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I have a close friend who I'm on very good terms with, and have no desire to lose them as a friend. He's fun to be around and we spend a lot of time together either gaming or just chatting via IM. But he is quick to become irritated or angry at little things.

As an example, when we're playing games together and he's not doing particularly well, or another player flames him, he gets very annoyed which is understandable; but what I notice is that it can foul his mood literally for hours.

Another example would be when a customer (he works for an eCommerce company) is trying to pull a fast one, is uncooperative in resolving issues, or is in some other way difficult to work with. He rightfully gets irritated and annoyed, but it shows in his mood for hours after.

Anything I usually say or do doesn't bring his mood back round. I can try and act normal, but this results in me acting normal despite an air of tension while he is still clearly in a bad mood which makes it not so enjoyable to spend time with him.

For cultural context, we are both from the UK.

Question

What is the best way to deal with this sort of situation? Is there anything that I can try to do or say which might pull him out of this mood and return to a normal and positive atmosphere faster? I appreciate that it is okay for people to be angry, but for it to happen for so long over such small incidents just seems like he is giving them more attention than they are worth.

  • @user3399 <comments removed> Saying "there is no answer to this" can be an answer in and of itself (provided you can say so authoritatively). If you have an answer, please post it below. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Sep 21 '17 at 14:52
  • Have you ever pointed it out to him? Or is he in general aware that his bad mood persists long after the event? – Alina Cretu Sep 21 '17 at 15:14
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    @AlinaCretu: Yes I have. We've had many discussions about it, but he usually locks up and says "It's just how I am". – Anonymous Sep 21 '17 at 15:17
  • @Anonymous Is there anything else worth mentioning that could explain his behavior, something about his life? – Tycho's Nose Sep 21 '17 at 15:21
  • @Tycho'sNose: Something I debated adding and decided not to, is that he is believed to suffer a mild form of OCD (obsessive thoughts). I didn't add this because it's undiagnosed and may be inaccurate. Something that supports this is sometimes he still dwells on minor conflicts from his school life and he's been out of school for 10 or so years already. One example of that is a student vote in his class that was rigged or tampered with by a number of students which still upsets him. – Anonymous Sep 21 '17 at 15:25
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I have a close friend who I'm on very good terms with, and have no desire to lose them as a friend. ...But he is quick to become irritated or angry at little things. ...it can foul his mood literally for hours.

If you really want to be a true friend with this person, then you may need to accept his foul moods for hours on end for a while. You can't change him, especially if he doesn't see the problem and want to change it.

If you want to be a fair-weather friend with this person, then just sign off when his mood is affecting yours.

True friends can talk to one another about almost everything. If you're looking for a quip or pep talk which will change him for the better, I can't give you one. But if you really want to be his friend, have a heart to heart talk with him about his anger management issues (I wouldn't exactly use those words.)

Approach it from a perspective of 'is this right for you/how do you feel about this'? You might find out a lot. If he sees no problem whatsoever, and he's happy to hold on to his anger over slights, then decide where you want to go from there, including the possibility of telling him that his anger affects you, too, and you're not sure you want to be in his company for hours of it (if that's true.)

If he doesn't like his own behavior, there's a chance you can help him out of it. Do you know about his past? Is there a reason for his prolonged anger? Do you want him to just get over it, or are you committed to helping him? If you are, then discuss the problem from his perspective first, and ask him if he'd like your help in getting to a better place. Ask him what he thinks might work. Try that first. It may be that he needs validation of his feelings ("Yeah, that was a ------- thing to do."). It may be that it puts him in a bad place from his past. ("You're not in high school/whatever anymore. You don't have to worry about that stuff; you're wiser than that now.") Or whatever.

If it doesn't work, acknowledge that and try some new things, but read about anger and primary/secondary emotions first. Anger doesn't just appear. It is precipitated by something first: hurt. Maybe because he was disrespected, felt unvalued, felt powerless, something that in the moment is too painful to stay there, so it devolves into anger, which is easier to handle, because it's "other-directed". Dealing with this means dealing with the first feelings. I know nothing about gaming, but, for example, (and this is kind of superficial, but... this is actually how it's done)

You: What did you feel when he flamed you?
Him: Angry!
You: But why did you get angry?
Him: Because he shouldn't have done that!
You: Did he break a rule or was it just a ------- thing to do?
Him: It was -------.
You: And that made you feel...?
Him: Disrespected. Unimportant. Small.
You: Yes. People can do that. And you can let that ruin your next few hours, or you can recognize that people can do ------- things, and get on with being your own self. Don't give a stranger that kind of power over you.

It's talky and therapist-like, but friends do this sort of thing.

If he really needs help, quips and stuff won't change it. But he can take an anger management course (short and sweet and very effective) and that would be a great gift to himself. You can even gift him one, if that's the kind of friendship you have or develop.

Your call.

Edited to reflect information in comments: You've tried talking to him, and you know some of the reasons he's in a bad place when he feels disrespected. That's important. If "That's just how I am," is his response, you either accept it, or go out on a limb and tell him you don't feel good when he's angry (almost no one does) and you're trying to deal with it but find it really hard. "It's just the way I am" is only an excuse to avoid the painful work of facing your feelings of hurt, inadequacy, or whatever of the variety of feelings that make us human, and rise above them to a better place. If he says he doesn't want to be in a better place, ou have some decisions to make.

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    Regardless of the topic, I always learn something new and valuable from your posts, @anongoodnurse! – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Sep 21 '17 at 16:55
  • @AnneDaunted - Thanks. That's very kind of you! :) I love your posts as well. :D – anongoodnurse Sep 21 '17 at 17:04
  • Great answer! Personally, I'd be very careful with the therapist-voice though because I myself find it annoying as hell if a friend tries that on me (probably because it reminds me of ELIZA too much) – AllTheKingsHorses Sep 23 '17 at 21:38
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It's possible, that he just takes a long time to recover from actual or perceived injustices and humiliation (the examples, you give, seem to support this conjecture). So, as you experienced, there may be no easy way to make him forget about them.

Instead, don't circumvent the incident, but put yourself on his side. Turn that perceived defeat into a victory. Possible courses of action:

  • Reassure him that he is right and that his reaction was perhaps the correct one (e. g. by not engaging in a flame war or not falling for the trick).
  • Make fun of the opponent. It may soften his mood, if he regards that other person as ridiculous (e. g. the gamer having to resort to flaming to stand a chance, the customer believing he could trick him like that) and be better than that himself.
  • If you can, give an example of similar treatment you received. He will notice, that he is not the only one. And if it is something you both can laugh about, this could also affect how he views the latest incident.

It helps, if he can laugh about the situation, so try to make him laugh.

This may not remedy his hurt feelings immediately, but could help him view the situation differently. Also, you talk about it in a light-hearted way, so it doesn't linger on, while you try to talk about something completely different.

Please note, that I assume, that his behaviour was correct (your post doesn't seem to indicate otherwise).

  • Now you point it out, I think his problem is with injustice. He is most affected by this sort of thing at work. Often, even though he obviously knows a customer is trying to scam them, it's pretty much impossible to avoid it due to terms and conditions on his platform (mainly eBay); so the scammer gets away with it due to eBay policies. With the gaming issues, I try to do just that and he does jokingly go along with it but you can still tell for a long while after that he's still festering over the situation. – Anonymous Sep 21 '17 at 15:21

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