Imagine you are sitting for an online examination, in your room. You are exhausted trying to collect your thoughts and articulate them in intelligible ways. The only thing besides the “Due in 10 minutes” sign that keeps you going is knowing that the ice cream you have been saving since yesterday rests safely in the refrigerator. Your little treat for when you are done.
The time arrives, you turn your work in, and walk to the fridge, only to find that it has gone missing. You realize your brother must have eaten it. How do you feel?
A piping hot rage starts coursing through your body, thinking of the injustice that has been meted out to you. You did nothing wrong, it was your ice cream, why would someone want to take it away?? You may feel like screaming.
You feel like it, despite knowing that you can probably go down to the store and get one for yourself. But that wouldn’t justify why anyone would take something that didn’t belong to them, would it?? This is a simplified instance that can elicit the anger response in you when living with your family.
Usually, anger in the family may be the result of issues that are more serious. Not just in you, but your actions may, too, trigger these anger responses in others.
But, at least if it were you, you could learn to get a grip over it. How do you, however, handle the anger of another person in your family? It may take double the effort that you would put in for yourself, but this is something you will have to address to live harmoniously in the long run. Here are 5 secrets you need to remember when dealing with an angry family member.
1. Try to understand the nature of their emotion
When someone is angry and acting out, it is likely that they are doing it as a way to deal with some pain that they are facing. They may be reacting to something that they perceive to be unjust, that they were forced to experience or happened to experience.
Hence, try to look at the emotion of anger from this perspective. Look at it as a lost emotion, as hurt, looking for an outlet. When they are unable to find and utilize a healthy outlet, it is let out in unpleasant ways – as outbursts or screaming altercations. Remember this.
Try to understand another fundamental aspect of anger, and in general, the behavior of people. What people do to you has a lot more to say about themselves than it has to about you.
Try to remember this when someone tries to disrespect you or they try to put you down, while in the midst of an angry outburst. Do not take their perception and opinion of you to heart.
This reflects who they are as a person and has nothing to do with your value. Remember this and harness this idea to put yourself in a stable mindset so as to deal with their anger. This is essential in protecting your inner peace and taking care of your mental well-being.
Remember that the anger that is being expressed by them, maybe stem from other related emotions. As mentioned, it is possible that some hurt or pain that is present is manifesting itself as anger in the person. Hence, try to be patient when you deal with them.
Most times, what they may be needing, what they may be looking for when in such a vulnerable state is for someone they can reach out to. Try to reach them on this level. Try to empathize with them and find ways to reach out that appeal to them. Listen to them patiently, when they open up.
The best thing you can do is to show them that you care for them. Establish that rapport and offer them that space to be vulnerable, safely. Offer them this space and to yourself, too, to explore their anger in detail.
Try to gain an understanding of the emotion and its elements. Remind them that being angry is normal but it only comes down to how one decides to let it out.
However, keep in mind the need to safeguard your own mental health, too. Show them that you can help them through this. You may even try reaching out to a professional for help.
3. Learn to assess timing correctly
If you try to approach a raging person when they are in the middle of an outburst, it wouldn’t be surprising if you fail to connect. This is when you need to learn to read the room and to assess the timing of when to approach them. If you want to have a meaningful conversation about whatever they are angry about, wait till things have settled down.
Understand that you cannot have a fruitful conversation when they are angry. When they’re angry, they will not be able to look at things clearly, they may not be able to reason well. In most cases, when someone is angry, their emotion gets the better of them. So try to wait, maybe walk out and come back at a better time. At a time when both of you are ready to communicate.
Related Article: How To Manage Your Anger With Mindfulness
4. Refine how you converse with them
Next to timing, what is also important when dealing with angry family members, is perhaps how you interact with them. Even if your intentions may be pure, at their vulnerable state, any attempt you make in conversing with them will be more about how they perceive these attempts to be.
Remember to expend your energy only on things that truly matter to you. Do not start or even engage in arguments that do not matter and those that you do not deem fit for your time and energy.
Hence when trying to have a conversation with them, you need to be aware of safeguarding your own interests as well as coming off as someone who has their best interests at heart. Learn to establish this balance between being assertive and avoiding any disrespect for them. Interact with them in a warm and non-confrontational manner.
How to make the most of this conversation?
- Empathy has to be a key component when you try to interact with difficult family members. Only when you empathize, will you be able to make the most of the conversation.
- Try to maximize the use of phrases like, “I feel”, and “I become”. This helps the person take your perspective and try to look at things as you see them.
- During the course of the conversation, keep making sure that both of you are on the same page. Frequently paraphrasing as a way to keep a check on each other’s understanding of what the other person has just said.
- If the conversation appears to be taking an unpleasant turn, you are allowed to take a break and return to it later, similar to a time out, or a pause button. The goal of the conversation has to be arriving at a common ground, remember that.
5. Try engaging in group activities
Look at your family as a group entity with different, distinct components. Each member has their own interests and hobbies. Try to engage in activities like these that appeal to everyone. Involving everyone and performing activities as a group, aids in building cohesion within the family. You are better able to build and sustain relationships with all.
These activities may also be ones more appropriate for the context like those that promote peace and well-being. For example, group yoga is one such activity you can try.
It involves coordinating between the group members to form poses. Activities such as this work best in the long run, as they aim to bring about a change in lifestyle.
The relationship that we have and share with the different members of our family is special and complicated. A brother cannot take the place of a sister, and a sister cannot replace a loving uncle. Our friends may be the family that we choose and collect as we go along, but our actual family is the one that is a given.
We have very little say in who’s who. That is what makes the dynamics within the family all the more intricate and the need to get along all the more important. Over the years that we’re destined to spend together, we learn to slowly move from putting up with them to tolerating them to celebrating them and to loving them.
Understand each of them is human too, with battles of their own, and flaws so unique. Understand that you have to be patient and persistent in loving your family, for love and kindness, only have the power to ward off anger. However problematic they may seem, it is the understanding that family is forever, that drives us to make space for them in our lives.
It is this that drives us to do what we can to protect them at all costs. Try to take a page from the Fast and Furious Saga, and remember what Vin Diesel said. “The most important thing in life will always be family.”
Related Article: Finding Inner Peace