Don't say "you're making me so angry!"

Oct 30, 2020
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When we disagree, one of my co-workers has a way of talking forcefully, eyebrows down, back straight. She’s a very accomplished attorney and can be intimidating (one of the strengths she brings to the team, but if it’s directed against you, watch out!).

For most of our relationship, when she spoke like this to me, I thought she was saying “how could you be so stupid as to think that?” Of course she never said those words, but that was my interpretation, which would lead to me reacting with anger. And then it just escalated from there. 

I’d say, “You’re making me so angry right now!” thinking I was so emotionally mature to express my feelings. 

But, here’s the thing. My daughter communicates the same way when she’s under stress, yet my reaction to her is different. I don’t feel intimidated and can remain centered and calm, communicating the way I intend to.

So why does one person get me rattled, and the other doesn’t, with the same exact behavior? 

Turns out, no one was getting me rattled. I was allowing myself to be rattled by giving up control of my emotions. 

It’s the easy way out, to say “you make me so angry!” It means we don’t have to be responsible for ourselves and our (re)actions. 

Saying “you make me…[insert emotion here]” gives your power away. Your power to communicate in the way you want. 

You can communicate the way you intend to, if you recognize and utilize your emotions.  

Emotions point at underlying unmet human needs, and as soon as you can articulate those unmet needs, you have your power back, to choose how you communicate. 

Now, when my attorney co-worker gets stern, speaking with force, I’ll say “I need to admit, I’m feeling a little defensive right now because my need for consideration isn't being met. I want to finish this conversation but need to take a break, so I can communicate the way I want to.”

This statement is free of judgment and accusations and prevents escalation.  

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