You hear it right? … that voice… that tone…. those words… complaining! We all know what it is like to have someone we care about telling us they are upset with something we did or did not do. We all also know that many-a-time, we have no desire to hear whatever is being “yelled/bitched/complained/criticized” about. Basically, we just turn off, agree to anything to make it stop, get defensive, change the topic, or just flat-out leave. In general, I’d say that this approach doesn’t help anyone involved with in the conversation.
The answer of course is to approach the situation with caring intent. However, that isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish when you are being screamed at. Hence, I’m not suggesting you stop having the feelings in response to feeling attacked. I am suggesting though, that you consider the deeper message behind the complaint.
When someone you care about appears furious that you haven’t taken the trash out ask yourself “What are they really saying?” Are they really so unreasonable that forgetting a lunch date is at noon instead of 1230, is going to send them over the edge? Most likely, the answer is NO! People don’t in general get upset over little things. It is what these moments represent that tends to ruffle our feathers.
In that instant there is a good chance… we feel hurt, scared, or disrespected. So why don’t we just say so? Well, we are not brought up in a society where stating such things is usually accepted. Secondly, it is rare that we think about stating in-the-moment our emotional reactions. Our gut response is to protect ourselves from something that threatens us (even if it is just something like a difference of opinion). Finally, we typically want to project strength and we unfortunately still place vulnerable emotions in the category of “weakness.” Yet, I would challenge you to state your boundaries and teach people how to treat you. If you are hurt by someone’s actions let them know rather than lashing out with frustrated words!
If the people we are interacting with don’t want to move ahead in their emotional evolution, in this area of stating their feelings directly, or they don’t think/know to, it is best to have a plan. The method I usually suggest is to ask questions… but often times people don’t have the answers when they are upset and this can even make them more frustrated.
What to do? Well, you probably aren’t going to like the answer, I know I’m not exactly a fan of it either, but truly one of THE best things is to just listen to the person with openness. If you start to reframe the anger as a request to be heard, connected with, or feelings bruised and just hear the plea for acceptance, I’ll bet you that you will see a difference in response patterns.
Of course, there are moments and individuals that will never soften based on a different approach however most of us will relax when we know we are really being heard and respected. So considering turning towards the person when they are upset instead of away… it might just change everything around.