
Man looking at cell phone

As a licensed therapist, part of the work I do in my practice involves helping others better understand and manage their emotions, including experiences with another person's anger. This post is dedicated to everyone who's ever felt like they were walking on eggshells because of someone else's anger outbursts. Interacting with an angry individual can be challenging, but with understanding and the right strategies, we can navigate these encounters with grace and resilience.

Understanding the Dynamics of Anger

Anger is a complex emotion that can manifest in various ways, from subtle irritation to explosive rage. As human beings, we all experience anger at times, and it's crucial to recognize that anger is a natural response to perceived threats, injustices, or frustrations. However, it's essential to understand that while anger is valid, the way it's expressed can vary greatly from person to person.

Anger as a Mask for Vulnerability

It's important to acknowledge that anger often serves as a mask for more vulnerable emotions such as fear, sadness, or feelings of inadequacy. When someone lashes out in anger, they may be attempting to protect themselves from deeper emotional pain or vulnerability. Recognizing this can help us respond with empathy and compassion, rather than reacting defensively.

No One is Responsible for Another's Feelings

It's crucial to understand that each individual is responsible for their own emotions and reactions. While we can certainly influence others' feelings through our actions and words, ultimately, no one can make us feel a certain way without our consent. Likewise, we are not responsible for managing or regulating someone else's emotions. This principle underscores the importance of setting healthy boundaries and maintaining self-respect in our interactions with others.

Nine Strategies for Handling Angry People

  1. Is the Anger Justified?: Before reacting, take a moment to assess the situation. Is the anger justified based on the circumstances? Understanding the underlying reasons for the anger can help inform your response.

  2. Don't Take It Personally: Remember that someone else's anger is often a reflection of their own inner struggles and insecurities. Avoid internalizing their words or behavior as a reflection of your worth.

  3. Stay Calm: Maintain your composure and emotional stability, even in the face of provocation. Responding with calmness can help de-escalate the situation and promote more constructive communication.

  4. Don't Attack Back: Avoid the temptation to retaliate or escalate the conflict. Responding with aggression only fuels the fire and perpetuates a cycle of hostility.

  5. Avoid Character Assaults: Focus on addressing the specific issue at hand rather than resorting to personal attacks or insults. Stick to the facts and maintain a respectful tone.

  6. Set Firm Boundaries: Clearly communicate your boundaries and expectations for respectful behavior. Firmly but assertively assert your right to be treated with dignity and respect.

  7. Know When to Disengage: Sometimes, the best course of action is to disengage from the interaction temporarily. If the situation becomes too heated or volatile, it's okay to step away and revisit the conversation later when emotions have cooled.

  8. Limit Negative Relationships: Evaluate your relationships and consider whether certain individuals consistently trigger anger or negativity. Setting boundaries around toxic relationships can protect your mental and emotional well-being.

  9. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that help you manage stress and maintain balance in your life. Engage in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and fulfillment, whether it's exercise, meditation, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.

Important Note: Seeking Professional Help

While the strategies mentioned above can be helpful in managing interactions with angry individuals, it's essential to recognize that this blog post is not intended to treat or diagnose any mental health disorder.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please dial 988 or go to the nearest emergency room for immediate assistance.

In conclusion, navigating interactions with angry people requires empathy, patience, and assertiveness. By understanding the dynamics of anger, recognizing our own emotional boundaries, and employing effective communication strategies, we can diffuse tensions and foster healthier relationships. Remember, you have the power to choose how you respond to and deal with angry people, and prioritizing your well-being is always a worthy endeavor.

Misti Luke, LCSW maintains a private practice in Broken Bow, Oklahoma where she sees clients in person and virtually. For correspondence,



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