Some say working with angry people is like living among hyenas. You always have to watch your back and any bite can instantly throw you out of harmony and destroy a perfectly nice day. Also, some ancient wisdom cultures compare resentful people to a burning house. You see, problem is... if you are a guest, you'll get charred too.
The good news is that it is possible to prepare yourself to deal with any hyena that you cross paths with. In order to deal with angry people at work you must first arm yourself with a powerful frame of mind, lots of patience and a few anger management techniques. If you can manage this, then effectively coping with angry colleagues turns into second nature. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
- Stop the giggle (if you generally one). Sometimes a protective mechanism can be smiling at a colleague who's mad at you. Some just do this automatically. It's a massive mistake. Whatever you do, don't smile their way while they are angry! There's nothing more irritating to colleagues than to see a grinning coworker if they are angry.
- Address your colleague's feelings. Be sincere and avoid utilizing standard yadah yadah... "I know the way you feel." Instead, show some concern and even appear a bit vulnerable to throw them off their tirade and make them see that you genuinely care about their feelings, "Yikes, holy cow I don't know what to say, this is uncomfortable. (With your palm near your heart) - I'm so sorry to put you in this position."
- Be angry with your colleague, not at them. Yes you read this right. Listen to them out and be on their side; even of the complaint is against you. Whenever you match their speech tone and be angry along (and not at them) they'll subliminally sense a buddy and their stress will ease. They may even start looking at you in a different light.
- Tackle the problem by figuring out what went down; allow them to tell their full story. "Can you tell me more how this occurred?" Then tune in and listen. Look in the eyes and make sympathetic face expressions. Consider this from your own viewpoint, any time you feel screwed you just have a storm of words to "share" how you feel. This generates huge inner tension which is only released as you vent for a bit. Look at this from a physical perspective and let your colleague cool off the engines. As soon as they are relaxed go on and explain your own position as to what could possibly have taken place.
- Apologize profusely (even if it's not your fault) but firmly – this demonstrates strength. However, avoid sounding like a pushover as many angry types just suckle on that feeling of exerting power over another being. Don't say "sorry" either, its way too overused. Say something like "For what it's worth you, I truly apologize to put you through a great deal of hassle. Frankly, I never meant for things to go this way. Let me see what I can do."
- Resolve their problem straight away (whenever you can) or put a strategy in place to make it happen.
Generally speaking, it's wise to not get emotional at the people you work with. Sooner or later you'll need them so it's not wise to become enemies or develop animosity. If you weather out their emotional onslaught of abusive words or complaints and keep on being peaceful they will turn embarrassed with regards to their behavior and might respect you even more. Think of a day you were trying to return some blender at the store and launched into a whining mode about the product just to witness an amazing salesperson deal with your emotionally charged state in a calm and professional manner. Didn't you secretly leave having a great deal of admiration for that individual when all was said and done?
If you really want to know how to deal with angry people at work then you must take what is possibly the hardest but most effective route - take control of your own anger. By being aware of your own triggers of anger, it will be easier to relate more to others and be more thoughtful. Most angry types count on an angry response but when you react with kindness their subconscious mind freaks out and sends a signal to them that something is drastically wrong, "pay attention." In the end they'll succumb to a feeling of embarrassment for behaving ridiculous and their hearts will soften.
Ancient wisdom traditions, such a Buddhism, advise us to follow the way of cultivating awareness and practice braking a pattern of a programmed reaction to anger. Spend some time and honestly take a look at why that colleague is angry at you. Buddha's words were: "By searching deeply it is possible to identify the causes that led to the person's anger. When you notice that you bear responsibility for angering the person, you will accept that your own misconduct led to their anger and won't get angry in return. In case you are without blame then you can try to see why that person has misunderstood you. Then you can find a way to help him realize your true motives. By doing this you'll avoid creating more suffering to yourself and the other person."