Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Approach and Assist an Angry Person

We all encounter angry people in every walk of life. Some will confront them, others avoid them like the plague. There are times when either approach is acceptable. I do not like drama. However, I am concerned about others when they appear upset. And I am very knowledgeable as to how to help them. After all, I've been doing this professionally for twenty years. So my choice as to whether or not I become involved has to do with several factors including how well I know the person, if I'm mentally prepared to assist them at that time, if I feel they are open to my help, and if this is a serious issue. 

Here are a few tips should you decide to reach out with a thoughtful heart:
1. Make a non-judgmental observation. "You seem upset."
2. Avoid using the term angry as it can actually increase their anger.
3. Validate their feelings. One of our most basic human needs is to be acknowledged.
4. Express genuine concern.
5. Ask them to sit down rather than calm down so that you may better understand what they have to say.
6. Set boundaries if their behavior is out of control.
7. Listen empathetically. Understand their feelings, not simply their situation.
8. Ask questions to better understand their situation.
9. Ask if they are happy with their current situation and/or how they feel about it or if they would like things to be different.
10. Inquire as to how you can best help them.
11. Reassure them that you have faith in their ability to move beyond this.
12. Interject humor only if appropriate. 

To that list, I'd like to add a few "do not's":
                ~Be wary of incendiary statements such as "What's your problem?" "You shouldn't feel that way."
                ~Do not get caught up in their drama, anger, rage, etc. Remain calm.
                ~Stay focused on them and their issue. Don't make this about you.
                ~Don't personalize or take offense to what they are saying or doing. Their emotions and actions are about themselves, not you.
                ~Never allow them to direct their anger at you. They may express it in to you but not at you.

We all have issues with anger. Sometimes we have to address our own and sometimes we need to offer assistance to others. When safe to do so, be a vessel of healing to another. One person at a time and we can heal our angry planet. Peace.

To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Nail in the Fence

"The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath." (The Buddha).
A little boy, prone to anger, was told by his father, "Every time you're angry, drive a nail in that wooden fence. When you've learned to control your anger, start removing them." Six months later, the boy had removed every nail he had driven. Triumphant, he showed the fence to his father. The father sadly pointed out, "See the holes? The fence will never be the same."

I first heard this story several years ago and thought it a perfect analogy to the potential damage anger can have on another person.

All emotions have purpose and value. None are inherently bad, even anger. It's how we choose to express them and what we do with them that determines if they become a positive or negative force.

Here's the problem with anger: we become upset with someone for whatever reason and lash out in fury. "You idiot! I told you not to do that!" "I never should have married you! My parents warned me!" Ouch! Hurtful words hurt...over and over. We may say something once yet the person on the receiving end of our rage replays those words again and again, each time gaining momentum and power. For the offender, the incidence occurs once and is forgotten. For the target, they relive it ten, twenty, one hundred times. Angry words have the potential to cause a lifetime of suffering.

When I was young, I distinctly remember an adult telling me in a nasty way I'd never amount to anything in life. Clearly they were angry although I never understood why. I hadn't done anything to warrant it at that time. (I had plenty of other times though.) Those words stayed with me for decades.

I attended college (with no aspirations) simply because my mother insisted. (Thank you, mom.) Eleven days after graduation I married my high school sweetheart and soon thereafter started a family. Staying home raising children was safe and at times became a convenient excuse for not venturing outside of the home. After all, what else could I possibly do? I reminded myself I'd never amount to anything so why even try?

It wasn't until I was in my forties that I was able to revisit those hurtful words and re evaluate their meaning. What had caused me great anguish for nearly thirty years, in reality, had no value. That adult's words were not truth. They were spoken in anger. Now as an adult, I was finally able to put the past behind me by forgiving the one who so cruelly drove a nail into my spirit.

Hurtful words hurt - over and over. They can leave holes in the very fiber of one's being. Choose your words wisely. Choose kindness.

To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Road Rage: Drive to Stay Alive

Road rage is one of the leading causes of accidents and deaths in this country. According to a report by CNN, an estimated 28,000 people each year are killed due to aggressive drivers. It's easy to  see how cities such as Miami, NY, Boston, LA, and Washington DC (the cities with the most offenses) have a higher than average number of stressed out, hostile drivers. Yet stress isn't the cause of road rage as some may believe. If it were, then anyone feeling under pressure who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle would react with dangerous maneuvers. So if stress is not the cause of anger, what is?

Let me give you an example. According to AAA, the leading cause of road rage is tailgating drivers. Why would that be? After all, they are behind our vehicle so they do not pose an immediate threat to us. If we stop suddenly, it is they who will be at fault hitting our bumper  and we can collect a nice check from our insurance company. Here is what typically takes place that leads an otherwise responsible driver to the point of engaging in dangerous behavior:

As I travel down Main Street, I become acutely aware that there is a black pick-up truck riding my bumper. My eyes are continually drawn to my rear view mirror checking to see just how little distance exists between our two vehicles. "I'm doing the speed limit, jerk! Get off my tail!" I shout knowing full well he is unable to hear my complaints. "Who does this guy think he is?" I mutter under my breath. "Does he think he owns the road and that I should move over and make way for him? Hell no!" My immediate judgment of him is that he is arrogant and demanding, trying to intimidate me into letting him pass. I can be just as arrogant as he is, I think to myself. "Watch this buddy!" I snicker as I slowly ease my foot off the gas pedal and watch the speedometer needle drop. "That'll teach you!" As he applies his foot to the brake in an effort to avoid hitting me, his grip on the steering wheel tightens and his blood pressure begins to surge. "Oh yeah?" he screams through his windshield. Two can play this game!" With no thought of the safety of either driver or others sharing the roadway, he slams his foot against the gas pedal as the engine's rpm's hit record speed. He jerks the steering wheel to the left in a desperate attempt to pass me while simultaneously giving me the finger. An oncoming car swerves in the nick of time, avoiding a head on collision. 

Why would I allow myself to become so enraged over such an insignificant incident as tailgating? It is not the act of the other driver that caused my incense but rather the judgments (thoughts) I formed about him. I chose to think the worst of him, that he was arrogant, rude, impatient, and self-righteous when in fact, I have no idea as to his motives for riding so close to me. Could it be that he simply was not paying attention or that he was late to work? Or worse, did he just receive a phone call telling him of an emergency with his child? Had I been privy to the cause behind his actions, I may very well have formed a different opinion of him and a different reaction as well.

None of us knows the real reason why people drive the way they do and truthfully it is irrelevant. All that matters is what I tell myself, my internal dialogue, that little voice inside my head.  If my voice is compassionate and understanding ("Maybe he's got a lot on his mind and is a bit distracted"), then my reaction is more thoughtful. In truth, road rage is not caused by the incident itself but rather by the way we chose to see it, our perception, our thoughts about it and about the one causing the event. Pay close attention to what you say to yourself while behind the wheel. Be less judgmental and more forgiving of others. It just may save your life and theirs.

To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Domestic Abuse: What Everyone Needs to Know

Domestic abuse is one of the most serious epidemics modern society faces today. With 1/3 of all women reporting incidences of violence in the home and/or in intimate relationships (this does not reflect the numbers that go unreported nor those of men being abused), no socio-economic group, nationality, gender or age is exempt from experiencing some form of cruelty in their relationships. Every day, in the US alone, three women (and one man) are murdered by their abusive partners.

Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence either. It can be verbal, psychological, sexual, emotional, financial, or destructive (damaging personal property as a form of manipulation). Nor is it exclusive to husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend partnerships. It can appear between elderly parent/adult child, sibling upon sibling, roommates or any other individuals who cohabitate. The immediate and long-term effects can be devastating on a physical, emotional, familial, and economic level. Children, the most innocent of those involved, can suffer emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and developmental impairments that last well into adulthood. Young boys exposed to domestic abuse are two times more likely to become abusers later on in life. The cycle must be broken. 

While there are legitimate fears that prevent women from leaving their abusers (fear for her own safety or the safety of the children, lack of financial resources, no place to go, lack of familial support, etc.) it is possible to do so with the help of trained professionals. In my 15 years as a trainer at a battered women's shelter, I witnessed the courage of thousands of women who fled their horrendous living conditions and rebuilt productive lives for themselves and their children. 

Here are some tips for those ready to leave:
1. Contact  your local police department, social service agency, and/or domestic violence shelter to create an escape plan.
2. Gather all important documents such as birth certificates, bank accounts, credit cards, marriage certificate, etc.
3. Begin stashing money for your escape.
4. Keep a bag packed and hidden.
5. Make an extra set of house and car keys.
6. Keep documented records and photos of all incidences of abuse.
7. Make certain to have your cell phone, charger, and all important phone numbers with you .
When the time comes for you to make a speedy exit, you will be well prepared.
As a friend or support system, there is much you can do to enable your loved one's safely and success:
1. Encourage her to seek professional help for her relationship if she wants to preserve it and there is no eminent danger to her or her children. If there is, encourage her to seek safe shelter elsewhere.
2. Stay connected to her. Those being abused are often isolated from family and friends. She/he needs all the support they can get.
3. Be understanding but firm. Don't allow her to simply complain about her current circumstances. Expect her to take affirmative action.
4. Offer not only support, encouragement, and suggestions but resources. Do some research. Find places, organizations, and people who can help her. Provide those names and number to her.

Anyone can move on from domestic violence. They can rebuild their lives, heal their emotional wounds, and be stronger as a result. I did. So have millions of others. Don't be a statistic. Take a stand. Face your fears. Let go and move on. You deserve an amazing life but only you can create it.

To order The Secret Side of Anger visit Pick up a copy of The Great Truth as well. Enjoy!