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Triangular raging: how to handle it

@bel this is so good, deserves its own thread.

The following is all Bel's wisdom:

Quote from Bel on December 19, 2022, 10:28 pm

Raging

Raging is expressing or projecting anger to or on someone with intensity.

It is a power move and can probably also be qualified as abuse, especially if repeated.

It is meant to accomplish several things at once:

  1. intimidate;
  2. establish superiority;
  3. get rid of accumulated repressed anger by projecting it on another person;
  4. (if public) destroy the social standing of a person, by conveying to bystanders the message that the person raged on is unable to defend him or herself, or in any case is significantly lower status than the rager.

It can be an unconscious ill-learned behavior, or it can be a malicious power move.

It can be done verbally (in presence), on the phone, and even in writing (ie via text message or online).

Examples:

  1. here a colleague of mine raged on me via text after I made a demand;
  2. here another colleague raged on me during a phone call after I ended negotiations.

It can be effective if done directly, as in these two cases. Especially, people who have been raged on by caretakers, and who have not healed the wound, are susceptible to adopting a "fawn" (submission) response to this kind of power move.

But the most covert and insidious raging is "triangular raging".

In triangular raging, the aggressor hides under the cover of raging against a third party (a bit like in triangular guilt tripping). The third party is usually an inanimate thing, or a past event, or another person that may or may not be present to the raging session.

However, while the apparent object of the rage is a third party, this is only a cover: in reality, the rage is meant to be conveyed to either the immediate addressee of the conversation, or to a person in any case present at the raging session (whom we'll call "person X").

That is, the main effects described above (intimidate; establish superiority; if public, destroy the social standing of a person) are precisely meant to affect person X (who is present) and not the third party.

Examples:

  1. raging to person X at a movie person X is watching:

Rager: WHAT THE F*** ARE YOU WATCHING! THIS MOVIE IS BULL****!! THESE CHARACTERS ARE EVIL!!! (said while shouting)

2. raging to person X at a TV interview, or a TV politics talk show, that is being aired while eating together with person X;

3. raging, in the presence of person X, at a third person present while together with said person X (eg: person A and person X go to a store together, and person A finds an excuse to rage at a clerk in the presence of person X);

4. raging to person X at someone who has conned or tricked or disrespected person X.

The latter (number 4) is especially good and common cover: if a person rages at person X under the cover of being angry that a third party has conned person X, it is easy for the power mover to hide under the cover that the rage is "honest anger", and it is even easier to say that the rage is directed to the "bad third party", and not to the victim.

But make no mistake: in reality, the rage is always meant to directed (at least unconsciously) precisely at person X. It is thus a form of "victim-blaming": person X, already conned by another, has to also endure the rage from the rager (apparently "for being conned", in reality because the rager wishes to obtain the above effects).

It is even possible to hide under the cover preemptively:

(after raging) My anger is only meant to "wake you up"!

How to address

I believe there is a difference here between private and public raging.

If private, the best way to address raging seems to be to interrupt all communication and extricate oneself from the rager's presence.

Especially if done without saying a thing, this seems to produce the effect of "shaming" the rager and show that raging doesn't work to intimidate and may, in fact, cause the loss of the relationship.

If public, addressing it by keeping proud non-verbals, and assertively demanding a respectful tone, then ending conversation, seems best. This has the effect of "surfacing" the raging session to bystanders, and publicizing that the rager was trying to intimidate. It reverses the effects meant by the rager, and causes a public loss of respect by bystanders for the rager.

Status differences

This seems to be one of the cases where the destructive effects of the power move are so high that checking it is warranted even in case one is significantly lower status than the rager.

That is, barring exceptional cases, checking the rage of a boss seems to be warranted even if one might lose a job.

 

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Great stuff, Bel!

Added it to the dictionary as well, and man, you're codifying and explaining power moves like nobody's business :).

I also had a similar experience at work, with an aggressive manager from a different but close-by team.
He raged against an employee that was out on maternity leave saying that "he would go to her house and kill her".

Solution: remain unaffected -and show it-

Your solutions are solid, albeit for many situations I'd go for something subtler.

Removing yourself means breaking rapport big time, and ruining a relationship that you may still need -at least for a while-.

A better solution is to:

  1. Remain unaffected, and make it a point to show it: that's your counter-power move. They can rage all they want, but you're not going to get frazzled

Many ways to make it a point.
Even laughing, or egging them on to get even angrier would show you're unaffected.

But I'd go for:

  1. If it's a boss, make a neutral one-cross comment: for example, in my past case, "let her live X, you need people in your team". This move is also respectful of his authority. You justify you defending his employee with a what's in it for him (rather than, say, morals, which would be a power move), and mentioning "his team"
  2. If it's a colleague, make a slight one-upping comment: for example "chill man, you're gonna get a heart attack like that"

Notice the counter-power move there: if you rage YOU will be affected (not me) -and you will pay the consequences-.

If it's a report, tell him to chill the f*ck down because that behavior is not acceptable.
Then remove him if he cannot behave properly.

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BOOM!
These solutions are so awesome, Lucio, and I’ll implement them immediately.

Edit: In other words, they consist of maintaining the cover of the rager, while showing being unaffected.

So, basically, using assertiveness to demand a respectful tone should be reserved for cases where the rage is direct, or where the cover is more thin and the disrespect is evident, or where one does not need to power protect.

Because if one reframes the cover by redirecting the anger at the rager, by definition bystanders won’t think one was disrespected.

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Lucio BuffalmanoKavalier

 

  1. Remain unaffected, and make it a point to show it: that's your counter-power move. They can rage all they want, but you're not going to get frazzled

I have come across these "rage" personalities,  and most of them do it to get what they want through intimidation. The way you suggest to deal with them is absolutely effective if it can be done AND  from experience it is quite difficult to remain unaffected when somebody just explodes, because it involves mastering the fight/fight/freeze impulse. Repeatedly experiencing these explosions by  personalities will help in remaining unaffected, or if a person knows there is going to be an explosion ( drill sergeant raging is expected and easier to remain unaffected than when a  colleague explodes).

If a person can pull of being unaffected , that without doubt may be the best response.

But if  remaining unaffected is no longer an option maybe Like Lucio suggests in earlier posts/articles focusing on tone, is another option to explore.

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Quote from Bel on December 20, 2022, 11:21 am

So, basically, using assertiveness to demand a respectful tone should be reserved for cases where the rage is direct, or where the cover is more thin and the disrespect is evident, or where one does not need to power protect.

Because if one reframes the cover by redirecting the anger at the rager, by definition bystanders won’t think one was disrespected.

Assertiveness is fine, depending on the situation of course.

I wouldn't do it much at work though since there is not much to gain and not much you can't gain already show by being unaffected.
And especially not with a superior because that's a challenge to his power and at a high risk of escalating into a confrontation.
Even if he backtracks and apologizes, you may still lose with the loss of social capital if you need a good relationship for your own benefits.

Basically, if the game is one of intimidation, don't be intimidated and the game is not working on you.

Then the second step is to ideally show it crystal clear that it's not working so they -and everyone around- also knows it.
Sometimes just being cool and focusing immediately back on the goal or on the next steps is enough to show you have no time for that emotional BS.

Quote from Maverick on December 20, 2022, 3:31 pm

it is quite difficult to remain unaffected when somebody just explodes, because it involves mastering the fight/fight/freeze impulse. Repeatedly experiencing these explosions by  personalities will help in remaining unaffected, or if a person knows there is going to be an explosion ( drill sergeant raging is expected and easier to remain unaffected than when a  colleague explodes).

If a person can pull of being unaffected , that without doubt may be the best response.

But if  remaining unaffected is no longer an option maybe Like Lucio suggests in earlier posts/articles focusing on tone, is another option to explore.

Yes, you have a great point, it can be challenging.

PU differentiates between the type of inherent safety of the environment on how to react.

If the environment is a safe place where raging is almost universally seen as inappropriate, then my recommendation would be:

YOU get angry, at least within you, for shitty behavior.

So instead of thinking "shit, he's raging, that's not cool", you'd think "mothafucker, how the fuck does he dare".

Of course the best would be to truly remain unnaffected.

But if the choice is between fighting fear or fighting your own anger, then better to control your own anger -also because that's easier to channel into more productive solutions-.

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