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These two words will only make things worse when you talk to an angry person

The last thing most of us want to deal with is an angry person in our face. But chances are it will happen sooner or later.

So what do we do? And perhaps even more importantly: what should not have to we do?

Those are some of the questions we – Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, the co-hosts of HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast – recently posed for Ryan Martin, better known as the Anger Professor, to find out how to “do anger better.”

“You had a great tweet,” Michelson said during the conversation. “You said something like, ‘Never in the history of ‘calm down’ has ‘calm down’ calmed anyone down.” So I guess ‘calm down’ isn’t what you want to say.”

“I think ‘relax’ is even worse,” Punjabi added.

“No, ‘relax’ has never made anyone relax,” agreed Martin, professor of psychology and associate professor in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“This is a case where… people are elevated and not necessarily thinking very rationally, and are a bit defensive. You’re not going to make as much progress with that kind of direct statement you want to make,” he added. “Telling people to do things like ‘just breathe’ isn’t going to have much impact.”

A person sits at a desk in an office environment, with hands raised as if explaining something.  The background features office lighting and partially faded chevron patternsA person sits at a desk in an office environment, with hands raised as if explaining something.  The background features office lighting and partially faded chevron patterns

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Instead, it will be more effective to model those actions yourself.

“One of the things I find funny is that when people tell someone to calm down, they often yell or say it in a very loud, stern voice,” says Martin, the author of “How To Deal With Angry.” . People” and “Why We Get Angry: How to Use Your Anger for Positive Change.”

“But if you step back a little bit and start speaking softer than normal, and start communicating in a slightly softer tone, people will inherently emulate that. This is also rooted in our evolutionary history, where we tend to match in tone with those around us.”

This can help us take the edge off the situation without using testy phrases that make us even more irritated.

Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, John Turturro and Britt Lower, in business attire, surround Zach in an office setting and appear concernedAdam Scott, Zach Cherry, John Turturro and Britt Lower, in business attire, surround Zach in an office setting and appear concerned

Atsushi Nishijima /©Apple TV+ / Courtesy of Everett Collection

“It’s, quite frankly, manipulative. …You’re actually lowering that height,” Martin said. “So speaking in that softer voice, staying calm yourself, finding ways to eventually, when they vent, offer some minimal encouragement to help them get through that.”

Once there is less intensity, you are more likely to be able to respond.

“I don’t think you want to agree with someone if you don’t agree with them,” Martin said. “But if you can formulate a response that seems affirmative, to let them know ‘you’re clearly very upset about this, let’s discuss some solutions together’ – ways you can validate their feelings without necessarily cause of their feelings.”

We also discussed the three questions to ask yourself before you get angry, what to do before sending an angry email, and more. After you listen to the full episode above, or wherever you get your podcasts, subscribe to Am I Doing It Wrong? so you don’t miss an episode, including our investigation into the ins and outs of tipping, how to score the best deals on airfare, how to apologize or forgive credit card debt, how to find love or overcome fear online, online shopping , tips for taking care of your teeth, pooping like a pro, the shocking truth about doing your laundry and secrets of booking and staying in a hotel.

Do you need help with something you did wrong? Email us at [email protected], and we might explore the topic in an upcoming episode.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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