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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stopping the Angry Dance

When my son was small, I was dealing with a few different people  who were crazy - angry. It got to the point where I decided to read a book called The Dance of Anger, which helped me withdraw from the line of fire, at least to the extent that I could function better.

These days, I don't get angry nearly as often, as my work situation and marriage are pretty free of conflict. When difficulties do occur, they tend to surprise me because I'm not expecting them.

What do you do if someone is consistently nasty or a bully? We tell our kids to stand up to bullies or ignore them, but I'm not sure either really works. What I liked about the Dance of Anger was it talked about not dancing with the person who is trying to engage with you. Their agenda is not your agenda and the best idea is not to make it so.

If he or she accuses you of something ludicrously untrue, for example,  it may be better to postpone your first thought in response. Instead of trying to deny what this person is saying, you may want to say, "That's interesting. Let me think about that and get back to you." Not because there's a word of truth in what the bully is saying -- but because it will take the wind out of their sails faster than if you engage with them by trying to argue.

Of course, advice like this is great in hindsight and not so easy to do, especially when you're in the middle of a moment where someone is being a jerk to you. If/when a relative or friend/frenemy is ugly or abusive and you have no immediate choice about being in proximity (especially if they're connected to someone you care about), how do you stop dancing? My immediate reaction is usually to end all contact, because my mom was an angry person and I have no tolerance left for it. And that may, in fact, be the best response.

Is there an alternative? I hope so, though the idea of leaving a location where I feel stuck for a hotel where I can escape is looking better and better. :) I think, in the end, it's important to realize that some people are not worth fighting. Your best bet is to stop dancing with them -- whenever you can.

Angry woman photo: Floyd Brown