Anger happens. Especially when you’re a business owner. So, what do you do when you’re caught off guard with someone’s anger? Let’s look at some techniques you can use to kick your emotions out of the driver’s seat.
The thing is, one highly charged situation can resurface every time someone has been angry at you. These uncomfortable moments are an opportunity to dig in and grow out of old unconscious stuff that has been in charge for far too long.
I’ll highlight the difference between fostering real resolution and what author and Buddhist teacher Tara Brach calls “impression management,” which is that impulse to respond to anger by defending your status as a well-meaning “good guy” rather than addressing the situation at hand.
Let’s not forget those pesky knee jerk reactions to anger that blind us to our best actions. To keep panic in its place, I’ll share a practice so you can proceed with clarity and confidence in your response.
To bring these tools to light, I share a personal story. (Maybe even too personal?)
Listen in and find out how to break the patterns you use to avoid discomfort and discover a calm, composed path to real resolution.
Featured in this Episode
The problem with hiding that we all face is that it sets up more patterns for all of us to avoid facing the shit ourselves. And then it becomes almost impossible to just sit down and be with whatever is coursing through your system.
Welcome to the Soul-SourcedTM Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative, secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host. Christine Kane. Let’s do this.
Okay. Welcome to episode number 19 of the Soul-SourcedTM Business Podcast. And we are going to talk about anger. Like when someone’s angry at you, like you’ve inadvertently pissed them off. What do you do in this situation? So some people deal well with anger. Doesn’t freak them out when someone’s pissed at them, they lean right on in. This episode, not for those people. This episode is for those people who, when someone gets pissed at them, they want to crawl in a hole or they spend a good hour or two beating themselves up, or they catch themselves walking around the house, having imaginary conversations where they’re defending themselves and their good name or those who knee-jerk and overreact and send 19,000 texts trying to fix not only the current situation, but they’re unconsciously, still trying to fix every single situation ever, when someone has been angry at them, which is actually worth considering for a moment.
All the unconscious detritus, I call it business barnacles, that’s lurking beneath the surface, so that the one instance of anger isn’t ever just about that one instance of anger. One highly charged situation can bring up every time someone has ever been angry at you. And if you didn’t have the tools to deal with it at the time, which let’s be honest, most of us didn’t, someone being pissed off at you can dredge up all that old stuff, wherever it resides now. And though you may not be aware of it, that’s the stuff that takes the keys and starts driving the bus in your business. And it makes for more unclean, unresolved gunk in your business. Because now the gunk is what’s navigating this thing and making your decisions, which is never good. Gunk should never be your CEO. But when you are Soul-SourcedTM, to use our lingo here, you live from the understanding that your business is the territory for your own highest expansion, which means that we don’t want anything hidden.
We don’t want autopilot. All of that gunk, all that stuff that comes up as an opportunity for growing out of old unconscious shit that’s been driving us for way too long. And this is where you create confidence and clarity and freedom as well as financial success. And by the way, if you have a business, anger will indeed happen, after all businesses, people, it’s clients, it’s employees and team and contractors and vendors and mini me’s and partners. And you cannot control people’s responses to you and you can’t go around controlling your every move so that you never screw up ever. All those people try. In the last six months alone, I’ve used what I’m about to share here with one client who was about to shell out $9,500 in a total knee jerk to make good on something. Someone accused her of screwing up. She was so blindsided by this person’s anger that she didn’t even realize that the mistake wasn’t hers or her responsibility.
And I also used this to guide another client to get legal representation when an angry partner was about to just take a copyrighted name away from her. And again, the stress and her response to that anger had blinded her to her best action steps. And then another client who faced angry customers and their demands for refunds, when her in-person event shifted to a virtual event. It helped her find the way to communicate with them and resolve the accusations they were tossing her way, rather than just cave in stress. With that said, I’m going to use a recent situation from my own business to teach this topic today. And sometimes when I do this, I trigger people. It makes them uncomfortable. I get notes from my peers saying, I can’t believe you shared that, but hey, vulnerable is the new strong. And to be honest, whenever I do share something that might sound raw or vulnerable, I do this after I’ve resolved it, not when I’m in the midst of it.
So you will notice that this episode is not titled. “Nobody Loves Me”. it’s called, “When Someone Gets Pissed At You”. And yes, sadly many people have gotten pissed at me. It comes with the territory of running a business or being human. And in my experience, it has served my clients immensely to know that they’re not alone when they go through their own business struggles. So let’s start our story with a bit of background. So I own a 3,500 square foot office space in downtown Asheville. And for years it was Uplevel world headquarters, home to my team and my company. And in January, 2019, our team went totally remote. And I leased out the downstairs of that space to a prominent design firm here in Asheville. And I still use the upstairs, which I now call the Uplevel annex. So that’s our background. And now we will set up the challenge in which I become the victim, the hapless victim.
One Sunday recently, the offices that are directly next door to my space had let a film crew use their entire space for some production they were filming. Apparently, their lights got too hot. It set off the fire system and the sprinkler system. And without sharing all the gory details, the downstairs space that I own and lease out got flooded, like bad flooded. So the restoration crew got there. I got called in my tenant, got called in the management company was there and it was just a mess of water. There were all kinds of people walking around apologizing, cards were being handed out and there was much promise of great communication and all would be covered by insurance. And during the first week, everything had to be dried out with big giant fans and dehumidifiers first, because the walls had gotten soaked. The floor was pretty much destroyed. And during that first week, I got the occasional check-in from the restoration crew to share progress and let me know that it was all moving forward.
I didn’t need to be there. And then late in the week, they told me they had to move the furniture out so they could pull up all the floors. So I gave my approval for that to happen. And I will note that apparently the Ikea wardrobes that I had all along the wall, and one of the offices downstairs had pretty much turned to wet sawdust, which is as we’ve all learned over the years, what happens to furniture from Ikea when it gets wet. And now we get to the pissed off stuff. Exactly one week later, the very next Sunday I was at home, I was about to meet with my clients on one of our Sunday Summit Zoom Sessions and Sunday Summit is a tool I created. We meet as a group, some Sundays to do it in person.
I don’t normally work on Sundays with this year I’ve been doing these sessions as extra support. I call it extreme client care when the pandemic started. And so I am about to hop on that Zoom, and I get a series of texts at 9:58 AM, from the guy who owns the company that’s leasing my space. The gist of those texts was this. He’d gone to the office on Sunday to do invoicing and to work on his computer and he discovered that the whole place is torn apart. And I should have let them know that this had happened and that he now had to cancel a bunch of client meetings for the coming week, because he couldn’t find several important things he needed to access before Monday. Now, if you’re someone who does not do well, when someone is pissed off at you, especially if it catches you totally off guard and you get a series of texts like this prior to a meeting with clients, the first thing you need to do is you got to take a few minutes to clear up your focus so that you can be present for the session you’re about to lead or the meeting you’re about to have.
Some people are really good at this kind of segmentation. And some are not. One of my friends told me that if this had happened to her, she would have canceled everything that day and hidden under the covers all day long. That’s how paralyzing anger is to her. And she doesn’t own a business by the way, but I’ve gotten better at this over my years of running businesses. So even though my body just went into a complete like panic, I sent him a very quick, you know, apologetic text. I told him I’d reach out after my Zoom session. And I was able to be present to my clients, and I do know how to ground myself and let go so I can focus on the situation at hand. But then after we completed our hour session, I had some dealing to do, and this is the stuff and the work that matters most in these circumstances. How we deal internally and externally with a situation when someone is angry at us.
So the first thing is to observe how you are interpreting the communication in your own mind. So in this case, it had been a series of texts. Now, texts and emails and messaging and digital communication of any sort lets us put so much spin on their meaning and their context on what they sound like. I don’t know if anyone watched the Modern Family, um, episode. It was many years ago, but it was one of the early seasons. There was this hysterical episode where Claire Dunphy was reading Facebook messages aloud to her husband, Phil Dunphy, from his ex-girlfriend. And she was adding this sexy voice to what she was saying. Hi, Phil, how are you? And at one point, Phil shouts, why do people keep adding voices to these things? And it’s, it’s very funny, but that’s what we do, right? My tenant did not text me that he was pissed off at me.
He used the word frustrated and it would have been nice if, but all my mind could hear was this rage. And I had to turn that around and I had to read the texts clearly to myself, without all the spin. What we tend to do when messages like this start coming in, is that based on our spin, we start texting back and depending on the maturity level of the parties involved and how much they’re doing the Modern Family thing with your texts, the whole thing can turn into an emotional, your pattern meets their pattern, clusterfuck. So the first thing I did after my Sunday summit session was I texted him to apologize again, let him know I had not seen this space and that I would find a way to make it right. And to give me a moment to reach out to the restoration team.
Once I did that. And once I reached out to the team, who assured me they were on it, I did the second thing that I want you to consider doing in this kind of circumstance. I sat down and I shut up and I let myself be with the immense discomfort of the situation. And I’ll admit, I am asking you to do what will feel like the impossible. This is hard, but this is also mastery. So I simply let myself sit there and be with this low grade, semi hysterical, panic inside. And the reason we do this is, so we don’t take action out of reaction, or we don’t just do the usual thing where, you know, you get busy and you avoid the discomfort. Because in this instance I wanted to run. I wanted to get, I wanted to clean the kitchen. I wanted to call people who love me to find out if they still loved me, or if they agreed with my tenant, that I’m a horrible person.
I was just jumpy and jittery. And I wanted to pop out of my skin and do anything, but be there with myself. And on top of that, I could hear, this is just me. I could hear my dad’s voice in my head telling me I had no business. And this is something my dad used to say to me a lot as a kid, that I had no business doing, whatever, whatever it was I’d gotten into that week. So in this instance, I had no business ever having become a landlord or even owning commercial property. And we have officially hit the part that makes people uncomfortable, I am speaking to a level of sensitivity that most people do not admit to having in business, but I don’t care. We spend so much time pretending how very successful we are as if this kind of thing doesn’t throw us off, but it does.
And the problem with hiding, that we all face this is that it sets up more patterns for all of us to avoid facing the shit ourselves. And then it becomes almost impossible to just sit down and be with whatever is coursing through your system. Because now you’re so busy thinking you shouldn’t even be having this reaction because after all, you’re an adult and you’re successful and you have a business. Sitting with it, however, does the thing that most of us need when we want to flee from emotional discomfort. And that thing we most need is presence. After all, emotion is really just energy and sensation that we are now labeling. And usually that label is something bad and judgy. But if you can just sit and be with the sensation in your body, you’ll notice that it might at first feel like it’s going to take you over. But the more you can just sit with that intensity without labeling it, the more you realize the truth of it. And that is that it’s just energy.
And this begins the pattern interrupt, and it brings you to a space I call neutral. Now that’s not always going to be the case because this is a practice, but even a slight pause is better than the knee jerk pattern. So when I sat there and I was really with this situation, even though I wanted to pop out of my skin, and even though I didn’t want to sit there, I saw clearly what I would call the starting point that most of us need to reach when it comes to someone being angry with us, with us. And that is this. Clearly seeing the reality of the situation, which for me, was that I was unskilled in this particular circumstance.
I had made assumptions that communication was happening. I had made assumptions that my tenants were in the loop. And also I didn’t understand what happens in a restoration project. So I didn’t realize that the restoration involved, tearing up everything. And when they were telling me they were moving furniture, I didn’t realize they were moving all of it, including the computers and files. It was simple unskillfullness, which is a borrowed Buddhist idea that I love. There was no ill will. There was no ill intent. It was just kind of like a, whoops, I didn’t consider any of this. Now, what you discovered or here might be different. Like maybe you truly did mess up and didn’t realize it. Or maybe you said something that was taken the wrong way. No matter what it is, If you can see it from the clear place of just simple ownership without blame, that is truly valuable because you can then sit with just the basic fact that you are a human.
And I know just because you understand the reality or the simplicity of a situation doesn’t mean that you’ve come to terms with the fact that someone is angry with you in that situation. So what do you do at this point? The temptation once you see the reality or get to neutral is to step in and start explaining yourself. So let’s talk about the difference between real resolution and impression management, which is what Tara Brach, who is an author and Buddhist teacher, so aptly calls it, impression management. Resolution is cleaning up and communicating and connecting with the other party or parties involved. Impression management is spending all that energy to make sure that everyone knows you’re not the bad guy and explaining or overexplaining yourself and trying to fix your persona, your character in the eyes of everyone else, which isn’t ultimately resolution, even though it might feel like it.
But again, this is the Soul-SourcedTM Business. And there is so much more expansion that can come in a situation like this than just making sure people still like you, because they may not. So it has to go deeper than that. When we can’t sit still, when someone’s angry with us, it usually points to the many, many old instances in our past, when we felt ashamed or unworthy or stupid or whatever, it doesn’t matter what it was. All we know is that running from it and trying to make sure everyone doesn’t hate you as energetically, like trying to plug the holes in a dam that’s got many, many, many holes in it. You may fix one, but it’ll come out somewhere else. And a resolution is deeper than this. And often a lot more uncertain and uncomfortable than this. The real fix and the real opportunity in a situation like this, is to be able to be with it where you are now and just let the fear or the sadness or the anxiety, whatever, be there too, which is what I did.
And when I could just sit there and let that be there, I realized that I could also let my tenant have his feelings of frustration and know that I didn’t have to fight him or defend anything. There’s nothing to defend, but nothing valuable happens if I can’t give him the space to be frustrated, even if it was misplaced. And I was innocent in my own eyes, that just me defending my story. And when I started to just breathe, normally get out of my own history and my own fear. That’s when I called my tenant and I left him a message. I apologized, I told them the steps I was taking, even though I had already said this in my texts, I wanted to use my voice rather than just fleeting text conversations. Within a few minutes, he returned my call and that’s when we talked it through.
And during that conversation, we both acknowledged how unprepared we were to know what a flood like this would involve in terms of timing and destruction and inconvenience. And no one had shared any of this with us, what we should expect. And we hadn’t thought to ask. And just as a little aside, my tenant then told me that a fire had burnt down a building that his partner had owned after his partner’s death. And even though he didn’t say this, I could sense that there was this possibility that this flood and the destruction had brought back something pretty traumatic in his life. And that’s when I felt like just a whole lot of compassion. And I told him that we would now know what questions to ask and that we would have some form of regular check-in throughout the week with the restoration team to make sure everyone knew the timeline and the next steps throughout the process, which as I’m recording, this has happened.
Now, I almost gave up on even doing this episode because it makes it sound like just, Hey, do all this and everyone will all sing kumbaya and love each other, and then you’ll heal everybody’s trauma, but that’s not what I’m saying. Once the other person gets involved, we can’t know how it’s going to work for you. I’ve been in situations where the anger was not resolved, or I had to get an attorney or someone walked away and chose to hate me forever. When another human being is involved, we can’t know their level of awareness or their willingness to communicate or learn from the situation. Many people as you know, and have likely experienced are just not willing. And that’s when you’ll be tempted to think, well, this doesn’t work. So I’m never doing this again, which is normal and natural, of course, we’re all trained well in wanting to have control over everyone, and everything.
But the reason you’re doing this is not about control. It’s ultimately about seeing clearly. And that means seeing your shit, not everyone else’s. You get to shift some of the patterns and the fixations that have driven you under the surface. You may have to take some more difficult action. You may need to set boundaries. And in some cases you may need to take legal action. But for me, when I can be fully present and see clearly, the situation doesn’t have the ability scar me or to dictate more unconscious actions. I don’t do things like one of my least favorite communication tactics is the whole phrase, “well you’re the one who” like I don’t resort to those sorts of things. “Well you’re the one who said, or, you’re the one…” I hear that all the time. And it makes me cringe. So what happens is it all just starts to get cleaner inside of you, which ultimately builds a stronger foundation.
One of the things I am most grateful about in terms of running my own business, which I know isn’t that sexy, cause we’d all rather just say, Hey, make millions and be done with it. But one of the things I love is that having a business has forced me to be someone who does not avoid and does not let emotions rule everything. And that is not easy for, for some of you. And certainly for not me. What you’re looking for at first, is the shifts inside of you. And they will be small. I will tell you, they will be small at first, where maybe you don’t become consumed with self hatred or reactive behaviors. Only you can know what your tendencies are in this kind of situation. It’s not for me to tell you what success looks like.
In my experience, both with me and with clients, there is a sense of autonomy that starts to happen. A sense of being on their own side, without losing their equanimity and an ability to see the situation clearly, without all the emotional spin on it. These kinds of little wins might not seem huge, especially if your measure of success is wanting everyone to love you, but they are huge. And eventually that whole measure may stop ruling your life and you begin treasuring, clarity and communication more than adoration. So if we’re really taking our role as leaders, seriously, then we can just use every situation like this to say, yay, I get to step out of another old reaction and another pattern to find the equanimity needed in this situation that is now involving anger. So yeah, I’m going to close this out by saying, I get, this was heavy this episode, and I’m glad you stuck it through, If you stuck through, and maybe next time I’ll do one called like “How to Get Laid and Make Mllions” and just get you all hopped up and excited about how perfect your life will be If you just follow these five easy steps.
We’ll balance things out here, eventually. I’ll lighten it up on the next one in some way. So all of that is to say, thank you you for listening, everyone. My book is coming out so soon. It’s like just looming there on the horizon. It is called the Soul-SourcedTM Entrepreneur, an Unconventional Success Plan for the Highly Creative, Secretly Sensitive and Wildly Ambitious. And you can pre-order it now at Amazon. And if you want to close out this crazy year, strong and clear and focused and strategic, I will be hosting my Click Retreat. This is a, a thing we have just lined up with my team and I, so Click Retreat. All virtual in December and Click means that when the Strategy Track in your business and the Soul Track in your business are both running well, everything clicks. And so you will get me teaching you for three days online.
This is a roll your sleeves up, do the work in the room without having to travel of course, and close this year out strong with your pricing and your business model and clarity on your client and your marketing. We cover a lot of ground and it’s really fun. So Mark your calendars. It is December 14, 15th, and 16th. I will give you a hint on how you can get a ticket go. Pre-order a copy of my book from Amazon and we will give you more details soon. Thank you for listening and please subscribe. If you want to get regular notifications, when our next podcast comes out here and I will see you all next week. Bye everyone.