Dealing with an angry person is never easy, but when the angry person is a parent, it can feel overwhelming. No matter how old you are, being lectured or yelled at by your dad can make you feel like a helpless 5-year-old. Give him some time and space to calm down, and then take active steps to defuse his anger while maintaining your self-respect.
Choose Your Timing
KidsHealth compares planning an important conversation with a parent to planning a party. Just like a party, your conversation will be better received if it happens when everyone has time for it. Avoid difficult subjects when your dad is running late, paying bills or stressed out from a hard day. Pick a time when not much else is going on and he can give the discussion the attention it deserves.
Plan Your Entry
Decide what you want from the conversation. Plan an opening line or two that clearly communicates your desire to talk and the resolution you want. For example, you might say, "Dad, I know you're upset about my using your credit card without asking. I want to find a way to pay you back before the bill comes in." You do not need to plan out everything you will say, but having an opening line ensures that the discussion starts out on the right foot. If you are afraid you will forget something, consider jotting down a few notes.
Empathy helps people feel understood, notes psychologist and behavioral analyst Jack Schafer. Use a combination of words and body language to reflect what your dad says and the emotion he expresses. For example, if he tells you he is mad because you forgot to fill the car with gas, nod and agree. Say something like, “Yes, dad. I forgot to put gas in the car. That made you feel taken for granted.” Part of empathy is allowing your dad to vent his frustration. You do not necessarily have to agree with what he says. Simply acknowledge how he feels. Follow up your empathetic statements with presumptive statements, which give your dad suggestions for handling his feelings and moving forward. For example, you might say, “I seem to be forgetful. Would you remind me to get gas the next time I borrow the car?” Remember that he is your father and avoid making suggestions that sound demeaning or belittling.
Refuse to Engage
Angry people generally feel threatened and lash out inappropriately to calm their fears, clinical psychologist Nadia Persun points out. Engaging in an argument with your dad could escalate his anger, make you upset and derail the resolution you are trying to achieve. Make an intentional choice to stay calm and focused on solutions. If he tries to goad you into an argument, refuse to take the bait. Treat your dad with respect but be willing to walk away if the conversation is unproductive. When walking away, say something simple that conveys your continued desire to work things out. For example, you might say, "OK. I see we're not getting anywhere right now. I love you and want to talk again when we are both calmer." Try again at another time when tempers have cooled.
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Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.