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How to Deal With an Agitated & Angry Sister

by Patti Richards

Having a sister that is regularly angry and agitated is challenging. Whether you and your sister are both adults, or you struggle in your relationship with a younger sister, chances are that the anger and agitation is affecting your entire family. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, unresolved anger can spread like a virus to future generations. Learning to find ways to agree, accommodating each other when you cannot agree and understanding the source of your sister’s anger and agitation helps make the situation better.

Choose Your Response

One of the most effective ways of dealing with an angry or agitated sister is thoughtfully choosing how you respond. Responding to anger with anger escalates the tension and makes a difficult situation worse. According to the Family Education website, how people respond to anger and other strong emotions is learned behavior, meaning you do not always have to be a victim to your emotions. They suggest that learning to recognize when you are reacting rather than thinking will give you a chance to choose a different response. Choosing to respond differently to your sister’s anger and agitation can help you take control and defuse the anger before the situation gets worse.

Understand the Source

If you and your sister share a room or shared a room when you were children, you probably know better than anyone what your sister’s anger triggers are. And in many cases, you are not the source of those anger triggers. Learning to understand the source of your sister’s anger can be an effective way of diffusing it. According to Nadia Persun, Ph.D., writing for PsychCentral.com, threatening or angry people are commonly overwhelmed or frightened in some way. Even though the content of your sister’s anger may be directed at you, the anger may be coming from another place entirely. Walking away, talking in a calm voice or waiting until her anger has passed to talk about what is really going on are all ways to help diffuse the situation and not take her anger personally.

Avoid the Situation

Avoiding your sister when you know she is angry or agitated may seem like the coward’s way out, but sometimes it is the best approach. If you know your sister is angry, whether at you or someone else, giving her time to cool down before engaging in conversation keeps you from saying or doing something that could make the situation worse. Dr. Howard Kassinove, director of Hofstra University’s Institute for the Study and Treatment of Anger and Aggression, writing for the American Psychological Association, suggests using avoidance as a quick and easy self-help tool until your sister’s anger passes and you can deal with the situation in an appropriate way.

Break the Cycle of Anger

Breaking the cycle of your sister’s anger or agitation takes thought and planning. Practicing this technique prepares you to deal with her anger and change the primary way the two of you communicate. Dr. John R. Schafer, a psychologist writing for Psychology Today, recommends breaking the cycle of anger with empathetic statements. Start your conversation with your sister by empathizing with the way she feels. Use words like, “You feel like Mom or Dad-,” or “So you feel like I disrespected you when I-." Putting the focus on her feelings or emotions lets her know you empathize with why she is angry rather than trying to tell her you understand during a heated moment. Empathetic statements help break the anger cycle so she can communicate her feelings without making you the object of her anger.

About the Author

Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.

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