5 ways to respond to anger and deal with confrontation

·4-min read

Ever since THAT Oscars moment between Will Smith and Chris Rock, people have been talking about respect, anger, and the appropriate way to respond to someone who makes you or a loved one upset without resorting to physical violence.

So whether you’re #TeamChris or #TeamWill, what’s the healthiest way to deal with an angry person (or feelings of anger inside yourself) when you feel you, or a loved one, has been disrespected?

Chris Rock and Will Smith onstage during the show  at the 94th Academy Awards
We saw anger play out in a big way at the Oscars this year. Photo: Getty

Recognise the signs

Clinical Psychologist and Director of Mindset Consulting, Dr Aileen Alegado, says that individuals can show different signs of anger.

“Anger is an emotion that is associated with a feeling state that is accompanied by hostile and negative thoughts, physiological arousal and sometimes behaviours relating to retaliation – eg shouting back, clenching fists or throwing things,” she explains.

“To spot signs of anger, look for symptoms that indicate a ‘fight or flight’, which can vary from muscle tension, dilated pupils, heavy breathing or shortness of breath, flushed cheeks, pacing or restlessness.

“Fidgeting or verbal expression can serve as a way of warning others about our displeasure.”


Another common sign is when someone shuts down. Dr Aileen says, “Sometimes, instead of getting aroused, anger can also bring about a ‘shutdown’ response. This appears as withdrawal, sulking and sometimes ‘silent treatment’.”

Clinical psychologist Dr. Aileen Alegado
Clinical psychologist Dr. Aileen Alegado gives us some tips on dealing with anger. Photo: Supplied

Not all anger is bad

“Everyone has the capacity to get angry, but individual differences and temperament can make people more prone to anger than others,” Dr. Aileen tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Often, it comes down to having our needs or expectations not being met. Often the person may not even be aware of these expectations explicitly but feel the emotion accompanying the hurt, rejection, disappointment or even disrespect when we are let down.

“It is ok for someone to get angry as long as the person can healthily communicate their needs or feelings to the other person. It’s also important to have a level of self awareness to recognise your anger, and not let it consume you and lead to negative outcomes.”

The best way to handle an angry person

While being presented with someone else’s anger can be confronting, Dr. Aileen says there are ways to de-escalate the situation.

“To begin, we firstly need to understand that anger is an energised version of being hurt, so if we can see that the person just wants our attention and understanding, things can easily be de-escalated,” she says.

“More often than not, when we are confronted by anger, we escalate the situation by getting angry back, which only adds more fuel to the fire and gets us nowhere.

Instead, she advises us to, “calmly listen to the angry person and show them you are willing to meet their needs. Talk in a calm voice, or simply ask for them to take time out and come back and speak about this when they are less aroused.”

“Again, it comes back to that level of self awareness. Don’t react back - recognise the situation for what it is, and act in a calm and empathetic way to make the person feel heard.”

Cropped shot of a young couple giving each other the silent treatment during a fight at home
Remaining calm is key, Dr Aileen says. Photo: Getty

Top five tips for dealing with feelings of anger

We all get a little angry sometimes, which is perfectly normal and human. However, if you’re finding it hard to keep a lid on your emotions, Dr. Aileen has some tips to help you deal with your anger in a healthy way.

1. Understand The Reason For Your Anger

Ask yourself what is the need/expectation I have in this situation that is not met? Take the time to not react and use self-awareness first.

2. See The Situation Clearly

Ask yourself, do you have any misinterpretations or distortions that may be false? Ie. Thinking in black and white, taking things personally? People who tend to be angrier can hold negative biases. The first step we need to take is to stop any reactions and really evaluate where these feelings are coming from.

3. Breathe

Anger has physiological effects on our body so if we could engage in deep breathing, it can help trigger the PARAsympathetic nervous system (calming system).

4. Mindfulness

De-escalate feelings of anger using mindfulness techniques such as holding a cube of ice, popping a mint in your mouth, or another sensory exercise that can help you focus on something else away from negative thoughts and feelings of anger.

5. Communicate

Anger can often arise from misunderstanding, so make sure you are openly expressing your feelings and listening as well.

If you or a loved one feel unsafe, and are experiencing family or domestic violence, call 000 or 1800Respect on 1800 737 732.

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