I had a family who once came in for intensive counseling. They were from the southeast and needed family counseling. One of the prime issues the family was dealing with was the anger the father manifested to the rest of the family. If he got angry he would go on for hours at a time. Over the course of the session, the son-in-law said something that ticked the father off. He began to rage and you could see the fear surface on the faces of the rest of the family members.
After a period of time, I reflected on what he had said and he responded, “You damm right.” He continued to rage and I would periodically stop and reflect back to him what I heard him saying. I was only mirroring back to him the perspectives he was communicating in his ranting. After about four of these encounters, he calmed down and was back to normal. I asked him how he felt and he said he was very calm. Then he said something very interesting. “For the first time in my life, I feel that someone really understood what I was saying.” In more cases than not, when someone gets angry they are intensifying their emotions because they feel they are not being heard. When I reflected or mirrored what he was saying back to him, he began to feel that someone heard him for the first time. I didn’t give my opinion as to what I felt was true or untrue. I just listened and reflected his perspective back to him.
Solomon states, “If the ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your post, for calmness puts great offenses to rest.” Ecclesiastes 10:4 CSB. When you are dealing with an angry person, staying with that person and not running away is the best way in beginning to deal with intense emotions. Doing reflective listening (mirroring back to the person what they are saying) is the second step in handling angry people. Caution: If an individual is threatening or is about to do physical harm to you, you need to remove yourself from danger.
On this journey, we will inevitably encounter angry people in our lives. Staying put and taking time to listen to them will cause them to feel heard and will allow them to calm down.