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de-Escalate an Angry Situation

How to de-Escalate an Angry Situation

Dr. David Hawkins, Director of The Marriage Recovery Center, talks with David Daroff, MA, about how to de-escalate an angry situation with a mate. They talk about the power of staying calm and connected, as well as the impact of empathy and understanding in calming an intense encounter.

How to De-Escalate an Angry Situation: The Art of Emotional Jujitsu

Conflict is an inherent part of human relationships. Whether it’s in a marriage, friendship, or workplace, disagreements are bound to arise. When emotions run high, it can be challenging to navigate these situations without causing further harm. This is where the concept of “emotional jujitsu” comes into play. In this article, we will explore the art of de-escalating an angry situation, drawing inspiration from the wisdom of David Hawkins and David Daroff, both therapists at the Marriage Recovery Center. We will delve into strategies and techniques to calm an angry mate, fostering healthy communication and resolution.

The Power of Emotional Jujitsu

David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center, emphasizes that one person can have a significant impact on how a conflict unfolds. While you can’t change the fact that your partner is angry, you can change how you respond to their anger. The key is de-escalation, shifting the focus from blame to problem-solving. Conflict tends to breed more conflict unless we take proactive steps to de-escalate the situation.

Own Your Reactions

The first step in mastering emotional jujitsu is acknowledging that you can only change yourself. When faced with an angry partner, the natural inclination may be to engage in the conflict or escalate it. However, this can be counterproductive. Instead, focus on changing your own approach. Taking personal responsibility for your reactions is crucial. If you feel attacked, it’s essential not to become drawn into the conflict. This requires a degree of emotional maturity and self-awareness.

Emotions Are Contagious

David Daroff reminds us that emotions are contagious. If your partner is angry with you, there’s a good chance that your own anger may start to bubble up. However, you have the power to disrupt this cycle. If you choose to remain calm and refuse to add fuel to the fire, it can have a profound effect on the overall emotional atmosphere. Your calm demeanor can create an opportunity for your partner to follow suit.

The Role of Empathy

Empathy is a powerful tool in emotional jujitsu. When your partner is angry, empathizing with their feelings and perspective can be transformative. Remember, there’s still an emotional connection between you and your partner, despite the anger. Empathizing shows that you care about their emotions and are willing to understand their point of view.

Taking Responsibility

One of the most effective ways to de-escalate a conflict is to take responsibility for your actions. Often, your partner’s anger may be justified, and they may have a legitimate reason to be upset with you. Instead of defending yourself, own up to your mistakes or the part you played in the situation. Acknowledging your responsibility can be disarming and can diffuse tension.

Making It About Them

During an argument, the natural instinct is often to protect yourself. However, this can exacerbate the conflict. Instead, shift your focus to your partner. Make it about them and their feelings. Show that you are more concerned about their well-being and happiness than defending your ego. By demonstrating love and empathy, you can significantly contribute to de-escalating the situation.

De-Escalation in Action

Let’s take a moment to illustrate how emotional jujitsu works in a practical scenario. Imagine your spouse is upset with you, and they express their anger. Instead of reacting with anger or defensiveness, you choose to remain calm. You empathize with their feelings, acknowledging that they have a reason to be angry.

Next, you take responsibility for your actions, admitting to any mistakes you may have made. You don’t try to deflect blame or protect your ego. Instead, you make it about your spouse, expressing your genuine concern for their well-being and happiness.

By following these steps, you not only avoid escalating the conflict but also create a space for your partner to de-escalate as well. They may begin to see that you genuinely care about their feelings, and this can lead to a more productive and less confrontational conversation.


Emotional jujitsu is a powerful approach to resolving conflicts and de-escalating angry situations. It requires self-awareness, empathy, and a willingness to take responsibility for your actions. While it may not always be easy, the results are often worth the effort. By staying calm, empathizing with your partner, and making it about them, you can defuse tension and promote healthier communication in your relationships.

Conflict is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to be destructive. With emotional jujitsu, you can transform the way you handle disagreements and create a more harmonious and loving environment for yourself and your loved ones. So, the next time you find yourself in the midst of an angry situation, remember the power of emotional jujitsu and work to de-escalate the conflict with empathy, understanding, and a focus on the well-being of your partner.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: How to Hide your Feelings

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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