Whether you’re a teenager, parent, teacher or friend, there are times in life when you have to calm someone down. After all, if everyone were calm and composed all the time, the world would be a boring place! Here’s how to calm someone down.
The Most Common Causes of Anger
to know how to calm someone down, you must know what causes anger. Anger is an emotion that alerts people to danger and to boundary violations. Anger is never experienced alone, and comes with other emotions.
People Want To Feel Safe.
Anger sometimes occurs when people are not feeling safe. Understand that safety is not just physical safety. Everyone has a need to feel emotionally safe, and it’s much more likely that people will become angry because their emotional safety is threatened. When you are considering how to calm someone down, ask yourself if this person is feeling emotionally threatened.
People Want To Feel In Control.
We all cherish our autonomy: the ability to make our own decisions and control our lives. When our autonomy is threatened, we can become angry. This is why when one person tries to force another person to do something, anger is likely to erupt. When considering how to calm someone down, try to decide if the angry person’s autonomy is being threatened. Sometimes, the threat is imaginary. Sometimes it’s real.
People Want To Feel Respected.
We each have a need to be respected by those around us. Whenever we experience disrespect, we feel that something is been taken from us or not given us that we are due. Anger is the result. When considering how to calm someone down, ask yourself if the angry person feels disrespected.
People Want To Feel Worthy
We each have a need to feel worthy and to have good self-esteem. When we are shamed or embarrassed, this need is thwarted. People become angry if they are shamed or embarrassed, especially if there is no cause. When considering how to calm someone down, ask yourself if the angry person has been shamed, or embarrassed.
Some People Like The High Of Anger
For some people, anger provides a surge of power that makes one feel good or relieved. This type of angry person may feel alive and intense. This feeling is very similar to the experience of drug addiction. This angry person looks forward to the adrenaline rush and may become addicted to the emotional high. When considering how to calm someone down, ask yourself if the angry person is possibly addicted to the intensity of anger. This is more likely the case when anger is habitual and frequent.
Some People Have Strong Moral Judgment
Some people become outraged were experience righteous indignation at what they consider to be immoral situations. This type of anger often comes from judgmental, rigid, black and white thinking, and from a narrow understanding of others different from the angry person. While moral anger can have value, these angry people to easily rationalize their moral superiority and moral anger with simple disagreement rather than reserving their anger for truly just causes. When considering how to calm someone down, consider whether the anger is being caused by moral judgment, intolerance, or rigid beliefs.
Some People Experience Hatred
Hatred is hardened anger that is an intense, unending loathing of someone or something. This angry person has decided that another person or thing is totally evil or bad. There is no room for compromise, difference, discussion, or peace. When considering how to calm someone down, examine the intensity of the anger. If the anger has concretized into hatred, determine whether the behavior is directed outwards towards someone else or some other thing, or is directed inward.
The 3 Steps to Helping Someone Calm Down
No matter what kind of anger you’re facing, there are three steps to help someone calmed down.
Step #1: Ignore The Words.
Angry words can trigger your own emotional reactivity. To protect against that, ignore what the other person is saying. You don’t need to hear it so turn it into white noise. An angry person is not going to say anything that you have not heard many times before. You are not going to miss any important information.
Step #2: Read The Underlying Emotions
The anger is obvious. However, the secret in learning how to calm someone down is to read the emotions underneath the anger. Those emotions might be:
Feeling unjustly treated
Not feeling listened to.
Not feeling appreciated.
Our brains are hardwired to read the emotions of others. All we have to do is not get in our way. Simply be silent and wait for the emotions to float into your consciousness. This will only take a second or two.
Step #3: Reflect Back The Emotions With A Simple “You” Statement
This is a counterintuitive idea because most people think that telling another person how they’re feeling is patronizing, rude, or manipulative. In truth, neuroscience has shown us that this process of reflecting emotions, called affect labeling, is the only sure way to calm someone down.
You might have been trained in active listening, a term coined by Gordon Thomas, a 20th century psychologist. Unfortunately, Thomas’s work was misinterpreted, which led to the adoption of “I” statements as a form of active listening. If you have taken any courses in active listening, and of try using “I” statements, you know they don’t work. If they did work, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
We now know from decades of field experience and from neuroscience that only “you” statements are effective. Here’s how you would respond to each of the types of anger I described above:
Safety is threatened. You would say, “You are not feeling safe. Your little scared. You’re really pissed off and angry.”
No control. You would say, “You are anxious and don’t feel like you have any control. You really pissed off and angry. You’re worried.”
Disrespected. You would say, “You feel disrespected. You feel ignored. You feel like nobody is listening to you. You feel invisible, and it really pisses you off.”
Shame. You would say, “You are angry. You don’t feel listened to. You feel disrespected. You feel shame and embarrassment. You feel like you’ve been treated unjustly and unfairly.”
Addicted to the high of anger. You would say, “You feel really good about yourself. Your anger makes you feel like you’re in control and powerful. You feel like no one can mess with you when you’re enraged. You like the feeling of dominance your anger gives you.”
Moral judgment. You would say, “You feel outraged and indignant. You feel disrespected because nobody’s listening to you. You feel like you have been rejected. You feel like your beliefs are being threatened. You feel like what you most strongly believe in is not important.”
Hatred. You would say, “You have a deep and abiding hatred. You feel deeply violated. You are extremely angry. You feel betrayed.”
All you are doing is reflecting the emotional experience of the angry person. You’re not trying to solve the problem. You are not trying to fix anything.
You know you succeeded when four things happen.. First, the angry person obviously calms down. You’ll see a nod of the head and some verbal response like “Exactly!” You’ll see a dropping of the shoulders and a sigh of relief. These are all unconscious cues that you have calmed the emotional centers of the angry person’s brain.
Learning how to calm someone down, takes practice and skill. It’s not something that is easily self-learned. I have I have created a series of courses that will teach you the skills in a fairly short period of time. The initial course is called Developing Emotional Competency. The link to the course is below.
Learn how to calm someone down by listening them into existence.