Featured Image by cm_dasilva from Pixabay
Have you ever felt too angry to speak to a family member, friend, or your partner? Or you could sense that they were mad at you, and you avoided them out of fear of having a conflict? How do you get past the anger and have a productive and heart-open conversation?
It seems our world is split more than ever into different camps based on different opinions and choices we all make. As a relationship coach I am the mediator of many such conflicts and my job is to remind the opposing parties of how to get past anger and communicate more successfully.
Anger is a protective emotion that comes up when more vulnerable feelings are triggered. In previous blogs, I have written about the anger iceberg and about being “mad-sad”. The anger represents the tip of the iceberg sticking out of the water. An iceberg can be deceptive because most of it is hidden underwater. Anger is just as misleading. Other more vulnerable emotions are usually hidden underneath the surface of anger. Those could be feelings like sadness, grief, rejection, disappointment, embarrassment, fear, worry, insecurity, overwhelm, exhaustion, loneliness, shame, guilt, regret, mistrust, frustration and much more.
The trick is to express the more sensitive feelings underneath. However, to do that, both people need to feel safe and be willing to listen to each other with curiosity rather than judgement. Depending on our history with anger, we respond differently to another person being angry. Some people flip into “fight” mode and get angry back, others might go to “flight” and leave, others again “freeze”, feeling small and paralyzed. Fight, flight, or freeze are instinctive protective responses. A more productive response is a calm, loving, and curious energy, but because fight, flight, and freeze are biologically ingrained in us, this is harder to do.
To avoid or minimize those fight, flight, and freeze dynamics, we need:
- awareness of what is happening
- the agreement to create a safe space and to share with the other person when we are experiencing a fight, flight, or freeze response
- to go into the conversation with the goal of understanding each other better and without the agenda of changing the other person, convincing them, or talking them into something
- to drop down into our heart to listen and speak from there (instead of talking from the angry part in us)
- to slow down the conversation and watch each other closely for the impact of our words
- to make amends quickly by apologizing or taking a step towards the other person
- to take a time out if the conversation becomes too triggering for one or both people
Image by Stocksnap from Pixabay
Keep these points in mind when connecting and communicating. If you feel overwhelmed doing this on your own, reach out for a session. You can learn how to have challenging conversations when one or both of you are angry. Your relationships with your spouse, family members, or close friends are too precious to allow anger and resentment to fester. Mutual understanding and connection are only a successful conversation away.