When someone is mad at you, it can be tempting to ignore the situation and hope that it will pass. But if you don’t address the issue head-on, chances are that things won’t work out in your favor, and the conflict could persist.
So, is there a way to handle disagreements effectively? According to experts, there are techniques for addressing someone’s anger in an effective and healthy way.
Here are expert-recommended tips on what to do when someone is angry at you.
Cynthia King, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist | Founder, FemFwd
In relationships, conflict is inevitable. Hurt feelings are unavoidable. Anger is inevitable. It’s also hard when people we care about are angry with us. It can feel uncomfortable, and sometimes, we don’t know how to handle it.
What not to do:
Before I get into “do’s,” I want to take some time to highlight the “don’ts.”
Do not pretend as if nothing happened and avoid talking about it
While this is tempting, it’s not actually effective and does not inspire much hope for preserving the integrity of the relationship. If you don’t get to address it with them for a while, don’t just sit there and stew in negative feelings. Use coping skills to manage your own discomfort in the meantime.
Do not invalidate the other person’s emotional experience of you
We don’t get to decide other people’s feelings, even if those feelings make us uncomfortable, hurt, or even a little angry ourselves. Last, try not to get defensive. Attempt to listen with curiosity to how the other person is feeling or their perception of what happened.
What to do:
Listen to what they are saying
When someone is angry with you, and they have expressed their complaints to you, start by attentively listening to what they are saying. This means that you are taking a step back and trying to develop a deeper understanding of how they are feeling and what made them feel that way.
Ask open-ended questions
You can ask open-ended questions aimed at a deeper understanding, not defending your position or making your point. You might say something like, “I’d like to hear more about your experience,” or “Will you tell me more about what made you feel so angry with me?”
Reflect on their feelings
You can also use this as an opportunity to reflect on their feelings. You might say, “It made you feel irritated with me when I said X, Y, and Z.”
If they haven’t said they are angry directly with you, but you can feel it, I encourage you to check it out with them. You might say something like, “Something feels off between us. Did I do something to upset you?”
Ask if they are open to hearing your perspective
Next, decide if there is something for which you can authentically apologize.
If so, then deliver an apology that includes the following components:
- Expresses regret
- Takes responsibility/ownership
- Offers restitution
- Commits to change
- Requests forgiveness
If it feels appropriate, ask if they are open to hearing your perspective. If they say “yes,” gently share your feelings and perception of what happened. After all, so much anger is due to simple misunderstandings or miscommunications.
Check in with the person later that week about how they are feeling since the conversation with you. This communicates to them that they matter, and so do their feelings.
Calm down your body and mind by using healthy coping skills
Sometimes we get resolution slowly, and it can even take a while to get to have a conversation about what happened. So in the meantime, calm down your body and mind by using healthy coping skills. Incorporate movement, take a hot shower, listen to music, and do other things you enjoy.
Have some self-compassion
It’s ok not to be perfect. It’s ok to be the source of anger or negative feelings in someone else. We all do things or say things in ways that hurt others sometimes. It’s part of being human.
So please remind yourself that just because you did something that felt bad to someone else doesn’t mean you are evil. So be gentle with yourself in the process and take care of yourself after working it out with the person.
Remember that addressing it won’t always work
Sometimes folks aren’t ready to not be angry. They need more time to cool off, or they need to do their forgiveness work. All you can do is show up the best you can to remedy the situation. The rest is up to them. Accept this and rest easy in the knowledge that you have done your part.
Examine your relationship with conflict
For some of us, mad has been conditioned to mean “bad.” Therefore when someone is mad at us, a lot of emotional history can be triggered. Examining our initial reactions can be critical for self-growth. By pausing to give our feelings room to breathe, our conversations will be healthier and more productive.
If someone has expressed upset with you, take a moment and examine what feelings this brings up for you. Where else have you felt this way? What do you need to do to feel ready to hear what they say?
Preparing yourself in this way will help you to hear their concerns with less bias. After all, we must be ready to listen, and if you’re not quite there, make sure to take care of yourself first.
Know that your response style can make a big difference
Once you’ve asked yourself the above questions, you may experience common reactions such as:
- A desire to make the other person feel “better” to avoid the confrontation altogether.
- Be triggered to argue your point of view.
These responses are typical hardwired anxiety-based reactions to emotional stressors; generally, each of us has some tendency towards one of these three reactions.
However, the beauty of our human development is that with this new insight, we can now choose a healthier response to conflict.
It’s all in how you frame it
It helps to reframe the situation in a functional way, such as, “someone in my life wants to give me feedback, which is a gift because, more often than not, we never get to hear how someone is feeling.”
It’s difficult to sit with discomfort, but discomfort is temporary and often a catalyst for growth.
When you’re ready to communicate:
- Ask for clarification on anything confusing or vague.
- Empathize with their feelings.
- Take responsibility for what you can before sharing your perspective.
If you need help, consider some of these common responses:
Clarification (open-ended questions)
- Are you saying [summarize what you heard]?
- I want to make sure I understand. Can you tell me more about ______?
Empathize (what are they feeling?)
- Based on ________, I can understand why you would feel ________.
- You feel ________ when I ________. Is that right?
Responsibility (What piece of this belongs to you?)
- I own ________ about this situation.
- I agree ________ about this situation.
- I understand my reaction/behavior made you feel ________.
This isn’t a game, take your time
There is no “winning” or “losing” in healthy conversation, but rushing to defend yourself will likely push the conversation into an emotionally reactive place instead of a safe place to explore, compromise, and find solutions.
You don’t have to pretend you are ok
It’s normal to feel conflicted going into a deep conversation, and it’s ok to express that as well as what your hopes are for the conversation.
It may sound like, “When you said you were mad at me, I felt misjudged, and it made me upset, but I also want to work through this because I value your friendship.”
Choose response over reaction
After truly understanding the other person, it’s time to offer your perspective. You may start that part of the conversation by saying, “I’d like to offer my perspective now. Are you able to listen, or do you need time?”
When you are through, invite them to give their reaction, and hopefully, by modeling healthy communication, they, too, will follow suit. If not, it’s ok to use the above prompts to ask for what you need.
If the conversation takes a turn and is no longer productive or too intense, ask for a “time-out” and return to it when all parties are more relaxed. I recommend returning to it after some “discussion rules” have been set.
These rules might be:
- No yelling or name-calling.
- No threats.
- Take responsibility when possible and use “I statements” to express grievances.
Take time to prioritize the relationship
Time alone does not solve the conflict but taking time to prioritize the relationship is important. Also, realizing that not everything must be tied up in a nice bow helps. Sometimes we need to vent and feel heard, and that’s fine.
When we are in our emotional mind, it isn’t easy to switch gears into a place of logic/reason and problem-solving. Let the conversation breathe.
Don’t put pressure on resolving conflict immediately
Instead, focus on hearing each other and respecting the vulnerability each of you has expressed by coming together to talk about hard things.
“The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.” – Thomas Crum (author of The Magic of Conflict: Turning a Life of Work into a Work of Art)
Licensed Psychotherapist, Rachel Kaplan Therapy, LLC
It is inherently uncomfortable when someone is mad at you. As human beings, we often try to avoid conflict and confrontation, sometimes even avoiding honest communication or dismissing our needs altogether in an effort to “keep the peace.”
Pause and ask yourself if the person has a right to be mad at you
Even if you don’t identify as a true people pleaser, we all tend to feel more at ease when we are in the good graces of others. But when someone is mad at you, before you instinctually apologize or try to repair the rupture in the relationship, pause and ask yourself if the person has a right to be mad at you.
Give yourself time to process what is happening in the relationship
While it may feel distressing to sit with the feelings of discomfort that come with someone being upset with you, you must give yourself time to process what is happening in the relationship, acknowledge the context and your part in this person’s response to anger, and respond in a way that both preserves the relationship and also upholds your values and experience of the situation.
Take accountability and address the issue directly
Taking accountability for how you make someone feel is an important part of being in a mutually respectful relationship, but addressing the interpersonal issue directly and more constructively and understanding both parties’ involvement in the ensuing dynamic will help to deepen the connection and diminish the risk of repeating this relational pattern.
So next time someone is mad at you and your gut tells you to apologize or make amends just for the sake of “smoothing things over,” try to address instead how you are both feeling so that you can better understand the way you impact one another.
“When you say something unkind, when you do something in retaliation, your anger increases. You make the other person suffer, and they try hard to say or do something back to make you suffer, and get relief from their suffering. That is how conflict escalates.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Have you ever had one of those moments where you knew the better response but only after choosing otherwise? When someone is mad at us, it is easy to react in kind, even if we are in the wrong.
Anger, and negative emotion in general, can often feel contagious, and what is directed at us can often be felt within us. To protect against this spiral of suffering, it is essential to remember that how we respond is likely a conditioned response and could instead be a conscious choice.
As a yoga teacher, mindset coach, meditation expert, and keynote speaker, I often connect with people about how to live their best life ever.
We use the power of our minds, physical bodies, and words to create a vision of a fulfilling life and practical tools to manifest that vision. When I witness a client go from reacting to what happens in their life to creating a life they have dreamed of, there is nothing more satisfying.
I have seen them leave jobs, relationships, and situations that no longer serve them. I have seen them recommit to ones they had begun taking for granted. They find that love, start that business, go back for that degree, conceive the child, etc.
To the onlooker, these transformations would seem miraculous, and with good reason, they are.
And yet — spoiler alert — being committed to a life of peace, passion, and purpose does not prevent you from feeling anger or being the recipient of someone else’s.
When you find someone in your life angry with you, perhaps the following four steps will help you stop the cycle of fanning the flames and help you return more quickly to a peaceful state.
Step 1: Take a stroll in their shoes
Chances are you’ve heard the expression that you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. It’s hard to feel a connection without empathy and impossible to feel empathy without seeing the situation from their perspective.
So, remove yourself and your emotions from the equation for this step. Begin to imagine that you are the other person, seeing as they see and feeling as they feel.
When I got married, my husband and I chose to create our own vows, mostly based on a Buddhist ceremony. In one of the vows, we committed to do this when conflicts arose. We promised to stop and consider the matter from our partner’s point of view.
This was tested for the first time about six months after our wedding. It initially felt strange to stop the mid-argument and remind him of the promise we had made.
I was very sure that the points I was making were right and that righteousness was beginning to make me rigid in my position.
By remembering this promise, I stopped and chose different words. My breath slowed, and I thought about what he must be thinking from his point of view.
We switched roles, and by beginning my thoughts with “I can understand how you might feel…” and continuing to say his position, I became less attached to thinking my way was the only way.
Even if it didn’t make me think or feel exactly as he was, it helped me soften my stance. It felt like a step closer to resolution and, more importantly, to each other.
Step 2: Press pause
In step one, before choosing to see the situation from my husband’s point of view, I had to press pause consciously. In response to someone being mad at us, it is easy to feel the momentum of negative emotion.
You may even begin to mentally take a score of all slights or perceived slights committed by the other person. Their anger increases yours, and then your response fuels theirs.
This cycle can continue until the relationship is damaged, sometimes beyond repair. If we want a different result, we need a new response. The only way to choose your response as opposed to a knee-jerk reaction is to STOP!
Remove yourself either physically, energetically, or both. Retreat to collect your thoughts, choose a course of action, and, most importantly, breathe. As you breathe in, take a deep inhale and feel your belly, ribs, and chest fill with the peaceful feeling you desire.
As you exhale, release a noisy sigh and let your shoulders relax and your face soften. You will feel a difference immediately but repeat as needed.
Step 3: Choose your desired outcome
Now that you’ve paused and used your breath to reclaim your peace and power consider what you would like to happen.
Is your goal to reconnect with the person angry at you? Is it to part ways amicably? Is it to work together? Think about the result you want and then work it backward to find the path to get there.
For example, in the situation with my husband, once I paused, I was able to breathe and see things from his perspective. From that place, I remembered that what we wanted was the same.
We want a marriage filled with open communication, love, fun, adventure, and understanding. I started looking at conflict resolution as another tool in our happy life as opposed to an obstacle to it.
It shifted the conversation from the current dust-up to the feeling we wanted to have as a married couple. The anger had gone out of both of our sails as we remembered what the shared goal was. This new place set us up perfectly to rock step four.
Step 4: Take ownership
If you rush to this step of taking ownership before truly experiencing the previous ones, it may become less authentic. Arguments are rarely black and white.
Even if we disagree with the reason someone is mad at us, if we look honestly, there is some role we played that contributed, if not caused, the result.
So now that you have put yourself in their shoes, paused to breathe, and remembered the outcome you seek, you can now own your part. Taking responsibility for your words, actions and energy is empowering.
To have the humility and strength to apologize for your actions and to acknowledge how those actions impacted others is courageous.
To make this even more impactful, when you take ownership, keep in mind that you are only focusing on that which is in your control. This isn’t a time to recap what role the other person played. This is about you.
Tell the person you understand that you have upset them. Make eye contact as you apologize for your actions. Let them know that you listened, heard, and understood their feelings. Commit to how the same situation could and will be handled differently if it happens again.
Remind them of the love and gratitude you have for them and your relationship.
The thorns on the rose are reminders that even the most beautiful parts of our lives will have challenges. Hopefully, the next time you find a thorn in the form of someone being mad at you, using these four steps will help you effectively navigate the situation and help you return to enjoying the beauty of the rose.
Author, “Love, Limits & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids” | Podcast Host, “Creating Cooperative Kids”
When your child is mad at you — let them
When your child says, “I hate you,” They are really just mad at you, or you’re not your child’s friend, so let them be mad.
You’ve done so much for them, slaved for them, and sacrificed for them, and then if you don’t give them what they want, they get mad at you. It hardly seems fair, all the things we do for our kids, and they don’t appreciate it.
Then we hear them say things like, “I hate you,” or “I hate this house.” We hear, “You’re a mean mom,” or “I’m mad at you!” It’s common for kids to get mad at their parents, but the solution is the hardest for parents to do — just let them be mad.
Good parents learn quickly that they are not their child’s friend. They are their parent. But if the parents aren’t prepared to hear it and know how to respond, they get defensive, or they get even. Worse, they give in to regain the love child is withholding.
I was in the toy section of a department store one day, shopping for a gift for my grandson. A mom and her little boy were in the same aisle, and the little boy, about seven, was admiring a toy airplane. “Mom,” he said, “I want this airplane.”
The woman replied, “No, sweetheart, you have toy airplanes all over your bedroom floor. I’m not going to buy you the plane.” The boy quickly replied, “Mom! I want this airplane.”
Mom replied, “No, I said no airplane. I don’t have any extra money.” “But mom!!!! I want this airplane!” The volume and intensity of the boy’s voice were increasing.
“Honey, your father is on a business trip, and he took all of our money. I’m not buying you the toy.” The boy continued to demand that Mom buy him the plane, and the woman continued offering different excuses.
“Your birthday is right around the corner, and I’m sure your grandparents are going to buy you a new airplane.” With the intensity of a near scream, the boy demanded she buys him the airplane, and mom quickly complied.
Children, especially young children, either loves us or hate us; there is nothing in between. They get mad at us because, in a moment of not getting their way or not having the emotional intelligence to deal with frustration, they act out in a way that tells us they are mad at us and don’t like us; it hurts our feelings.
Often times our initial response to that hurt is to act out some sort of retaliation or, as in the case of the mom above, to give in to get them to like us again and not be mad.
Children getting mad at their parents is just emotion, and emotion is not right or wrong; it just is. The best response to your child getting mad is just to let them be mad. That means not reacting and not getting mad back.
Stay physically close and hear them
Conjure up your best listening skills, and don’t talk at first. Just stay physically close to them, get to eye level if you can, and hear them. If you do feel the need to speak, tell them what you see.
Say to them, “It looks like you’ve made a Mom,” especially if they say, “I hate you!” If they agree, let them agree. Don’t react and don’t talk — listen. Getting mad is energy, and when the parent allows that energy to come out, the mad moment will evaporate.
Don’t try to make it all better
When your child or teen is mad at you, don’t get mad back, don’t ignore them, and certainly don’t try to make it all better. Your child needs to feel that emotion so that they will eventually learn to let it be and then move on.
It’s the beginning of the development of their emotional intelligence. We spend years teaching children reading, writing, and arithmetic but do very little in the area of emotional intelligence.
The prisons are filled with adults who can read, write and add numbers just fine, but their inability to manage their emotions probably got them there, to begin with.
Certified Peer Counsellor and Mental Wellness Coach, Shine & Rise Counselling + Coaching
If you’re in an abusive relationship with a person (romantic partner, friend, sibling, parent, boss, co-worker), then the absolute best thing you can do is to protect yourself by leaving the situation if you can.
If you can’t or won’t leave, then seek out resources for help in your area. Friends, family, counselors, therapists, and even the police if you’re in physical danger.
Don’t be afraid
If you aren’t in an abusive relationship with the person, the first and most important thing to do is to decide you won’t allow fear to dictate your responses. Many of us have an automatic fear response to people being angry with us.
Since we were children, we’ve learned that other people’s anger can harm us. Instead of being afraid of their anger, remind yourself that anger isn’t always negative. It can also be a force for necessary change, truthful conversation, and personal growth.
Be honest and apologize
Instead of immediately becoming defensive, ask yourself if the other person’s anger is justified. Did you disrespect their boundaries or disrespect them as a person? Did your actions or inaction hurt them in any way?
If you can honestly admit that you did something hurtful, the solution is to apologize to that person sincerely. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not a genuine apology. A real apology means admitting what you’ve done, acknowledging how it hurt the other person, sincerely saying you’re sorry, and making a genuine effort to correct your behavior.
Don’t lose sight of yourself
If you suspect someone is mad at you (because they’re ignoring you, being unkind to you, ghosting you, etc.), don’t ask them if they’re angry. It’s not your responsibility to express your feelings for them. Your responsibility is to express your feelings.
Tell them you feel like they’re angry at you and need them to explain why they’re acting that way. Remember that you have every right to your feelings and boundaries too.
If someone is yelling or being insulting towards you, you are not obligated to put up with it, ever. You can and should remove yourself from the conversation. Simply and firmly tell them you’ll have this discussion when they’re ready to speak to you respectfully. Then walk away, leave the room, hang up, stop texting, etc.
Reacting to a negative situation with hostility and more negativity is guaranteed to make that situation worse. Whether you believe the other person’s anger is reasonable or not, don’t lose your temper.
Even if you’re feeling hurt and angry too, take deep, calming breaths, pause, and remind yourself that healthy communication only happens when we’re clearheaded and rational.
Related: 9 Ways to Relax and Calm Your Mind
Focus on a positive outcome
Not just for the other person, but for yourself too. You get to choose how you react, internally and externally. Anger doesn’t always mean endings and negative consequences. You get to choose if their anger is giving you an opportunity to learn something.
Sometimes, you can learn that you don’t need that person in your life. Sometimes, you can learn better ways to behave and better ways to communicate, which will improve your relationship with each other and improve how you handle stressful situations in the future.
Clinical Social Worker, Calm Conflict
Use mindfulness to connect to the here and now
If you love mindfulness, anger is an excellent opportunity to hone your skills. When someone’s angry at us, it’s often triggering. If we lose it, the argument often escalates. Practicing mindfulness, even just a little bit, can help you weather conflict and choose your response.
Here’s one way to practice mindfulness during the conflict: look up, not necessarily at the ceiling but expand your gaze. Instead of being riveted to the other person’s face, words, or tone of voice, raise your gaze and notice something pleasant in the room.
Remind yourself that conflict is not the only thing happening right now.
Pause — choose your response
Because anger is triggering, we can get pulled into a downward cycle. They’re angry at us, we lose it, and then it implodes. The relationship can be harmed. You may feel furious at the other person and also terrible about yourself. Your whole day can get thrown off.
Do this instead: take a breath, pause, and choose your response. No matter how the other person behaves, you can do your best to live up to your own standards.
This way, you can come out of the conflict feeling good about your response and yourself. Perfection is so not the point. A little goes a long way.
Don’t try to accomplish anything during a conflict
When someone’s angry, the emotional part of the brain — the amygdala — takes over. The thinking part of the brain shuts down.
In other words, they can’t hear you. Your goal during conflict is to control your own behavior and, if possible, create a connection. You can talk about the issue at hand after the other person has calmed down.
Practice mindful listening
If this is a relationship you care about, whether because you love this person or because they’re involved in an important part of your life, do your best to hear what they say — whether you agree or not.
Nod and smile. Mindfulness can help you with this practice. Mindful listening is bringing your attention to the present moment while listening.
There are three sources of present-moment occurrences to pay attention to the other person, yourself, and what’s around you:
- Them: Notice the other person’s words, tone of voice, and face.
- You: But also notice your own thoughts and feelings. Notice body sensations that are connected to feelings.
- Around you: This is the most grounding. Notice what’s around you through your senses. What you see and hear and any body sensations you’re experiencing.
Find something to validate
Find something to validate what the other person is saying if you can. This can go a long way in calming everyone. You don’t have to agree with them in order to validate. Feelings are always valid. But don’t say something you don’t mean. Keep it real.
You can say, “I hear you’re angry, and you want me to do more dishes.” You can say it even if you know you did all the dishes! Validating their feelings doesn’t mean you have to do what they want. When things calm down, you can resolve it together.
Don’t forget to validate yourself
When someone’s angry at you, you may be furious at them. But underneath, you may feel very bad about yourself. This makes it harder to handle conflict well.
Remind yourself: You’re good. You mean well. Their anger is about them, not you.
Practicing calm conflict
A handled-well conflict can improve your relationship. When you weather conflict together, it builds trust and love.
Practicing calm conflict is like the wilderness version of mindfulness. If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere. Perfection is not the point. Growing your ability to be mindful and choose your response during the conflict, even a tiny bit, will significantly enhance your ability to do this in your entire life.
Ginelle Krummey, MA, LCMHC, NCC
Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Founder, Growth Point Collaborative Counseling and Group Facilitation, PLLC
Give them space
Someone who is actively feeling anger is unlikely to be able to communicate in an ideal, non-regrettable way. If you and the person can agree to take a period of distance (minutes or days), it should help overall communication.
People overwhelmed with anger may be experiencing dysregulation, and you may not be the person who is able to provide the comfort and stabilization that they might need.
Work with your empathy for what you know about the person’s anger first. Do you know what they’re mad at you for? Can you make an educated guess? Is it founded or unfounded?
When you get into contact with the person, take a curious stance and listen for their truth, whether or not it’s convenient for you.
Do and don’t take it personally
Oftentimes, people are angry about one thing on the surface and another thing metaphorically underneath. For example, someone is angry that you didn’t do the dishes, but they are more generally unhappy to feel unsupported.
As another example, someone may be mad that you cheated on them, but underneath, they are angry that another person has become an untrustworthy support.
So when you’re the cheater in the scenario, you should take the feedback to heart that cheating on people makes them mad. (That shouldn’t need explaining).
When it’s the dishes, you can notice that your partner expects dishes to be done but that the anger isn’t really about you unless those were high-stakes dishes and you had committed to doing them.
The anger about the dishes is about something else, and the person needs to communicate their needs. You don’t have to take the anger personally because they might be angrier with themself.
When you have done something wrong, do not defend yourself because you are ashamed. Own your behavior humbly, and notice the shame you feel for not having lived up to your own standard.
Here’s a sample of a taking responsibility statement: “I know that I told you I’d have the dishes done by dinner, and I did not make the space to do it. It’s on me, and I’m sorry for contributing to your stress.”
This leaves room for the person to notice that they are stressed about dishes, which is likely to be about something else.
Here’s an example of taking responsibility for the cheating scenario:
“I’m responsible for my choice to be unfaithful. I took the drinks that made me vulnerable to regrettable action. I haven’t been looking into myself to examine the emotional causes of my behaviors.
I understand you will feel many different things due to my behaviors, and I will be here to respond to your needs.”
Invite the person who is mad at you
Assuming the anger is well-founded, and repair will be sought, invite the person who is mad to describe what they need to achieve forgiveness.
Sometimes this is an emotional process that has to unfold in its own time, but sometimes it can be tangible, and the release of the feeling can be brought to completion.
With the dishes example, the person might request that you not forget them again. Your job is to follow through on that with integrity.
With cheating, the long haul of rebuilding trust is about making many small actions over time to rebuild your trustworthiness. If the harmed person requests increased communication and emotional witnessing, it is your job to find out how to provide that within your capacity and willingness.
Following through with changes is a long game. We can grow through the interactions that we discover make people mad, and we can grow through discovering what behaviors other people do make us mad.
Sometimes it is about knowing how we want to be treated, and sometimes it’s about upholding boundaries that we already know exist.
Andrea Brognano LMHC, LPC, NCC
Licensed Clinician, Choosing Therapy
Acknowledge the feelings of the person you have hurt
When someone is mad at you, it’s important to take time to step back and reflect on what they are mad at. What are the actions you might have done that have caused the anger of the person? Acknowledge your actions.
It is important to acknowledge the feelings of the person you have hurt. It is not up to you to determine their feelings and emotions; it is vital for you to acknowledge them by stating that you do.
Give the person space
A person who is mad at you might want space from you. Allow them time, respect their boundaries in knowing they might not want to be around you at this time, and allow them freedom and peace.
Express your apology
Be sure that your apology is genuine and includes that you will reflect on the actions that you have done and how this is something you are going to take into consideration not to hurt them in the future.
Take care of yourself
When someone is mad at you, taking care of yourself is crucial. If a person has become mad at us, we often become self-critical and overthink the possibilities of what other ways this is showing up in our lives or how even more people might be mad.
Give yourself space to journal what you feel
Take the time to ground yourself. Allow yourself time away from the incident and situation. Give yourself space to journal what you feel and allow yourself to have your own emotions. Doing so will allow you to respond with compassion to yourself and the person who might be mad at you.
Dr. Ketan Parmar
Psychiatrist and Mental Health Expert, ClinicSpots
It’s natural to feel uncomfortable when someone is mad at you. In this situation, it can be difficult to know how best to handle the situation and repair the relationship. Here are some tips on how you can approach the situation when someone is mad at you.
Listen without judgment or interruption
One of the most important things you can do when someone is angry with you is to listen without judgment or interruption. This allows them to express their feelings and get what they need to say.
Make sure that your body language shows that you’re open and willing to hear what they have to say rather than crossing your arms or turning away from them.
Acknowledge and apologize
If the other person is justified in anger, it’s crucial to own your mistakes and apologize. This will show that you respect them and value the relationship. Even if you disagree with what they’re saying, acknowledging their feelings can go a long way toward resolving the conflict.
Once both parties have had a chance to air their grievances, try to come up with solutions together. Offering solutions shows that you are taking ownership of the situation and willing to work through it together rather than just trying to sweep it under the rug.
Take time to reflect
After resolving an argument, take time for yourself to reflect on what happened. Ask yourself questions about what led to the disagreement and how you could have handled it better. Reflection can help avoid similar conflicts in the future.
Once things have been resolved, try to take steps towards repairing the relationship by communicating positively with each other. This could mean having meaningful conversations or doing activities together that will bring joy to both parties involved.
Dealing with someone mad at you can be difficult, but following these tips can help set a good foundation for resolving any conflict and rebuilding relationships.
Danielle Zito, PMHCS, BC
Mental Health Advisor, Illuminate Labs
Acknowledge their change in behavior toward you
When you sense someone is mad at you or giving you the cold shoulder, do not try to avoid them or reflect the same sentiments on them.
Instead, confront them by acknowledging their change in behavior towards you.
- “I’ve noticed you’ve not been talking with me lately, and I wanted to know if there is something that’s happened between you and me that needs to be resolved.”
- “I understand you have been angry about your behavior towards me recently, and I’d like to discuss it.
Validate the angry feeling
Once the person acknowledges why they are angry, validate the angry feeling and, if appropriate, apologize for your part in contributing to any frustration.
If you do not feel you had any part in the problem and their anger is misplaced, it’s essential to let them know. I.e., “I’m sorry you are feeling so frustrated, but I think your association of them with me may be in error.”
Then explain what you believe is the true trigger for the anger and, if appropriate direct them to the appropriate person to work things out with.
If they feel you are at fault and you disagree, there may be nothing more you can do but state you’ll have to agree to disagree and hope that you can still work it out and remain cordial or friends if that is your desired outcome.
Set appropriate boundaries with this person
There are some people that cannot accept such an arrangement, and if that is the case, it may be time to rethink your relationship with this person and set appropriate boundaries for how you expect to be treated or left alone.
If it is not a relationship you can extinguish or set rigid boundaries on, such as at work, you may need to involve a third party, such as an HR department or supervisor, to ensure you are treated with a minimal level of respect.
Senior Editor, Tandem
I wish I could say that no one ever gets mad at me. However, it would be a blatant lie if I did say that. Unfortunately, as happens with many people, I sometimes say or do things that I shouldn’t. Due to this, at times, someone ends up being mad at me.
Though it would be best to stop the behavior or action that caused the situation before it starts, no one can go back in time. This means people must resort to damage control when such an occurrence happens.
What can a person do when someone is mad at them?
Of course, you can apologize immediately, even if you aren’t sure exactly what you did or said that made the other person angry. If you opt to do this, make sure that your apology is sincere and that you aren’t merely saying “sorry” because you believe it’s the right thing to do.
Find out why they are angry
If you don’t already know why they are mad at you, see if you can find out why this happened. It’s possible that you innocently made a mistake that caused them grief. Once you find out the reason, you must own up to it. We are all human, which means we will sometimes make mistakes.
Listen to them
When they are ready to open up to you about their feelings or the situation, don’t let their words go in one ear and out the other. Concentrate on what they are telling you.
Do your best not to interrupt them. Though it may be tempting to give them an explanation as they are talking, it’s best to provide them with your undivided attention and let them speak.
Make it up to them
Once you have found out why they are mad at you, and you have apologized, see if there is a way you can make it up to them.
For example, if you accidentally stained their favorite shirt with coffee, offer to pay to dry clean it or to replace it with a new shirt. If you missed a date or an appointment, see if you can reschedule.
Don’t do anything rash
You might know precisely why they are mad at you and, possibly, you are mad at them as well. If this is the case, whatever you do, don’t do anything rash that you might regret later.
In this scenario, the best thing to do would be to calm down and collect your thoughts before doing anything else.
When you apologize or have a conversation with the person who is mad at you, make sure you make “I” statements and not “you” statements. This means instead of saying, “You did [insert],” the statement could be phrased, “I was hurt/upset/confused when you [insert].”
By letting the other person know how you feel, they might not become defensive. If the two of you calmly talk to each other and not at each other, you may find that neither of you is still mad.
Manager | Founder, Garden Furniture
Take a deep breath and relax
If you find yourself in a situation where someone is mad at you, there are a few things you can do. First, take a deep breath and relax. Stress can make people feel like they need to lash out at others, but really what they need is some perspective and time to calm down.
If the person is still angry when they calm down, that’s fine. But if they seem to have calmed down after a few minutes or so of talking it out, try again later with a calm approach: “I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot. I think we should talk about this again sometime.”
Second, don’t panic! Sometimes we get caught up in our heads and worry about what people think or think we’re doing something wrong.
But if someone is mad at you for no reason, then it’s probably because they have other things on their mind—like maybe they just got laid off from work (or sadistically kicked out of an abusive relationship). So, take some deep breaths and try not to sweat the small stuff.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Apologize to a Mad Person?
Saying “I’m sorry” can sometimes feel insufficient or even inappropriate, depending on the situation. Several alternatives can help express empathy and acknowledge the other person’s feelings without automatically assuming blame. Here are some suggestions:
• Acknowledge their feelings: Start by acknowledging the person’s emotions and letting them know that you understand why they are upset. Say something like, “I can see that you’re really angry right now, and I’m sorry for what I did that caused that.”
• Take responsibility: Own up to your mistake and take responsibility for it. Avoid making excuses or shifting the blame onto someone else. Say something like, “I realize that I made a mistake, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
• Express remorse: Show that you genuinely regret what you did and that you understand the impact it had on the other person. Say something like, “I feel terrible about what I did, and I’m truly sorry for hurting you.”
• Offer a solution: If possible, offer a solution to make things right. This could be anything from offering to help fix the problem you caused to simply giving the person some space if that’s what they need. Say something like, “Is there anything I can do to make things better? I want to make it right if I can.”
• Follow through: If you make a promise to do something to make amends, make sure you follow through on it. This will show that you are sincere in your apology and that you truly want to make things right.
• Give them time: Remember that the person may not be ready to forgive you right away, and that’s okay. Give them space and time to process their emotions, and be patient as they work through their feelings.
• Be respectful: Above all, be respectful and treat the person with kindness and compassion. Even if they don’t forgive you immediately, you can still show that you care about them and their feelings.
Remember, apologizing is an integral part of repairing relationships and moving forward. By approaching the situation with empathy, respect, and a willingness to make things right, you can show the other person that you value their feelings and are committed to making things right.
What Not to Say to an Angry Person?
When dealing with an angry person, it’s important to remember that their emotions are running high, and their reactions may not be rational. Here are some things you should avoid saying to an angry person:
• “Calm down” or “Relax”: These statements can come across as dismissive and can make the person feel like their emotions are not being validated. Instead of telling them to calm down, acknowledge their feelings and show empathy towards their situation.
• “You’re overreacting” or “It’s not that big of a deal”: These phrases can be invalidating and may make the person feel like their feelings are unjustified. Instead, try to understand their perspective and show that you are willing to listen to them.
• “It’s all your fault” or “You’re to blame”: Blaming someone can escalate their anger and cause the situation to become more intense. Instead, focus on finding a solution to the problem together.
• “I know how you feel”: While you may have experienced a similar situation, everyone’s emotions and experiences differ. Instead of assuming you know how they feel, ask them to share their thoughts and feelings with you.
• “I don’t have time for this”: This statement can be dismissive and make the person feel like their problems are unimportant. Instead, show that you are willing to take the time to listen and help them through the situation.
What Should I Do if the Person Is Not Willing to Listen to Me?
Remember that effective communication is a two-way street, and it takes effort from both parties to make it work. By using these strategies, you can increase the chances of being heard and finding a solution that works for everyone.
• Be empathetic: Try to understand the other person’s perspective and acknowledge their feelings. Show that you care about their point of view and are not just trying to impose your own ideas.
• Use active listening: Pay close attention to what the other person is saying and show that you are interested in what they have to say. Repeat back to them what you heard to make sure you understand their perspective.
• Avoid blaming or criticizing: This type of language is likely to make the other person defensive and less likely to be open to your message. Instead, try to focus on finding common ground and working together to find a solution.
• Use “I” statements: Instead of blaming or accusing the other person, express your feelings and experiences using “I” statements. For example, “I feel frustrated when we can’t find a solution to this problem.”
• Ask questions: Try to understand the other person’s perspective by asking questions. This can help you to identify common ground and find a solution that works for both of you.
• Take a break: If the conversation is becoming heated, it may be helpful to take a break and return to it later. This can give you time to calm down and approach the conversation with a fresh perspective.
• Consider seeking outside help: If you are unable to resolve the issue on your own, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of a neutral third party, such as a mediator or counselor.
What if I Did Nothing Wrong, but the Person Is Still Mad at Me?
It can be a difficult and confusing situation if you feel like you did nothing wrong, but the person is still mad at you. Here are some tips that may help:
• Recognize their emotions: Let the person know that you understand they are upset and that you want to work things out. Validate their emotions by saying something like, “I can see that you’re really upset, and I’m sorry for any part I may have played in that.”
• Ask for clarification: Try to understand the specific reasons behind their anger. Ask questions like, “Can you help me understand what’s bothering you?” or “What can I do to make things right?”
• Offer a solution: If the person is upset about something specific, try to come up with a solution together.
• Avoid defensiveness: It can be tempting to get defensive when someone is angry with you, but this will only escalate the situation. Instead, try to stay calm and listen to their concerns.
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