How to Defuse Someone Else’s Anger

Interacting with an angry or distressed person can evoke a ton of emotions inside of you. Maybe you feel guilty, hurt, afraid or thrown off balance. Having a simple set of intentional steps can put you back in an empowered role. From this place, you can stay connected and engage in solutions that work.

I developed the DATS approach to manage challenging interactions and I draw from this every day in my work and personal life as well.
DATS stands for Differentiate, Acknowledge, Transfer and Solution-Focused.

Here are the DATS Steps for you to use:
1. DIFFERENTIATE: You are a separate person and whatever the individual is saying to you has more to do with them than it does with you. They are bringing the issue; you are the witness. Side-step anger by not engaging at that level. Instead, make the choice to come from a place of understanding, support and non-reactivity.
2. ACKNOWLEDGE: Become a master at recognizing what the real heart of the matter is and acknowledge the feelings that go along with it. Most people coming from a place of anger are feeling vulnerable and upset. Recognize this. Here is where empathy and good listening skills are key. This is not about simply agreeing with the person, or condoning bad behavior or verbal aggression. Simply recognize the pain point. For example, you might genuinely say, “Sounds like this has been frustrating for you”, or whatever else might be true in that moment. However, don’t get stuck here because once you have accurately captured the experience of the other person, it is time to move forward toward the transfer stage.
3. TRANSFER: The previous two steps are designed to perform initial prevention of emotional escalation. The Transfer stage is used to shift the focus back onto the topic of the individual’s concern. So, here, you need to correctly capture what has happened that is the source of the problem. Make a simple statement to capture what you think you heard them tell you about the problem. Then repeat this back until you can both agree on what it is.

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