We’ve all gotten into heated arguments with adults. When it comes to children, though, we don’t rationalise. We treat emotional outbursts as what they are. Try applying that same strategy with adults.
Photo by Ken Wilcox
As clinical psychologist Dr Albert J Bernstein explains, people often argue with adults rationally, no matter how upset they are. Trying to talk them out of being angry rarely works, however.
Treating them like you would a screaming child doesn’t have to mean being condescending. But with children, we know to solve the emotional problem first, then come back to the rational one:
People say to me all the time, “You mean I have to treat a grown-up like a three-year-old?” I say, “Yes, absolutely.” If you’re a parent, what do you do with a tantrum? You ignore it, or at least you try to ignore it. But with an adult you try and talk them out of it, and it never works.
Dealing with someone else’s emotions is always hard, and often it just involves letting someone blow off steam. If they’re too upset to be around, you can always ask for space (and obviously if the situation turns abusive, please find help immediately). But, as you would with a child, recognise that you’re dealing with two problems. Defuse the emotional issue first, so you can get on with actually solving the underlying problems.
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