Can we talk about this?
Sometimes, words speak louder than actions.
Imagine how surprising and effective it would be if an infant said, "I"m so hungry, I feel like I might start to cry." Instead of guessing what the problem is, instead of finding ourselves emotionally fraught at all the screaming, we could get to the underlying truth of the problem.
Or consider how easy it is to get caught up with a co-worker who"s disrespectful or a customer who is so distraught he can"t see a way out of his problem. I"ve been to board meetings where the actions and the emotions were so loud it was difficult to hear what people really wanted to communicate.
It"s easy to react, and it feels justified to do so. Tit for tat and "I"m not going to take this." But de-escalation through the power of words helps get to the truth far faster.
Commenting on the emotions that you are seeing is different than reflecting them back. Talking about what"s happening defuses the tantrum that is just waiting to wreck the connection that could be become so valuable.
If the goal is connection, then connect. [Coincidentally, just discovered this book on the topic (link)
The angry teenager (your customer?, your boss?)
Youíve probably met one. You might have a boss who is one, or customers who act that way. Someone doesnít have to be in high school to act like a teenager. (Teenagers are supposed to act like that, it"s their job. When adults act like this, though, it can get really ugly.)
The angry teenager believes that rage is always justified. He rejects the rational approach, replacing it with hot flashes of belief instead. Facts matter little when they can so easily be replaced by emotion. The angry teenager doesnít want to talk through an issue, he just wants to yell about it. He doesnít care so much about solving a problem as he does bathing in it, embracing it and wallowing in self-pity (loudly).
Show an angry teenager a way to grow and heíll head the other direction, cursing you for rejecting his anger. Ask an angry teenager to rationally explain his proposed solution and heíll hate you for wanting practical steps. Laugh at the unreasonableness of his demands and heíll get angrier still, because being laughed at is his greatest fear.
Itís really easy to find an angry mob, really easy to embrace the momentary power that comes from harnessing the fear and disillusionment and angst of the disenfranchised. The challenge is that the mob is impatient and impractical and afraid. It"s not a scalable way to get things done.
We all have to deal with angry teenagers now and then. Itís not fun or even productive, but if youíre smart and patient, you can outlast them. Picking a fight isnít a practical solution, of course, because theyíre better at fighting than you are.
Whatever you do, though, donít let an angry teenager be in charge.