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This is one of a series
of brief articles on how to respond effectively
to annoying social behavior. An "effective response" occurs
when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
This YouTube video clip offers perspective on
using anger and frustration:
This article offers useful responses
to the behavior of someone you experience as
angry and frustrated.It assumes
you're familiar with...
If there's a chronically angry and/or
frustrated person in your life, keep them
inn mind as you read.
Think of the last time you interacted
with an angry adult or child. How did you
feel? Anxious? Intimidated?
Impatient? Scornful? Combative? Defensive?
Nervous? Worried? Numb? Like leaving?
did you respond - try to calm
them? Raise your voice? Avoid eye contact?
Freeze? Plead? Whine? Complain? Swear?
Threaten? Attack? Try "reasoning?" Get
sarcastic? Roll your eyes? Demand? Lecture? Discount
their feeling? ("You're upset over
Did your response "work well" (fill your
current needs)? Would you rather respond
What did your early-childhood adults teach
you and model about responding to angry and
frustrated people? Many people are unaware
of their response to an angry person, and
don't know their options. That's why this
Anger vs. Frustration
Premise - though they feel alike,
anger follows feeling hurt or
threatened, and frustration signals
an inability to fill important needs. So they
merit different responses.I've met
few people who can (a) distinguish anger
from frustration, and/or (b) relate anger or
rage to hurt or threat
(perceived danger). Do you know anyone who
can do these? Can you? Let's look at
each of them.
Hurt or Threat and Anger
Emotional responses to these normal emotions
vary with five things...
how they're expressed...
impulsively or controlled,
timidly, firmly, or harshly
loudly or quietly;
sarcastically or respectfully,
verbally and/or nonverbally,
ranting or reasonably,
blamefully or objectively, or
wordily or briefly.
Reflect on recent experiences with angry
people - which combination of these
variables is the hardest for you to
respond to - i.e. which mix of these
anger-styles raises your
the fastest and highest? Do you know
hurt and anger are directed at -
you, someone you care about, or someone
else, like a stranger, "the government,"
co-workers, neighbors, Arabs, Democrats,
Baptists, lawyers, Latinos, gypsies,
street people, preachers, egotists,
teens, men or women, etc..
And responses vary with...
the responding person is (you are)
or a false self - e.g. shamed,
guilty, scared, hostile, distorting, or
paralyzing subselves; and...
the anger policy
of the responder, (e.g. most anger is
normal and OK, or it isn't); and...
type of relationship between the two
people - parent-child, mate-mate,
boss-employee, friend-friend, two
These variables explain why some angry
people intimidate or paralyze others, and
other ragers evoke pity, scorn, discounts,
criticism, or aggression. Given this range
there a "best way" to respond to an angry
person? Stay tuned...
Premise - all human behavior (like
yours) is an endless quest to reduce the
current mix of physical, emotional,
and spiritual discomforts, or needs.
Needs are vary dynamically, and usually come
Frustration can look and sound like anger,
but is a normal reaction to being unable to
reduce current needs. Reality check
- recall the last time you felt frustrated,
and ask "What needs was I unable to satisfy
The normal mental-emotional-physical
response called frustration can be
momentary or lasting, and mild to intense.
It can cause behaviors that (may) cause
regret and apologies - e.g. crying,
cursing, name-calling, yelling, shoving,
hitting, throwing, and/or breaking things. A
normal task of "growing up" is gaining
"impulse control" over "tantrums" like these
Have you ever been "very upset' at not being
able to fill key needs? How do you usually
respond to others who aggressively
demonstrate - or deny and repress - their
frustration? Do you agree that most people
don't realize what causes frustration, and
how it differs from anger?
there a "best way" to respond to an
extremely frustrated person? How
about to someone who is both frustrated
and angry? See what you think about
Reflect - do you have an "anger hero/ine"
who responds effectively in the face of
major anger and frustration? If so, keep her
or him in mind as you read. Now think of
someone in your life who is apt to react
with significant anger and/or frustration at
you or someone you care about.
responses to any "problem"
behavior begin with
checking to see if your true Self is
If not, delay your response and
do what you can to
that - or lower your communication
important difference between
primary needs.Most people aren't aware of this difference,
which can promote frustration and wasted
time and energy.
all feelings are useful pointers to
unfilled needs. There are no
"negative" emotions. There are
harmful ways of expressing
Check your attitude. If you feel
emotional outbursts are "wrong," "bad,"
"childish," "ridiculous," "silly," or
add to the upset person's
discomfort, and promote arguments,
criticisms, or fights!
"Don't worry," "Don't be upset / angry,"
"Just calm down, will you?" "Shh, shhh...,"
"It'll get better, don't worry..."
These well-meant responses discount the
other person, and are almost
always motivated to reduce your
to assess whether the other
person is [hurt or scared) + angry; or
frustrated, or both. Options:
Ask something like...
do you need (from me) right now?"
would make you feel better now?"
something hurt you?"
Are you frustrated or angry - or
is apt to be reflexive and superficial.
Option - if the other person is willing,
dig down to discover their current feelings
and primary needs.
clear and your
firm - specially if the other person is
upset with you. Protecting your
integrity and dignity requires your Self
(capital "S") to
whether the upset person's
is "above or below their ears" (i.e. if
they can hear you).
If it's above - and you're centered -
to bring it down and restore their
''rescuing'' - feeling responsible for making the upset
person "feel better," unless you're
unintentionally doing something that
upsets him or her. Doing that is often
about relieving your own
discomfort around someone's hurt,
anger, and frustration.
Option - see anger and
frustration as opportunities to
- when true Selves are in charge.
If the upset
person accepts the reality of
you may ask (when s/he can hear you)
of your subselves are causing your
If the other
person's behavior scares, offends,
and/or worries your subselves, consider
responding with a calm, thoughtful,
when you yell / swear / get violent /
throw things / hit things / break things
/ name-call / etc., I feel scared /
worried / attacked / disrespected /
weary / dread / frustrated / ________,
(optionally) and I need you to
resistance to this, and respond with
empathic listening. Then repeat your I-message
with good eye contact until (you feel
heard, or you both shift to
This brief video explains assertive
you need from your response. Then select
options from the above, and judge
whether your communication was
or not. If not - learn from that, and
try other options and/or revise your
Pause and notice your
thoughts and feelings.
Think of any kids or adults who can be
"significantly" angry and/or frustrated
around you. Review the response-options
above, and see which of them feel practical
and appropriate. Edit them to better fit
your style and personality as needed.
This is one of a
series of articles suggesting
effective responses to common social behaviors. This article offers
perspective on anger and frustration, and
specific options for
responding effectively to a significantly angry and/or frustrated person. The