How to Communicate with an Angry Person

I was having a conversation with this amazing construction manager with higher than usual emotional intelligence. Since the projects he does are huge, with up to 250 people to manage, he ends up with different quirks and personalities woven into the mix.

On his current project, he talked about getting several complaints about one person who was overly aggressive.

There seemed to be conflicts and the team environment had become clogged by frustrated feelings with this person’s anger.

This manager is totally nuts about collaboration and wanted to fix this. (My kind of guy!) This is what he did.

He assumed that the language differences (worker speaks Spanish) might be causing the worker to misunderstand and become angry. So they had a meeting with him to have someone tell him in Spanish that they were not angry with him but wanted to know what was upsetting him so much so they could help him.

Well, it turns out that he was not angry at all and really excited to be on this job. His passion was being misinterpreted as anger.

In fact, his English was less developed than they thought and it was clearly a communication problem based on language differences. His questions and remarks were because of excitement and curiosity.

This was so easily resolved.

They have daily early morning meetings, and a fluent Spanish speaking person from the office now sits in to translate so there is no mix up. Now that he gets all his questions answered at the beginning of the day, he is able to add to the collaborative culture instead of subtracting from it – which is what he wanted all along.

Everyone is now happy.

Easy to misunderstand

His story was very reminiscent of a similar lesson I had learned a few years back.

I didn’t have my own computer so I was using my sister’s computer in her alcove to update my C.V.

My sister and brother in law were in the kitchen and they started having a heated argument.

I didn’t want to eavesdrop.

This was none of my business.

I tried to focus on my work.

Yikes, it sounded like it was escalating.

I felt very uncomfortable thinking they had forgotten I was there and that I was hearing a marital argument that should not be for my ears.

Honestly, the curiosity was getting the best of me and I stopped to listen to what it was about.

It wasn’t an argument. They were discussing their mortgage renewal and they were in complete agreement.

Let’s just say, when they “discuss things” they are very passionate people.

When my sister drives me crazy (it’s OK that I admit this publicly, she knows she does) I try to remember that her curiosity can sound quite “passionate” but that she is not necessarily angry.

Funnily enough, my brother-in-law is of Spanish decent. 😉

Coaching tip:

Do you have people in your life that you ask yourself “why are they shouting”? Is it possible they are not?

The key to communicating is always to start a dialogue and to listen. Turning off what might trigger our stress response will open us up to possibilities.

If this resonated with you, I’d love to discuss how we can change that.


Monique’s strategies to empower others to stand up and take control of their personal and professional lives are appreciated by all who meet her.  Monique combines her 30 years of crisis intervention work with her certifications as a Human Behavior Consultant for DISC Personality Types, A Certified NLP Professional Coach and a Family Life Educator. She loves helping people!



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