For many years, I worked as a social worker, helping adolescents and parents learn to communicate better with each other. No matter how old you are, though, communicating with parents can be difficult at times, especially during times of anger or other strong emotions. If your dad is mad at you, you may feel intimidated or you may become defensive and feel angry yourself. Responding in an angry or defensive manner probably won’t make your dad any less angry, though. If you keep your cool, you may be able to defuse the situation.
Use a Quiet, Calm Tone of Voice
If your dad is mad, he may yell or use a harsh tone of voice. Don’t raise your voice in response. That only escalates things. Use a calm, soft voice when speaking to him.
Use Non-Threatening Body Language
HelpGuide.org, a non-profit resource providing health-related information to the public, recommends maintaining an open posture, with your arms uncrossed, hands relaxed, back and shoulders straight but not stiff. Keep your facial muscles relaxed, too. Keeping your body relaxed will convey a sense of calmness to your dad and it will also help you feel calmer. Make eye contact, but don’t glare. In addition, make sure your body language matches your words. For instance, don’t say, “Yes, Dad, I understand” while shaking your head as if saying, “No.”
If your dad’s angry, he may have a lot to say and some of it may be hard for you to hear. Listen anyway. Don’t interrupt, even if you disagree with something he says. If he interrupts you, wait until he finishes talking before you resume speaking. To let him know you’re really listening, try active listening. Just repeat what you heard him say in your own words.
Don’t Make Matters Worse
Your dad may say some hurtful things when he’s mad. Don’t resort to insults yourself, though, even if tempted. That will only make matters worse. Remain respectful. Stick to the matter at hand and don’t bring up past mistakes your dad has made. Don’t make threats and definitely don’t resort to throwing things or behaving in a violent manner. If you think your dad might become violent, leave.
Maybe This Isn’t the Best Time to Talk
When people are really mad, they often find it hard to listen. They sometimes say things they later regret. If your dad is very angry, this may not be the best time to talk to him. If you’re angry, too, it’s an even worse time for a discussion. Consider postponing the conversation until you’ve both had some time to calm down.
HelpGuide.org. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/effective_communication_skills.htm. Effective Communication.
Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/assertive/SR00042. Being Assertive: Reduce Stress, Communicate Better.
HelpGuide.org. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anger_management_control_tips_techniques.htm. Anger Management.