If you are alive or you interact with others, you come into contact with emotions on a regular (even daily) basis.
In the course of living your daily life, you may get angry, anxious, sad, doubtful, jealous or envious.
In your interactions with others such as your boss, your spouse, a customer, or your kid, you may experience someone who gets mad at or impatient with you or who is sad or anxious.
How well do you deal with emotions (and the behavior that goes along with emotions) in yourself and others?
Information about what emotions are and how to master them is available both on the internet and from me in my books and my blogposts.
In my first book (Emotions as Tools: Control Your Life not Your Feelings), I discuss what emotions are, why we have them, and the Emotions as Tools Model. I also discuss specific emotions of anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, guilt and shame.
In my second book (Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool) I focus specifically on anger including the Anger Mastery Cycle, anger management verses anger mastery, the anger myths, what to do when it feels like anger but isn’t and both how to deal with other’s anger and when other’s won’t let you be angry.
Both books are Amazon best sellers and you download the first two chapters of each book for free with no log-in required by scrolling up to the top of the page.
With that being said, let’s look at 3 general rules which will help you deal with another person who is emotional with you.
Rule #1: Assume that everyone (including you) does the best they can in the situation given a) what they know about what is going on, b) the assumptions they make and c) the skills they have to deal with what is going on.
My guess is that this rule doesn’t sit well with you as you know that much of the behavior you have seen in others (and in yourself) doesn’t qualify as either good or “best”.
True. In fact, what they are doing may be destructive, wrong for the situation, or just unacceptable.
Indeed, I not saying that what they are doing is the best that can be done or even what they should be doing. In many cases, this is usually obvious.
What I am saying is that, when you do not immediately judge the behavior and assume that this is the best they can do, in the moment, with the information they have, the assumptions they make and the skills they have, you have many different options from which you can choose to deal with this individual.
The other alternative is to judge the behavior and react by doing something that worsens the interaction and that you may later regret. This, by the way, is what usually happens when one’s feelings get hurt, misunderstandings occur, and the situation gets out of hand.
When you assume that what they are doing is the best they can, your next step can be to understand what underlies and has led to the actions they are taking with you.
Steven Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People notes that, in your interactions with others, you should seek first to understand and then to be understood.
When we react to others out of our own emotional state, we do the exact opposite. We want to stand up for and defend ourselves to a perceived attack. If you are interacting with a boss, a spouse, a customer, or even your kid, this usually is not an effective way to move the relationship forward.
In dealing with another person whose emotionally driven behavior clearly seems over the top or not fitting the situation and making the above assumption, you now have the opportunity to look into the information they have and the assumptions they are making. Once you know this, you can begin to change the interaction by giving additional information and clearing up any misunderstandings they (or you) may have. With new information, the behavior they are displaying toward you can change.
Please note that you have not given up any of your options either in the emotions you feel or the responses you may choose to make. But, when they change what they are doing, you, most likely will also change what you choose to do.
And, this leads us to Rule #2.
Rule#2: Know what you want to accomplish in your interactions with this person.
In any interpersonal interaction, it is important for you to know what you want to accomplish because this will determine what you choose to do.
Interpersonal interactions cover a wide range of situations from wanting good service from your server in a restaurant, building a healthy (however you define this) relationship with your spouse or significant other, keeping a customer happy on a service call, through getting respect from your supervisor and so forth.
So, you can see that it is important to understand the nature of your relatioship with this other person, what you and they expect in the relationship and where you want the relationship to go (what you want to accomplish in the relationship).
Once you know this, you are in a better position to decide what actions you will take to get you where you want to go.
And, this takes us to rule #3.
Rule#3: Seek to get a win/win with the other person but settle for a compromise if you have to.
Most people think that compromise is the best you can hope for when there is a disagreement. And, sometimes, this is true.
When you compromise, both you and the other person give up something you can do without to get something you must have. There is nothing wrong with this but, in one sense, it is a lose/lose proposition in that you both have given up something you would just as soon have if you could.
Someone once said that if you shoot for the stars and you miss you end up on the moon. If you shoot for the moon and miss, you end up back on earth. The moon is a compromise.
I am suggesting that you shoot for a win/win in which both of you get all that you want, whenever this is possible. If this is your goal in a relationship, you will work to find ways that meet all of both your needs.
This is often possible if you look for it.
If not, you can always compromise.
In an upcoming series of three posts, I will discuss in detail a six step process for dealing with someone who directs their anger at you.
I welcome your comments.