How to Defuse Anger


A Handy Trick I Learned From the Karma Project

It used to be, for me, that marital arguments went like this:

It’s your fault.

No, it’s your fault.

No, really, it’s ALL you. Trust me.

No, trust me. It’s ALL you.

Of course, the words and phrases were more specific. Instead of “it’s your fault,” I might have said, “My pants are wrinkled because you didn’t fold the clothes until three days after the drier stopped.” But you get the idea.

Well, a while ago I wrote about the idea of accepting defeat and handing over the victory.  I’ve been practicing this technique a lot and I can tell you this: it has transformed my relationships with my husband, my friends, my colleagues and even some strangers.

And I don’t feel like a doormat. At. All.

In fact, I feel stronger and more in control than ever. Rather than getting nothing accomplished and losing my mind in the process, this technique allows me to defuse anger, stay calm, and move the discussion to a place where we both can solve problems and move forward.

If you’d like to try it, here are the steps to follow.

  1. Listen. Close your mouth and open your ears. Angry people don’t want to hear about why they shouldn’t be angry. They don’t want to hear about how it’s not your fault. And they, at that moment, care very little about how you feel because, at that moment, they don’t see you as a human being with feelings. They see you as the devil incarnate. More important, they just want to be heard. If you interrupt, make excuses, blame, or stonewall, you will strengthen this person’s mental image of you as the devil incarnate, making him or her even angrier.
  2. Fight the instinctual reaction to meet anger with anger, sarcasm with sarcasm, blame with blame, and insult with insult. Note: I never said this was going to be easy. It helps to know that this reaction comes from your self-preservation instinct. It’s tied into the fight or flight response. And, back in the day when we all carried clubs for protection, it had a real purpose. Today? Not so much. If you are anything like me, you will probably feel hot in the face and get this nasty tingling feeling. Breathe your way through it.
  3. Get inside the angry person’s head. Once the angry person has called you every name in the book and has run out of mental juice, try to understand the problem. Do this by asking questions and rephrasing what the person just said. For instance, “So you’re angry because I left my socks on the floor?” Note: Angry people tend to be somewhat irrational. It might take you a while to pinpoint the true cause of the anger. You might initially hear a tirade about your socks only to eventually learn that your spouse is really mad at your mother. Be patient. Breathe. Make it your goal to understand and not to win.
  4. Assume the Blame. Again, I never said this was going to be easy. Get creative. We can workshop how to do this in the comments. You can all come up with scenarios that you think will make it impossible for you to Assume the Blame, and I’ll show you how to do it. Try to stump me.
  5. Compliment and apologize. Again, this is tough, but it’s so important. Thank the angry person for bringing this problem to your attention so the two of you can work through it and get past it. Tell the angry person that you never intended to hurt him or her.
  6. Solve the problem (if needed) or promise to change (if needed). This is the most important part, and it’s the part of the process that Anger vs. Anger prevents you from reaching.

The beautiful part of this process, as I’ve learned, is that it only takes one person to pull it off and move the marriage to a much better place. Assuming your angry person is not mentally ill and hearing voices, this process works on the most dysfunctional of people. Sure, it’s not fair that you always have to be the big person, but ask yourself what’s more important to you: fairness or happiness?

One last note about Steps 2 and 4 before I let the commenting begin. These require practice. You’ll get better at them over time. In the beginning, however, it’s going to feel foreign, scary and downright wrong. You might feel vulnerable. To help myself get past my fear, I tell myself the following:

  • This is a great way for me to practice my interpersonal skills. I’m eventually going to be the best communicator on the planet!
  • Just think of how stress free my life will eventually be if I keep practicing this technique!
  • This angry person really is not the devil incarnate. Rather, he/she was sent to me by the universe so I can practice my compassion, grow in my humility, and become a better, happier person.
  • This angry person really is not the devil incarnate. He/she is just a poor, deluded individual who is suffering in a big way and who doesn’t know any other way to communicate. The poor thing. How could I not help this person?

And when none of the above works, I imagine the Dalai Lama and try to visualize him in my shoes. To date, my imaginary Dali Lama has yet to hurl insults and curse words. More important, that visualization helps me get past my pride and open myself up to humility.

What do you tell yourself to transform anger into patience and compassion? Do you have a situation that you would like to workshop in the comments area? Do you think this technique will work, or do you think the anger vs. anger approach is the best way to go? Leave a comment. Let’s learn from each other.

51 comments… add one

  • Sarah Liz April 30, 2010, 5:40 pm

    This is incredibly insightful, and I must say, a real inspiration! I so admire how you dflat out admited, that this is not–easy–at all. Thank you! For now, that’s all I have to add, but you know me, and I’ll be back–let me think about it for a while. Awesome post, though, and as usual, a great reminder!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

  • Sarah Liz April 30, 2010, 5:41 pm

    my typing is WAY off…flat out admitted….that is what I meant to type, I think I need a nap–sorry!

  • Jesaka Long April 30, 2010, 7:33 pm

    You have some powerful tips and advice here. And I like that you call out “this isn’t easy.” It isn’t, but it is clear how it can help all types of relationships. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was this: to help you keep your mouth shut and listen, cover your lips with a finger. It doesn’t have to be obvious — you can rest your hand in your chin and use a knuckle. But when you’re learning to listen to angry person, this can help you avoid interrupting and/or responding in anger. Thanks for the great post!

  • Robert Keteyian April 30, 2010, 8:00 pm

    I tell myself that this (angry) person must really be struggling and having a very hard time. It helps. Then I remember my mother, who would have said, “I think he/she is very upset, honey.” That helps, too.

  • Kathy April 30, 2010, 9:44 pm

    After having one too many fights with my husband, I think we have both gotten into practicing the above, but not consciously – out of necessity. It’s very hard if both people are angry. Someone has to stop being angry first.

  • Kris April 30, 2010, 9:56 pm

    I am lucky. My husband and I rarely argue, and we do it can *usually be diffused with a sense of humor. Some people don’t believe that, but it’s true. Your tips are spot on, though, and I’m going to try to remember them, both in my marriage and in dealing with people like, say, the DirectTV service representative (that’s ME being the angry one!).

  • Jennifer Margulis April 30, 2010, 11:41 pm

    It’s so hard, isn’t it, not to fight anger with anger? I think I tend to get depressed when people are angry at me. But you are right — the most important thing is to try to listen and hear them and see that they are coming from a place of hurt and fear. And then understand that THEIR hurt and fear have very little to do with you. But, as you mention several times in this post, it really ain’t easy. Oy vay.
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..Gold Beach is Rich with a Jet Boat Load of Natural Treasures =-.

  • Kathleen May 1, 2010, 7:21 am

    OK, yes, yes, yes, it does work. I have been practicing this for about 2 months. It did not take hold right away, I had to keep reminding myself. Then, when I was doing it, my husband did not accept it right away either. But now, we have a new way of “fighting” or disagreeing that is not UGLY and NASTY. It has turned things around completely!

  • Kathleen May 1, 2010, 7:22 am

    A question, do I share this post with my husband so he can see the root of my change or keep it to myself? He is changing in response to me changing so I do not need him to read it per say. However, I have benefited from the posts so maybe I should share? What do people think?

  • Alisa May 1, 2010, 7:37 am

    Kathleen–I think this depends on your relationship and how he reacts to things. Also in how you bring it up. For instance, “I’ve been trying this technique and I think it’s made me a lot easier to deal with lately. What do you think?” is a lot less likely to make waves as “I’ve been trying this technique and I think you should try it too.”

  • Joanne & Ray May 1, 2010, 7:45 am

    Kathleen ; as someone who yesterday shared that I was doing this blog I can say , yes share this with him. It is Saturday morning, we are having our morning coffee and to put his fears to rest I have shown him my previous posts. I was convicted of the need for this after theotherperspective’s being caught unawares.

    As far as the anger issue as I’ve said in previous posts I am a reformed volcanic anger type and my husband is a retreater. I had to change first and have used many of Alisa’s techniques above on myself as the angry person. Why am I so angry, what is the root cause, what do I expect the other person to really do to solve my issue? Then I explain it as I need this or I need that and not you should. It gets a much more positive response and that defuses my inner bomb.

    See Alisa- I am learning alot from all of you.

  • Alisa May 1, 2010, 8:23 am

    Joanne: I’m so happy to hear that. And I love that you are now “Joanne and Ray” here in the comments. Thanks for sharing that story of inspiration. And I’m so flattered that I somehow had something to do with it.

  • MarthaandMe May 1, 2010, 8:51 am

    I’d love to see some examples of how to assume the blame because I don’t quite understand that part of this.

  • Alisa May 1, 2010, 9:11 am

    Yes! I finally thought of a few. So:

    1. This morning, my daughter was really mad because I couldn’t figure out how to blow up her slip n slide. She seemed to think that I wasn’t getting the job done on purpose. I said, “I’m sorry that I’m not as handy as Daddy. I wish I was a better Mommy, too.” That moved her away from the anger and over to, “When will Daddy be home?”

    2. A couple years ago, my mother in law was complaining that my husband and I ate all the eggs but did not eat any grapefruit (it was a long tirade). At the time I was not practicing this technique, so I said–a little sarcastically–”I’m sorry we ate all the wrong foods and none of the right ones.” That actually made her laugh. But had I been using this technique, I would have said, “Wow, we’ve really put you out, haven’t we? I’m sorry we’ve been such tiresome house guests. Is there anything we can do differently next year so things will go more smoothly?”

    3. Occasionally I have a client who gets angry about some aspect of my writing. In those situations, I might say, “I’m sorry that my writing is not up to your standards” or “I’m sorry that my writing is below your expectations.” Then I’ll go on to say, “It’s important to me that my clients are happy with my work. What can I do to get you to a happy place about my writing?” (Obviously I might word it differently depending on how well I know the client. “Happy place” might be “satisfied” or whatever.)

  • Work In Progress May 1, 2010, 9:15 am

    Is retreat an angry response?

  • Alisa May 1, 2010, 9:31 am

    Work In Progress: I think “stonewalling” is, and retreat can be a form of that. The difference lies in whether or not you ever address the issue or whether you permanently ignore it. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, and it only confirms for that person that you don’t get it or don’t care (Note: I’m not saying that you really don’t get it or don’t care; I’m saying that this is what the angry person thinks). Sometimes, though, it’s really difficult to stay calm when someone else is piping mad, so we need that retreat and time out in order to come back with a reasoned statement. I’ve taken 24 hours or more at times before I’ve addressed a hot issue. I think that’s okay as long as you address it eventually. Does that make sense?

    • Amie October 18, 2011, 1:29 pm

      this is exactly what my ex-boyfriend is doing right now. and he has every reason to after the drama i created back in august. I didnt get it back then, why he was so angry with em, but now i do. at first his anger and stonewalling was making me even more angry and hurt. it still hurts, but i understand him more and I can only accept the blame for what I did to cause the fight in the first place and let him work through his anger in his own time until he is ready to talk about the issues that led us to where we are.

      i dont think either of us really wants to be broken up. before the fight we made each other very happy. but it is going to take a long time to get back to where we were, although we cant go back, we can get to that happy place in the future if we both exercise patience.

      this post has really helped.
      Amie´s last blog post ..Sigh……

  • Ruth Pennebaker May 1, 2010, 9:40 am

    Fascinating post, Alisa. I’m inclined to think much of the progress occurs when you simply listen to someone calmly. It’s remarkable what happens then. Most of us simply want to be heard.
    .-= Ruth Pennebaker´s last blog ..I Get It, I Get It, I Don’t Get It =-.

  • Donna Hull May 1, 2010, 9:50 am

    Excellent tips for a diffusing an angry situation of any type. It obviously takes practice to not react to anger with anger.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Saturday’s scene: Cape Kiwanda Sunset =-.

  • Work In Progress May 1, 2010, 10:01 am

    Alisa, The way it works here is that he shuts down and I pursue and usually get angry. I would love a tool to diffuse my anger, but I get confused just trying to figure out how to apply this when he’d rather go to sleep than talk.

  • Robert Keteyian May 1, 2010, 10:21 am

    Of course defusing the anger is important. Also important is validating the other person’s reality. You can’t really go anywhere in a conversation if the other person doesn’t feel heard. It’s hard to do this because it seems like you’re knuckling under and agreeing with their position. But it’s not agreeing or disagreeing–it’s acknowledging. Once the other person believes you understand their upset, there is an opportunity to actually do some problem solving. It is simple in form, but hard to do.

  • Alisa May 1, 2010, 10:40 am

    Work in progress: I completly apologize. I misunderstood your question. Now I understand: he’s the stonewaller. This is a common but huge issue. Let me ponder. I think it merits a separate post.

  • Kelly J. May 1, 2010, 10:51 am

    My problem is, is that I forget about how I want to act if I’m in an argument! I’m a fighter and all reasoning goes out of my head at the moment, even if I’m not the one mad.
    I also would be afraid that if I tried the diffusing way, I might come off as sarcastic (when I eventually do remember to not fight back…)

  • Christine May 1, 2010, 12:50 pm

    What a good post! Practical and useful and full of wisdom. I definitely see that things can change when just one partner in the relationship changes his or her reactions. This is good – although it can be hard too.
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Happy May Day =-.

  • Joanne & Ray May 1, 2010, 1:01 pm

    Ray is a retreater and as the person who usually blows I can tell you nothing , absolutely, positively, nothing will keep my fires lit more than the angry retreater. Robert has it right. First I need validation that he has heard what I am angry about, then he needs to validate (not agree) just acknowledge what I am feeling. This being said I have learned to not scream and yell and I try not to send him into a full retreat anymore. Also as I said as soon as I get angry, before I vocalize even one word to my mate I look at the anger and try to indentify its true cause.
    Also, not that this will work on everyone but if he just holds onto to me through the anger it does help diffuse it because I know he loves me and it was simply an error on his part or mine.

  • Sarah Liz May 1, 2010, 4:00 pm

    This is such an interesting conversation amongst the comments–so intriguing!

    I think we all have anger issues and I agree that showing empathy and compassion for another person ALWAYS feels good in the end. It is important, as human beings, to think beyond ourselves and try and maintain peace. This technique of defusing anger would do wonders the world over!

    However, I’m going to take a stance playing the devil’s advocate and state the following:

    Saying things like “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way,” does help, but I do have a problem with saying I’m sorry for everyone else’s misconceptions–they’re not my conceptions, they are theirs, you know what I mean?

    I can show compassion and emapthy for another persons perspective, but at the same time, I don’t feel the need to apologize for MY perspectives.

    I AM indeed sorry they’re angry or hurting or whatever (usually) but to me, putting an “I’m sorry” in front of most things makes it sound as if I AM the one who is responsible for THEIR feelings/opinions–and that’s just not true. Okay, in some cases, I probably am–we all make mistakes, and I certainly like it when I’m shown compassion, but still….I think there’s a way to show compassion without being “sorry” all the time.

    (That said, I can totally apologize when I know I’ve done wrong. I have NO problem saying the words “I’m sorry” when I know I have truly hurt someone’s feelings, or been wrong about something. Being married has taught me the importance of being able to say “I’m sorry” and mean it!)

    Maybe because I’m younger (26) and this is one of those areas where I actually am NOT more mature than my age, but I just don’t like putting an “I’m sorry” in front of everything I say when I’m dealing with someone who is angry.

    I do sometimes and it does work, but sometimes, when people are not willing to calm down, or are too caught up in their own mess to realize you ARE being compassionate, they can turn your “I’m sorry” into a form of manipulation–and that is wrong.

    I don’t like being manipulated, compassion and respect is a two way street–I give it freely and abundantly until I’m not shown any, and then, I won’t be outright nasty, but I’ll be reserved and more apt to think about showing compassion and respect back. The Golden Rule, anyone remember that?

    I’ve had angry, manipulative people happen at work and people in my personal life–so while this defusing anger thing does work with like, 90% of people, there is a need to admit that it will not work with everyone.

    And while being the bigger person does make ME feel better, and look better too, sometimes, some people are just a lost cause and not worth trying to rationalize with.

    Now I’m sounding like a terrible person, but that’s just the way I feel.

    Alisa, the comment about the eggs/grapefruit with your M-I-L, that made me laugh too. I’ve said stuff like that to my own mother (she’s kind of a clean freak), and she did not laugh, so kuddos to your mom-in-law.

    One thing that I do TOTALLY agree with is that fighting back with an angry person is sort of useless. I also agree with the need to stop tossing blame back and forth and/or being sarcastic. That RARELY, if ever, works. I think what does is indeed showing compassion, putting yourself in their shoes, being WILLING to try and see it from their point of view and just remaining calm.

    I am big on validation, so I always try and validate people, even if I don’t actually understand where they are coming from, I try. And yes, sometimes, people need a retreat–an hour or two, or 24, to calm down, think rationally and then return to the subject.

    I also like to put people in their place by being kind to them. I have a different voice (damaged vocal chords) and I get asked “do you have a cold?” oh about, 10 times a day–on a good day. I also get “what’s wrong with your voice?” A LOT! Seriously, every day of my life! But, I’ve started to “kill them with kindness” and say things like “nothing is wrong with me, are you feeling okay?” Or “no, I don’t have a cold, how are you doing today?” I don’t say it in a snoody tone of voice, I just put it back on them.

    If I have a downright angry customer, I do ALWAYS say “I apologize for the inconvienance” or “I’m a customer too and I know how irritating it can be…let me see if I can fix this for you.” That usually helps a lot!

    I guess what I’m saying is that defusing anger by showing compassion is a wonderful tool. It takes practice and obviously, I could do a lot more of it!

    I’m stubborn and as “wise” as I am for someone my age–or at least–that’s what most everyone tells me–some things, I just don’t get yet because I am just a girl in my 20s. That’s not an excuse to be mean, but I do believe that with age, comes the realization to just LET GO! I’m working on it.

    There is rarely ever a reason to truly retaliate or be nasty to someone, so sometimes, even if you’re not defusing anger with someone–just by not yelling back at them, or chewing them out, that to is rising above yourself and showing compassion–even if it is in a round about way!

    Compassion truly can and does make the world go round–or at least it should!

    Anyway, this is a great post and as usual, I’ve left a long winded response! Thanks for making me think!

    I hope you all have a great weekend!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

  • Alisa May 1, 2010, 4:13 pm

    Sarah Liz–you don’t sound like a terrible person at all. You couldn’t sound like a terrible person if you tried!

    Some of the beauty of this lies in the listening and in finding precisely the most beautiful thing to take the blame for. It’s hard to explain without a real example, and my BEST LIFE EXAMPLE is one that I can’t write about here for various reasons. But, when done right, it’s really the other way around. It’s almost like you have this magic power. People can be tossing all sorts of stuff your way and you do this Jedi Mind Trick that calms them down and makes them do a double take. It’s almost like you are manipulating them, but I don’t like that word because it makes it sound sinister. I like to think of it like you are doing them a favor.

    But, for instance, I’m going to completely make up a silly scenario.

    You are at the grocery store. Someone looks in your cart and says, “I can’t believe you are buying that crap. It’s going to rot your body from the inside out. You must be an idiot to put that crap in your cart.”

    Are you mad? Sure. Instead of telling the person, “No, you are the rude idiot!” you say, “Why do you feel this way? Please help me understand. I’m so sorry if my shopping choices have somehow caused you to have a bad day. I never intended to do that.”

    NOT what this person is expecting, right? And you are not saying, “Yes, I’m an idiot.” You are not offering to put everything in your cart back on the shelf. You are just allowing this angry person to feel heard.

    Note that this really was a silly scenario because if someone said that to me at the grocery store, I’d probably keep right on walking and thinking, “this person belongs in a mental institution.” But it gives you the idea.

    Also note that the technique it doesn’t always work, Especially on the internet. Sometimes people stay mad. But, in the end, you always feel good because you’ll always know that you were the compassionate one.

  • Sarah Liz May 1, 2010, 6:35 pm

    You’re right, most people don’t expect others to be nice, especially when they’re being mean. It is uncommon for a person to show compassion to another person who is angry–it is highly uncommon, which is sad. I like the grocery store example, that’s a good one! It makes sense, and I like that you said not everyone will get this. And jedi-mind tricks, kind of true and so funny, in a real life sort of way–thanks!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

  • landguppy May 1, 2010, 9:18 pm

    I love this post. I used a great book, The Dance of Anger, to change my relationship with my mom. But I like this and find being nice to mean people is a great way to defuse their anger. Unless they are just hell-bent on being angry, in which case, nothing works. I just exit the situation.

  • Kristen May 2, 2010, 2:49 am

    Insightful post! I remember your post awhile back about how you practiced the more non-confrontational approach in an argument with your husband–you let him ‘win’ and felt all the better for it. I’ve been trying to do that with relationships with my family and you’re right, it’s not easy, but it’s so much better than holding on to that ‘I-know-I’m-right’ notion. Gets you no where.

    Your thoughts also remind my of the works of one of my favorite linguists, Deborah Tannen. In one of her books, Argument Culture, she talks about how Americans tend to see things as always having two sides–which artificially inflates both even if one argument really doesn’t have a true counterpoint.

  • Nik May 2, 2010, 4:48 pm

    I didn’t read all the comments, but I did read the entire post. The “taking the blame” step sounds almost like passive aggressive sarcasm. I mean, “I’m sorry I’m not a better mommy…” sounds a hell of a lot like a guilt trip to me.

    I’m angry right now, and it’s not at you or because of this post, Alisa. However, in my angered state, those words sound nasty. Can you give us some clarification on how to take the blame without adding more anger?

  • Alisa May 2, 2010, 7:01 pm

    NIk–Are you okay? Hope you are feeling better. I’m sorry about whatever has you feeling frustrated. I hope it’s resolved and over now.

    To answer your question, I think this is a tone of voice thing. I can hear how I would say “I wish I was a better mommy” but I don’t know how to type it. But I can also hear how it could come off as completely sarcastic, too. I don’t think that sarcasm is 100 percent bad, though. If you know it will make the other person laugh and it’s not mean spirited, it can definitely help to lighten the situation. For instance, it worked with my mother in law that time because she didn’t realize how she sounded as she rattled off all of her irritations. But you really have to think about your intention before using it because it can also take things to a bigger and angrier place.

    So I’m thinking of doing a post that is all scenarios, but I might as well go ahead and type up my best example here. I recently broke up with one of my clients because it was turning into a toxic relationship. He was disappointed in my writing. I didn’t think I did anything wrong necessarily and was about 98 percent certain that no writer could make him happy. But he mentioned one thing that I could respond to. It was this: I didn’t get him. So when I broke up with him, I said, “I’m sorry I did not capture your intent. You deserve a writer who gets you. I am not that writer.” Then I went on to sever ties. So I didn’t say, “Yes, I suck.” I didn’t step up and volunteer to shoulder more abuse. But I did find the one thing I could apologize for. After that it was an amicable break up.

  • Sheryl May 2, 2010, 8:14 pm

    These are wonderful tips, Alisa. They all sound so easy and obvious. BUT they’re absolutely not, especially when there is a lot of emotion going on. I need a little tip book from you that I can pull out in times like that, so I can thumb through it and remember all these gems~! Usually when I’m angry, all thought and reason goes out the window…
    .-= Sheryl´s last blog ..Brain-Healthy Spices You Should Be Using =-.

  • The Writer's [Inner] Journey May 3, 2010, 12:36 am

    Reminding myself not to judge the other person (or elevate myself) is a big huge help in difusing my own anger – which can only help a situation.

  • Kathleen May 3, 2010, 7:25 am


    Thanks for the reply. I was worried about how it would look, I think the word you used was manipulating, because I am being genuine in my desire to diffuse the situation. However, am I genuine in my aceeptnace of fault or blame? If I tell my husband or show him your posting he may think I am faking my apology or acceptance of blame. Maybe I will wait awahile and keep it going before I tell my secret!

  • Susan May 3, 2010, 1:39 pm

    Great tips, Alisa! My only reservation would be (as others have mentioned) that if you promise to change, that promise has to be genuine. Sometimes we make promises we can’t keep, but you should never make a promise you *know* you can’t keep just to placate someone.

  • Tera May 3, 2010, 1:49 pm

    What about if you’re the angry one? Any advice? Books, articles to read?
    I seem to find myself in the position more often than not.

  • Kim May 3, 2010, 4:23 pm

    Oh, Sheryl, I like your idea of a little book or cheat sheet to remind me of what to say and when. When I get mad my mind goes blank and I can’t even think of basic words to convey what I”m thinking. I end up frustrated at myself and yelling the same sentenance (or phrase) and then my husband gets mad and it’s a vicious cycle. A reminder would certainly be helpful!

  • Nik May 3, 2010, 7:41 pm

    Thanks for the help, Alisa. The clarification sounds darn reasonable, and I was really reading the post through an angry lens. I AM okay, but not excellent, well, or even comfortable. That’s why I’m here! Thanks for your concern; it sounds genuine.

    Looking forward to getting to know you through your writing. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • Alisa May 3, 2010, 8:25 pm

    Everyone–I had the BEST scenario take place today. I’ve never been so thankful to be so angry with my husband. Is it almost sick to be thinking, “Well, this is going to be GREAT for the blog”? So I’ll be telling that story in a couple days, along with how I figured out how to 1) calm my angry self down 2) assume the blame.

    Nik–glad some is better. Hope we can help.

  • OneHotTamale25 June 14, 2010, 2:04 am

    I don’t have a scenario to contribute because it’s too late for that… I do believe your offerings would be effective in moving past anger to understanding. I move to that place most effectively when I am less self absorbed/defensive and more interested in humbling myself so as to acknowledge the other person has feelings that were impacted by my behavior/choices.

  • MELANIE March 28, 2011, 9:55 am

    I usually accept the blame for everything, because it seems like nothing is ever fully resolved no matter who caves. We both have depression, adhd, and bi-polar disorder, so we tend to but heads emotionally sometimes. We have the most loving relationship you could ask for, but our internal issues seem to get in the way. He has a tendency to make up stories about things I do or don’t do, or makes them worse then what they really are. When we are happy and getting along, he says that I am the best thing that has ever happened to him, but when we are fighting, he makes me feel like I am the worst thing that has ever happened to him. I guess most people would just give up, but his many great attributes out weigh his bad ones. He loves my children as his own, he respects me and treats me with love and kindness. He is also an old fashioned kind of guy, such as opening doors even though we have been together for over a year. My question to you is, when does it stop being the bigger person and start becoming you being manipulated and walked on. There is a point where you continually give in to the other person, and they will continue to do it because they know they can get away with it. How do you prevent that from happening? I am to nice to people, and I tend to get bit in the hiney all the time for it. I don’t want the approach to backfire on me, because I always give in. Furthermore, I am admitting to those made up accusations he believes to be true in his head by being the bigger person. If I keep admitting to it, won’t it make him believe that what he is saying really is fact? I just don’t know what to do anymore. I really want to be with this man for the rest of my life, but what happened to defending yourself, and what you know is right? If no one tells them they are doing something wrong, how will they ever change? It sounds like a good approach to difuse immediately, but it sounds like it will not fix things in the long run. You will have one happy person, and one unhappy person that gives in all the time.

  • Suzie November 11, 2011, 2:22 pm


    Thank you so much for raising this point! I am already a ‘let them win’ person. My partner is a volcanic anger type, one minute it’s love and hugs, next it’s irrational explosions of ‘Get out my house!!’… this was until I realised that the more I fought back, the more I fuelled his rampage. So one day, I tried the whole ‘stay calm and just let him win’ thing, and it worked! Our relationship did a U turn and suddenly his temper was no where to be seen. But now, a year down the line, I’m starting to find that he’s picking fights with lesser and lesser things, each time knowing I will just accept what he has to say and move on. I feel he is beginning to take an upper hand in the relationship because he knows I won’t stand up for myself. I’m beginning to feel like a doormat to his whims, now he’s got wind of my strategy to keep him calm. It’s almost like he’s saying ‘Go with it or I get angry with you’. What happens now?

  • Lucy June 9, 2013, 12:46 pm

    This sounds great in theory but I have been trying it for ages with my husband and eventually I get really fed up and feel downtrodden by constantly turning the other cheek. He has acted angry and irritable with me for the past few days, all weekend we have been together and if I ask him how he is, he tells me to leave him alone, tells me I talk too much, generally acts like I am the most irritating person on the planet and that I am provoking him but he is just about managing to keep a lid on his anger (although it’s very obvious he’s angry). I am 6 months pregnant so trying to just ignore it, be kind, leave him in peace, to save any argument. Then finally he got really sarcastic with me for asking for the airconditioning in the car and I said ‘why are you being like this’ – all hell broke loose, he started screaming at me to shut up, kids got upset, I got upset and angry. Now he’s telling me it’s me who has been acting angry with him all weekend and I have been trying to push his buttons looking for a fight…
    How can you ignore this crazymaking behaviour, he already has me thinking wrong is right and right is wrong, if I keep showing patience and grace isn’t it just allowing him to keep being angry with me for no justified reason?

  • Brenda July 8, 2013, 1:57 pm

    I’m with Melanie, Suzie, and Lucy. My spirit is broken by this person who one minute says I am the best thing to ever happen to him to calling me names and laughing at me when I cry and trying to bring family members into arguments so he feels like a winner. I feel abused and broken. What do you do when the person you love blames you for everything and abusing you?

  • claudett September 15, 2013, 1:35 am

    love your ideas, how do i get my noyfriend to stop using a harsh tone when he talks to me sometimes, he thinks I am over sensitiove , is their a way to defuse harsh tones in a man

  • Mariah October 15, 2013, 4:41 pm

    my friend melissa was having a bad day and i was teasing her a little then she started going off on me and said i dragged things on way too much the next few days she gave me the silent treatment then one day she comes up to me and starts badmouthing me and i try my best to remain calm later she comes up to me and says i called her a bitch and a whore and i didnt then she says killing her with kindess wont work and i just kept calm and told her i would never call her those things and turned and left idk wat 2 do any advice

  • idonwannafiteanymore January 13, 2014, 1:36 am

    I’ve been fighting with my wife a lot lately. For awhile I most often apologized for the fight, said I would try to do better etc. But I got tired of it because I was always taking the blame but it didn’t seen to help. So I started fighting back because I felt walked on. that’s been going on a couple years at least. That’s not working either, although sometimes I feel better for standing up for myself. I want to try assuming blame again and the rest of your plan. We have a 4 year old who listens to us arguing and yelling and name calling A LOT and it makes me want to cry thinking about it.
    My folks were divorced when I was 10 and i want better for my child (and my marriage). My wife sometimes has legitimate points sometimes not. I think she has some insecurities. Her whole world is our child, partly to the exclusion of me and her friends. She’s a stay at home mom which I know is driving her a little crazy. My opinions is she is overly attentive and our child is getting spoiled. But the arguing….. it’s really getting me down, I feel often helpless and some despair about our relationships but I can’t imagine divorce and putting our child through what I went through. When I assume blame and apologize I feel like she sees that as an opening to REALLy jump on me as I admit weakness and fault. then I feel that the strategy didn’t work AND I’ve been walked on. Any ideas out there?

    • Jess May 13, 2015, 10:30 am

      Maybe you two should see a counselor–not so much because you both meed a talking to, but because a third party can sometimes mediate and alleviate some of the misunderstandings. I have found that with my own marriage and divorce (my ex and I are great friends now), it came down to not understanding the other person or their needs. I could say something and we’d have an agreement….and then the next day it was like starting over again. And he’s not a bad guy–quite the opposite. And pretty soon I felt backed into a corner and had to fight for anything I needed–which made me emotionally protective and defensive all the time. Which then made him the same way, and around and around we’d go.

      It sounds like you both have issues and maybe hearing them from the other persons mouth isn’t the best thing–just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s kind for you or her to say it, and a third party can referee this in a way that is healthier than screaming in front of your child, which believe me, will continue the pattern of relationship issues into your children’s adult lives. Trust me when I say that things that happen even before kids are able to remember them can deeply affect them throughout their entire lives.

      I wish my ex and I could have gotten a decent counselor–give it a try, don’t stop, and if after a few sessions you aren’t seeing some kind of improvement in yourself or your spouse, immediately find another. Don’t wait. Address this agressively or you will repeat what your parents’ had in their lives.

      Misunderstandings lead to trust issues, and trust issues will absolutely kill ANY relationship. And it sounds like there’s nothing but isunderstandins going on–no one here is the bad guy probably. You just need to understand each other better, and be able to be more vulnerable and honest. It sounds like right now you both are so walled up to protect yourselves that no true understanding or compassion coud happen.

      Good luck, I feel for you and hope your outcome is better than mine….
      Jess´s last blog post ..Keep Calm, It’s Only a Dream

  • Louise moon September 2, 2014, 2:39 pm

    If you upset a family who is known for fighting and arguing and you have tried to sort it out but they won’t listen, threatening you intimidating you and you know they would best you up in an instant how do you deal with that even if your scared what should you do if they come after you to defuse it knowing they won’t be interested in anything you have to say

  • Julie May 21, 2015, 3:30 pm

    I sure wish there would be replies to Melanie, Suzy, Lucy and Brenda because that is exactly what I am concerned about.


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