The 5-Step Process For Dealing With Emotionally Explosive People

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Meeting people for the first time is like a cruise: Slow, smooth-sailing, and peaceful. Everything appears to be okay on the surface, but it's all an illusion. Humans are uncomfortable being themselves in fear of judgment and isolation. So, we have a tendency to put our best foot forward, which is a recipe for disaster.

Like a flame on a candle, appearances can only last for so long. It's only a matter of time until you really get to know the person or vice-versa.

An emotionally explosive person has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. You never know which one you’re going to get. It feels like walking on a tightrope above an emotional minefield.

But before learning how to deal with emotionally explosive people, it's essential to know what behaviors you should be wary of.

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What is emotionally explosive behavior?

Emotionally explosive behavior is a pattern of extreme and intense emotional reactions disproportionate to the situation. It often leads to outbursts or displays of anger, aggression, or other intense emotions.

People exhibiting emotionally explosive behavior may have difficulty regulating their emotions and may find it challenging to manage their reactions in a calm and measured way.

Common characteristics of emotionally explosive behavior includes:

  • Intense and overwhelming reactions, usually triggered by minor events
  • Quick escalation from calm to volatile
  • A lack of control over regulating emotions
  • Difficulty calming down once emotions are triggered
  • An intense emotional release followed by a quick return to stability and calm
  • Intimidating others with unpredictable reactions

Emotionally explosive behavior may be symptomatic of underlying issues like unresolved trauma, stress, difficulties with emotional regulation, or mental health disorders like borderline personality disorder.

Here's how to deal with emotionally explosive people, using the 'BLAST' method.

B: Be vigilant.

Sometimes, wisdom comes from unexpected places. I don’t know about you, but I re-watch Disney classics from time to time. In the beginning of "The Lion King 1 1/2," Uncle Max teaches Timon how to be a sentinel for the colony. He remains vigilant and constantly scans for hyenas.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with emotionally explosive people (EEP). But EEPs are always looking for a reason to explode. Anything is fair game. Therefore, you need to act like a meerkat and adopt a high level of awareness.

Analyze your surroundings. Is there a stain on the carpet? Did you leave dishes in the sink? These situations could be a trigger for an argument. So, it’s best to be prepared.

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L: Lower your voice.

I remember watching an amazing TED Talk by Louise Evans. She explains how to master our behaviors through a method called "5 Chairs."

Each chair represents the dominant behavior of an animal. When responding to something unpleasant, the first instinct of an EEP is attack mode, or the jackal chair. They assume the worst and fly off the handle.

Whatever you do, don't react like a jackal. If you do, you’ll end up wasting precious time fighting over unimportant things.

To de-escalate the situation, lower your voice. Even if you’re offended, it makes you appear unemotional. As a result, the person starts to lose interest, which causes the conflict to lose steam.

A: Act like you care.

EEPs are unhappy and feel powerless about their circumstances. Someone who feels powerless will find something small to critique. Maybe you forgot to buy milk or send a letter.

It usually is not that important, but it will be treated like an emergency. Even if you’ve been relatively consistent, he or she will jump at the chance to correct you.

Let’s face it: no wants to feel powerless. Everyone desires power. You don’t have to be Machiavellian like Frank Underwood. Maybe you want control over your finances or health. In essence, power is “the capability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.” So, you must play the part.

Act like you care if you want to know how to deal with emotionally explosive people. Pay close attention to their words and express sympathy. You don't have to mean what you say, no matter how good your communication skills are.

This sounds bad, but this type of person is unreasonable. It is pointless to explain or defend your actions. Simply apologize and handle the situation immediately.

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S: Slowly detach.

To avoid explosions, minimize contact. Simply put, there is no conflict if you’re not there.

Do it slowly. If you cut off communication right after an argument, the person will notice that something is off. He or she will apologize for the incident, but don’t be fooled. EEPs simply want to reclaim the white hat.

The apology is about their ego. More than likely, the same problem will occur over and over again. Any semblance of peace is temporary and things will go back to the way they were.

T: Transition to a new life.

With this in mind, it's best to part ways.

If the person does not add value (or very little) to your life, why would you keep them? The same principle applies to family as well. The only difference between a toxic friend and a toxic relative is biology. That’s it.

There are billions of people on this planet. So, you don’t have to stick around waiting for one person to change. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself. It will help you attract new relationships with people who have similar values.

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Monique White is an undergraduate student studying aerospace engineering. Her articles cover mental health, chronic illness, and ADHD and other disorders. ​