Category Archives: Letting Go of Anger

# 45 Respond To Anger By Yielding To It




This is the fifth and last entry on responding to anger.

You do not have to respond to anger with anger. You can respond with humility and by yielding to it. This is very powerful. It throws your attacker off base. This is especially useful when faced with someone who is over-critical and fault-finding. Your attacker has prepared a barrage of verbal assaults on you. Your yielding to the force of it leaves him speechless. In assertiveness training, we call this fogging–making yourself as yielding as a drift of fog. You do this by agreeing with that part of the situation that bears some truth.


Angry person: “I can’t believe you’re 30 minutes late! Did you forget you said you’d be here? Are you addle-brained?”

You: “I am late. Yes, I did forget this time.  Lately I’ve been losing track of time.  Please forgive me”


Angry person: “You never pay any attention to me. You’re always busy or working. You’re off in a world of your own.”

You: “I guess I have been preoccupied lately and spending too much time at work. I do tend to withdraw sometimes, and I need some help paying attention to people and things around me. Let me know when I’m doing it, and I’ll try to do better.”

Consider how you have responded to criticism with defensiveness and counter-attack. What was the end result? Was there understanding? resolution? A felt sense of connection with the other person?

Write down the verbal attack on you



Write down your defense of your self, your counter-attack against the other person.



Write down a response of yielding to it, using the technique of fogging.




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# 44 Respond to Anger With Insight and Forgiveness

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 .    You do not have to respond to anger with anger. You can respond with insight and forgiveness. Anger in human beings is often the surface expression of emotion that arises out of fear, pain, ignorance, turmoil and confusion, or some other form of distress. See beyond the anger to what lies behind it. When you see the vulnerability there, you can let go of your anger toward the person. Here’s an example. I recently saw a woman who was distraught over her husband’s behavior. He was often paranoid and accusatory when she left the house, insisting she was going out to see another man. Looking back over the last few years, we were able to see how her husband, who was over 70 and retired, had lost the access to many of the activities in life which made him feel successful. He was terrified of losing her to someone who was “more of a man” in his eyes. Rather than argue with him, she began to see the fear behind the anger and reassure him that she valued him and would not leave him.

Consider a person you know who is often angry at you, or at others? Ask yourself these questions. Is he afraid of something? Does he feel betrayed, mistreated somehow? Is he simply uninformed, unable to comprehend things? Is he confused, bewildered, unsure what to do?


Write your statement of forgiveness toward that person and let go your anger at him or her







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# 43 Respond to Anger With a Search for Understanding


       You do not have to respond to anger with anger. You can respond with a search for understanding. Richard Carlson, in his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, suggests that when faced with angry people, we ask ourselves, “What does this person have to teach me?” Our tendency is to stop listening to an angry person’s statements, because our initial response is one of emotional distress. However, instead of shutting them out, suppose we only shut down our emotional response, while trying to distance ourselves from the person, and taking a bit of an objective, analytical stance toward their statements. This allows us to stay in the situation without feeling so distressed. Often what the angry person has to teach us is patience. The other person may have a very different perspective on the subject which we had not considered.  The experience may even be a window into the inner life of someone who is very different from us.

Consider an angry encounter you have had recently. Did you feel emotionally flooded? Did you lash back? Suppose you ask yourself, “What could I learn from this person? From this person’s anger? What does this person have to teach me?



Carlson, R. 1997. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. New York: Hyperion, p. 31.

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# 42 Respond to Anger With Kindness and Compassion


orange-dot              You do not have to respond to anger with anger.  You can respond with kindness and   compassion.  In my work with couples and families, parents and children, I often help people move away from defensiveness, a common problem, and toward understanding and empathy.   I sometimes script responses for them on note cards:  “I didn’t know that made you so upset.”  “Wow.  It really bothered you.”  “Now I see how important that is to you.”  “I’m sorry if I offended you.” “Thank you for your honesty.  Now I know how much that means to you.”  For the speaker, it is the first time they have not been defensive.  For the receiver of the message, it is validation that they have finally been heard.

Recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

Today, recite this prayer in the morning and again in the evening.  Consider how you may apply it to your encounters with other people today.  If you can, practice one of these scripted responses.

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# 41 Respond to Anger With Humor


       How do you respond to anger?  With anger?  This is the most fundamental of all human responses–to respond to anger with anger.  From parent to child, husband to wife, co-worker to co-worker.  People universally respond to anger with anger, and the result is destructive.  When has it ever evoked the response from the other person that you wanted–whether it be love, compassion, understanding, or resolution?  Probably never.

Let’s try a series of different responses to anger.

I read this vignette in a magazine a long time ago.  A man was making a purchase in a convenience store and the clerk was particularly surly and disagreeable.  The man responded with a smile and asked, “Are you this angry all the time or are you just having a bad day?”  The man visibly relaxed, apologized, and began to explain his litany of troubles that morning.  The two had a laugh and the man went on his way.

Consider this.  You can respond to anger with humor and a bit of insight.  Humor neutralizes anger.  If the clerk is angry about the previous customer who taxed her patience, make a joke.  If you don’t have an encounter with anger today, think of one that has occurred recently.  How might you have responded with humor?



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