How to Easily Talk to a Friend who is Angry

Q: My friend gets extremely angry at situations and people including me. I want some advice on how to help him. 

A: It’s great that you are there for your friend and want to help him. Sometimes when someone is in pain and going through a tough circumstance it’s easy to take out their pain on the person that they are closest to because it feels safe.

That being said, it’s not okay for him to treat you in a disrespectful way. There are two items to talk about: 1) supporting your friend and 2) setting up healthy boundaries.

Supporting Your Friend

  • Choosing to have a conversation with your friend about what is truly going on for him may be very beneficial.
  • Remember to start your sentences with ‘I’ rather than ‘You’.
  • When talking with him, it’s important to come from a place of compassion rather than from a place of anger and blame. Coming from a place of compassion will have him feel cared for and may give him the space to talk about what is going on.
  • Listening is key. Hearing what your friend is saying may be all the support that he truly desires.
  • If you find talking with your friend difficult, choosing to write a letter sharing your concerns is a powerful option.

Once you’ve have listened and shared your concerns, also share how you have been feeling with regards to your friendship. Again remember to use ‘I’ rather than ‘You’. Your friend may be more open to listening to you since you listened to him respectfully moments before.

Seeing how your friend responds to your conversation or letter will show you where he is at and what choices you now need to make in order to create healthy boundaries for your friendship.

Setting Up Healthy Boundaries

Creating boundaries to maintain healthy, strong, supportive and well rounded relationships with yourself and with others, is so important. People may not like what you will or will not tolerate, but that’s okay. If something is bothering you in a relationship, speak up.

An example of a healthy boundary that I chose to set up in my life was choosing not to be around my dad when he was smoking. At first this was very hard to do because I felt guilty. I didn’t live with my dad so whenever we got together I felt like I shouldn’t complain. I didn’t want to spoil our time together. However, I soon realized that by not being honest with him about his smoking around me, I was becoming upset and angry, which was spoiling our time together. One day I decided to let him know that the smoke from his cigarettes gave me headaches and that I couldn’t stand the smell. He laughed it off until I said, ‘Dad I love spending time with you but if you continue to smoke around me, I will ask you to take me home. I can’t handle the headaches and the smell.’

To be honest, my dad didn’t like what I said, but I stuck to my boundary. Every time he was about to smoke around me, I would simply say in a calm respectful voice, ‘If you are going to smoke please drive me home.’ He would make a joke, sigh and then put out his cigarette or go outside. After a bit of reminding, he began to realize I was serious and he started to respect my wishes.

 If your friend is not okay with the boundary that you set up for yourself and your friendship, then you have a choice to make.

  • Is this a friendship that you want to continue?
  • Is this a friendship that you need to let go of?

Only you can decide. Whatever you choose make sure you are making your decision from a place of compassion and respect rather than from a place of bitterness and anger.