How can we deal with angry people?
Question: How can we deal with angry people?
Answer: When dealing with angry people, we need to understand two underlying motivations for anger: (i) is it due to person’s weakness or (ii) is it due to person’s wickedness.
Weakness is something that we all have. When there is an urge to become angry, it empowers us, due to which we do something that we later regret. When anger is due to weakness, we apologise, feel bad about it and acknowledge it was wrong.
We have our conscience and intelligence. Conscience tells us in an emotional way that we should not be angry because later we will feel guilty. Intelligence tells us in a rational way as to why we should not be angry. These are two inner checks that stop us from acting angrily. However, due to wickedness, the conscience is muted and instead of controlling the anger the intelligence is controlled by the anger.
Weakness makes us hot-headed whereas wickedness makes us cold-blooded. When a person is cold-blooded, he makes a systematic diabolic plan to hurt the other person in the most painful way. Anger is basically like a hot emotion whereas hatred is cold, manipulative and calculative. Generally, most people around us are not wicked. The range may vary from weakness being the most common and wickedness being exceptions.
To give forgiveness to wicked is foolishness. What will happen if a group of terrorists, who are on a rampage killing innocent people beg for forgiveness when ambushed by police and the police forgives them? Terrorists will ultimately kill the policemen mercilessly. When somebody is at the extreme edge of wickedness, then strong action has to be taken against them. A wicked person may not even feel any wrongdoing. We need to maintain a safe distance from such people. If needed, we should take strong action against them.
On a routine basis, if we see people getting angry, best is to help them deal with their anger. We can do so by (i) separating the person from their problematic behaviour (ii) avoid labelling them e.g. “short-tempered”, “hot-headed” etc. If we label them, we reduce them to their problematic behaviour. Eventually, we and they end up being an antagonist and consider ourselves a victim who has to hit back at his aggressor.
At a practical level, we may have to deal with it in an appropriate way but internally we see the person separate from their anartha. One way of dealing would be to know the triggers of the other person and try as much as possible avoiding those triggers. When we drive on a road for the first time, we may be jolted by an unnoticed speed bump. However, next time, we will drive carefully on the same road and will be able to avoid the bump. Once bitten twice shy.
Similarly, when we observe people and try to understand what triggers anger in them, it will help us avoid doing anything that will provoke them. We all have willpower, but that willpower is a finite resource. Sometimes when stressful, people may have ten things going on in their head that will frustrate them. If not communicated properly, this anger could be unnecessarily vented out on something trivial. If such people share a bond with us where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, this would help. We should spend time with them periodically which will minimise the instances of them getting angry.
We can help people manage their triggers better. Everybody has things which set them off. We should make sure that we do not become a trigger for them. If they are very close to getting triggered, we help them come off the cliff and not push them further down the cliff.
Generally, words spoken in anger should not be taken seriously. We do not have to hold it against the other person for their entire life.
In the Ramayana, when Lord Rama was chasing a demon disguised as golden deer and shot it down, the demon before dying imitated Rama’s voice and called out to Lakshmana and Sita for help. On hearing the call, mother Sita became overwhelmed with anxiety and agony. However, Lakshmana remained unperturbed and reassured Sita that the voice is not Rama’s. But Sita did not feel reassured. Instead, she felt agitated Lakshmana’s response. Fearing that Rama might be in danger, she urged and begged Lakshmana to go for Rama’s help. On seeing him unmoved, in a frenzy of anxiety, she accused him of having ill intentions towards her and that he wants to enjoy her in the absence of Rama and was waiting for such an opportunity. Sita’s words cut Lakshmana deeper than had the sharpest arrows of the fiercest demons in the toughest of the battles he had fought. He had always venerated Sita like his mother. However, there is no mention in the Ramayana that when Sita was rescued back, Lakshmana held those words against her. He did not tell her, “See, I had told you it was a demon. How dare you speak like that to me? Now apologise.” The point is, “do not see intention in what is spoken in tension”.
Unfortunately, sometimes situations bring out the worst in us but just like we would want others to look through us, understand us and not hold anything against us, similarly we should not hold the other person’s words against them when they have an emotional outburst. However, if a person is habitually angry, aggressive or violent then we need to create some distance. We can help such a person when they at least acknowledge that they have an issue and needs correction. However, if the person thinks they do not need any help then it is better to maintain some distance. Maybe they will learn when the consequences of their actions hit them. It is painful but that is what we may have to do.
To conclude, we can deal with people who are angry by (i) understanding their trigger and making sure we do not trigger them (ii) see them as separate from their problematic behaviour and help them as much as we can (iii) when there is weakness and someone succumbs to it, do not see the intention in what is spoken in tension. However, if someone has wickedness, we should maintain a distance and protect ourselves.
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