Get On The Same Side Of The Table

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Inspirational leaders tend to take on tough challenges, and dare to tackle the world’s most difficult problems. Because of that, and because human nature is what it is, a good leader is likely to step on some toes now and then. You might be doing everything right as a leader, and still be in a position to need to know how to calm an angry person.

Leadership is a rational, logical endeavor, to be sure. But inspirational leadership is also an emotional adventure. To inspire the best in others – to get them to give the effort their absolute best – you need to unlock their positive emotions, such as passion, dedication, and loyalty. But your efforts to do so might occasionally unleash the worst in others, and undesirable emotions such as anger will pop up once in a while.

Previously, we covered two important things to bear in mind when you need to calm an angry person. First, you have to reduce the emotional content of the interaction. Calm yourself, and then use your words (and, more importantly, your non-verbals) to calm the other person. Second, don’t try to go too quickly toward rational interaction, such as joint problem-solving. Remember that it isn’t the person talking, but the Anger Demon possessing him, and that the rational side of his brain isn’t available until the anger clears away. For that reason, you can’t take seriously (or personally) his very-personal-seeming attacks.

If you can be patient with the angry person, listen a lot, talk very little, and show some empathy, you can probably calm an angry person. One more thing to work on: do whatever it takes to “get on the same side of the table” as the other person. You need to demonstrate a sense of commonality with the angry person, and a sense that you’re both in it together.

Non-verbals can be very powerful in this regard. Literally sit or stand on the same side as your counterpart of whatever physical object might be in the room – a table, a counter, whatever. Don’t use body language that says “I’m running away,” but don’t use confrontational poses, either. Breathe deeply, and let them notice it. Make frequent eye contact, but don’t let it be continuous. And when you speak, make sure your tone and words are soft, calm, and soothing.

At some point, you’re going to have to address the content of the issue, but during the first few white-hot moments of anger, don’t try that. Your whole job is just to calm the angry person, so that the Anger Demon can be exorcised (ventilated) and so that the rational side of your counterpart’s brain can come back out to play. I’ve often said that “nothing will work,” and that the more nothing you do, the better and faster it does work.

Most of the time, the angry person is angry at the situation, or the problem, and not really at you. On those rare occasions where you actually have made a mistake, or done something (however inadvertent) to cause the upset, you should apologize, early and earnestly. Even if you are not at fault, consider apologizing anyway. The words “I’m so sorry if I’ve done anything to offend you” have no cost, and can pay big dividends. Some of my clients can’t bring themselves to apologize if they’ve done nothing wrong. That’s fine. But they’re leaving one easy solution on the table. Remember that nothing you say while the other person is possessed by the Anger Demon will be remembered in calmer times; they only really remember your attitude, your patience, and that you were willing to help.

Above all, don’t let the possibility of occasionally angering people to discourage you from taking the chances you have to take to be a truly inspirational leader. For every time you stir anger, consider that you’ll be stirring positive emotions many, many times as you go about your inspirational business. If you’re serious about your mission, don’t back down! Be an inspiration, and be good at knowing how to calm an angry person when you need to.

 Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money “one less thing to worry about” can learn more about working with Michael at wanting to jump-start their vitality can browse through the best (and most travel-friendly) nutraceuticals on the market at and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at
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