Why do people get angry?

Is someone angry at you? Understand common reasons that people get mad and get tips for confronting it, including what to do if things get serious.

This can help with…

  • working through conflict with a friend
  • understanding why a person may get angry
  • getting tips for dealing with someone else’s anger
Two girls hugging

Why someone might be acting angrily towards you

When people are angry, it’s usually a reaction to other emotions such as feeling:

  • hurt
  • jealous
  • worried 
  • rejected
  • embarrassed.
If someone you know is acting like they’re pissed off at you, they want you to know something is not right for them. Their anger could be a result of something you’ve done or said, or it could be that they are angry about something else and for some reason are taking it out on you. It’s not really fair for them to take their frustration over something else out on you. But at the very least, it should alert you that something is going on to make them unhappy.

Things you can do to handle someone else’s anger

Conflict needs to be handled carefully – for both your own sake and theirs. Your first step should be to try and find out what it is that is making the person feel angry:
  • don’t ignore the person
  • be open to listening to what they have to say
  • keep your voice calm 
  • make an effort to talk things through.

That doesn’t mean you have to agree with the content of what they are saying. If you have issues with it, make sure you acknowledge their distress, but don’t feel like you have to back down if you disagree. If you want more help on how to navigate this, learn how to communicate assertively.

You could find that the person just wants to talk. It may be enough to help them through their anger. If this is the case, try to avoid pushing advice or opinions on to them. Work out whether they just need an ear, or if it’s appropriate to take on a bigger role. Give them space if they need it.

It’s also important to look after yourself when someone is angry with you. Conflict isn’t always straightforward, and it can have a big impact on how you are feeling. Some things you can do to help yourself through the situations of conflict include:

If things are getting serious…

If someone is really angry at you, it might not always be in your control to resolve it. If you think this might be the case, you may want to check out more information on growing out of relationships. Sometimes people express their anger by getting violent or abusive. If this is the case, and you think your safety may be at risk, remove yourself from the situation and get help. It’s never okay for someone to be violent or abusive towards you.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 30 July, 2014
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