It started yesterday with a contact message and still hasn’t ended (I suspect) – an interesting escalation of events to witness from the outside but a hornet’s nest from first-hand perspective. I sit this morning and wonder, how did this get so out of control? I think the experts define it with one word: a “grudge.”
So I sought the counsel of the experts and found an amazing article entitled “How to Switch Off an Angry Person.” The befuddlement that clouds my brain surrounds the other party’s reaction. I cannot figure out how this person could take a simple “I understand you are concerned, here is some information about myself to clarify my circumstances” message (and really, that’s all it was) and turn it into a three-ringed circus. No one was involved in the initial conversation – just this individual and I. Sadly, a gathering of the troops occurred pulling in innocent bystanders that really didn’t need to be involved, name-calling and a real-live hang-up on the phone occurred – all from this person. This volatile reaction is fascinating to me for the simple reason that I don’t get it. Why would anyone act this way (anyone over the age of juvenility anyway)? The experts had the answer.
According to Nadia Persun, PHD, human beings are goal-driven creatures who attack out of self-defense. Typically, this happens when the attacker is frightened or scared, often deep seated in past issues that are still unresolved. That means, the aggressiveness is really misplaced – not about their target. Rarely does the attack come clothed in in anything less than ego (a trait humans do not share with animals) which fuels an emotionally charged angry response.
Okay, but that doesn’t make me feel better because I was still besieged with aggressiveness, high-pitched yelling and then hung-up on (before I could answer). I didn’t get to give my side of the story.
It doesn’t matter, according to Dr. Persun and I agree. Angry, ballistic, aggressive people do not want to negotiate – they only want to be heard. Dr. Persun compares this to driving next to someone on the freeway who is obviously out-of-control with road-rage. The imagery is fabulous in comparison! Would anyone rational be inclined to pull up next to the out-of-control driver and begin explaining how erratic and unsafe their driving is? Um…NO! Most of us would do the rational and safe thing – get the heck out of dodge.
This example is similar to the approach one can take with an out-of-control angered individual. Rationalizing with an irrational person just doesn’t work, it’s been proven. Giving them space – the same way you would on a freeway – keeps you from injury. An inflated ego is most sensitive to the slightest poke, common for oversensitive, defensive and confrontational individuals, per Dr. Persun. Comments flung in anger are never factual but rather emotional and meant to hurt someone. They are expending toxic energy to put on a display meant to injure someone else, usually out of fear and lack of esteem.
An angry person is looking for a fight. Through their escalation and unfair accusations, they are asking you to engage. As Eric Hoffer said, “rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”
Whenever accosted by a hot-tempered person, the opposite is the most healthy approach to take – keep your cool. Fortunately for me, I held my tongue and actually never got a word in during our conversation. She simply intended to injure me and said everything she could think of that might do that, then hung up. I wasn’t injured – in fact, just the opposite occurred. She became a pathetic, scared individual who I actually felt sorry for. The whole event became fascinating and a new study in human response for the day.
My wish is for peace – that the individual on the other end of our very volatile, short phone call will find peace today. My hope is that my experience and “ah-ha” moment with this whole event brings some insight to anyone reading this article. For those wishing more information on Dr. Persun’s article, I’ve attached a link here: