Have you dealt with people who are irritable and frequently throw temper tantrums?
Have you instinctively felt the need to push back? Or
Have you let it pass and saw that it blew over quickly?
I remember having worked with a boss who used to have a short fuse. Most often it used to blow over pretty fast as well. However, the extent of damage lasted a while. It used to become pretty explosive when someone tried to push back and instinctively retaliate, often leading to days of eerie calmness much like the calm after a storm. He acknowledged the fact that he couldn’t control his anger and always used to reflect on the bitter trail he left after such outbursts.
The eastern philosophy says that the best way to deal with angry people is to be like a ‘Grass’ and not like a ‘Rigid tree’. In the face of storm rigid trees break and die while the grass bends and survives eventually to grow taller and stronger. Bending, being flexible, accommodating and compassionate is often the best way to deal with angry people than get into a power game.
You will often feel the urge to push back in order to prove that you cannot be taken lightly. Have you observed that the result is a counter and deterioration of the relationship. You may think that you have won but you will surely end up creating an enemy who will wait for the opportunity to stab you in the back. It’s easy to make an enemy and its no challenge. The difficult part is to turn a difficult and explosive person into someone who treats you better.
I’ve always experienced that whenever I retaliated immediately to angry outbursts and attacks from others, the situation soon escalated into a full blow conflict which would eventually explode and leave a trail of devastation not just on me and the said person but others who are in the vicinity.
With this boss, I chose a different approach. I often chose to let it pass for the moment and allowed him to vent his anger till he exhausted himself. All the while trying to listen carefully for reasons that makes the person angry. Trying to understand what is triggering these outbursts.
You will find that it will mostly be about them and not others. People who have angry outbursts are like those “holding a hand-grenade with its pin removed”. The time is ticking and if you allow it to run its course, it will self-destruct. But if you choose to engage and go all over it, it may blow on your face and you will be the casualty.
I saw that more often than not the person came around and said that he didn’t mean to hurt me and that there was something going around in his mind which was bothering him for a while.
When he asked me for suggestions to control or diffuse the situation, I just asked him to bite his tongue the moment he felt the urge to explode. Also, quickly get back to his cabin and write down the triggers for his anger. It did work for him and he was able to gradually get a handle on his anger. Not for long though, but it definitely reduced.
Mind you this only works if the person is just volatile and not a narcissist.
What is your way of handling an explosive person?