Most people want to end conversations when someone cries or gets angry, but then you miss the opportunity to find solutions together. And, it’s likely you will make the person feel worse. It’s better to be compassionately silent until they relax. Then, if they want to explore what to do next, there are easy steps to take to help them process their reactions and options. This path will help you stay present and helpful without jumping in to stop their emotions.
Tears and defensive anger are natural physiological responses when someone feels hurt, disappointed, or sad. It could be a result of stress or a buildup of things gone wrong. When we don’t get what we expect or fear the loss of something important, we have an emotion. As soon as you feel your muscles tighten and your brain freeze up in reaction to their emotions, breath deeply. Exhale and clear your mind. They want you to be present more than they need you to be perfect.
Often people just need to talk about what they are feeling with someone who is not trying to fix them. They might find solutions on their own. Or, after you listen calmly with respect for their perspective, you can ask if they would like to sort out what is happening. They will let you know what they need. Work to create a safe and comfortable space where people might want to process their emotional reactions with you.
Instead of trying to fix people or get them to feel better, you can use reflective techniques like summarizing, encapsulating the meaning, and asking questions about the person’s perspective to help them explore their story and possible next steps. Letting them decide what to do after thoughtful reflection increases their courage and commitment to self.