The One Word You Should Never Say to Someone Who's Angry, Experts Say
Saying this to someone who is already worked up will only make things worse.
You know the language you use can make a difference in how any conversation goes. Sometimes, even a single word can dictate whether or not you end up helping or hurting a given situation. And when you're talking to someone who is in an extremely emotional headspace, it's even more imperative to watch what you say. After all, if someone's already angry, choosing the wrong words can push the conversation even further into a bad spot, like pouring gasoline on a fire. To learn how best to manage a situation with an angry friend, partner, child, coworker, or really, anyone else in life, we talked to experts to find out the word you should never say to someone who's worked up. Read on to find out which words don't work, and for more conversation mistakes to avoid, This One Word You Use Every Day Makes You Sound Judgmental, Experts Say.
Saying the word "calm" to someone who's angry usually only makes them angrier.
Whether you're saying "be calm" or "calm down," using the word "calm" with someone who is already angry is bound to make them feel the opposite. Sonya Schwartz, a relationship expert and founder of Her Norm, says this four-letter word is "condescending to a person who doesn't feel like they are going over the top." She adds that, "in their state of hostility, it is more likely to make them feel angrier."
And for more things you should avoid saying, This Word You Use All the Time Makes People Not Trust You, Experts Say.
When people are angry, they tend to see the word "calm" as an attack.
Diana Venckunaite, a communications expert and founder of communication company AMP, says that "saying 'calm down' to someone who is already angry invalidates their anger and makes them even more defensive, angry, and frustrated." Even worse, if their anger was not already directed at you, it might be now, she adds.
"Logically you want the angry person to get out of their limbic system—which is responsible for mood and increased heart rate when we get flustered—and get to their cortex that is responsible for the thinking, reasoning, and strategic part of the brain so that they can get past the problem that has angered them in the first place," Venckunaite explains.
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"Relax," "chill," and "stop" can have the same effect.
Other words that can sound similarly dismissive of a person's heightened emotions have the same effect, like "relax," "chill," or even, "stop," says Michelle Davies, a professional life coach and co-founder of The Best Ever Guide to Life.
"When someone is angry, it is usually because they are frustrated, have been holding in resentment, or are afraid of something," explains Lynell Ross, a behavior change specialist and certified health and wellness coach working with Test Prep Insight. "When you tell a person to stop, or hold up your hand to stop them from talking, you make the situation worse. They feel even more angry and upset, because they will not feel heard."
Whenever someone is angry, you want to allow them to feel their emotions and feel heard, but words like "calm," "relax," "chill," or "stop" can make people feel like they have to stop expressing exactly how they feel.
And for more words to avoid, The One Word You're Saying That's Ruining Your Relationship, Experts Say.
And never fight anger with anger.
Sometimes people blurt out phrases like "calm down" or "relax" when they get frustrated themselves. But if you turn to anger or frustration yourself, the person who is already upset is only bound to get angrier.
"It often takes people some time to calm down when they are extremely upset, and they will pick up on your energy if you react back to them with anger," says Ross. "Practice holding onto your own well-being when you are around someone who is angry so you can respond in a healthy way instead of reacting to their anger."
And for more language cues to look out for, If Your Partner Is Asking You This One Question, They Could Be Cheating.