In this guide, we will discuss “what to do when a stranger yells at you”, why they could potentially yell and some tips on how to deal with a stranger that is yelling at you.
What to do when a stranger yells at you?
If you are wondering what to do when a stranger yells at you it means you have actually experienced how it feels and how powerless you felt for not knowing how to respond to it.
Maybe you just allowed them to yell or just simply yelled back at them.
For instance, it is pretty common for people to yell when they are driving or when someone tries to play smart and cuts you off the line in a restaurant or coffee shop.
We have all felt at least one time in our lives how someone stranger has raised their voice at us.
Some people actually yell on a regular basis and that is completely normal for them and we have at some point yelled at someone we don’t know.
However, it makes a huge difference in how we react to this type of situation and there are certainly ways to react to a yeller that can help diffuse them, instead of letting the situation get out of control.
Yelling at someone (long term effect) is not healthy for your mental health or theirs.
Some people tend to yell because that is the way they learned things get done by others but as Dr. Magdalena Battles from ‘Life Hack’ indicates “A person may acquiesce to a yeller at the moment to get them to stop yelling, but once things get back to normal, they typically revert back because the yelling hasn’t changed their mindset long term.”
This means that yelling is not actually as effective as it is thought.
Sure, someone may feel obliged to act but it will not be a consistent pattern of behavior and in the long run, the idea is for people to do things without having to yell at them over and over again.
Moreover, we know how yelling damages relationships little by little and for some people, when they see themselves in a difficult situation or a situation they don’t really know how to handle then they resort to yelling.
It is important we understand why some people are constant yellers, and how to deal with them on a daily basis. It can happen at a mall, a restaurant or even at your driveway.
Let’s not forget that yelling is a desperate attempt to gain control over the situation or over someone, it is a powerful form of intimidation and yes, it may work temporarily as we have discussed.
But it is certainly not the best or the most effective way of communicating or frustration or if we are angry about something.
Why do people potentially yell?
So let’s imagine you are at the shopping mall and you found a nice spot to park your car.
As soon as you start parking you hear a lot of noise, it is a guy in a pick-up truck honking at you and saying “this was my parking spot b!”·$%”.
You have three options, either yell back at him for being so rude to you, apologizing and leaving the parking spot to him or apologizing but still keeping your parking spot.
If you decide to yell back at him and put yourself to the same level then you can probably think of a million words to address him (not precisely nice and kind of works).
He can probably get down and come closer to you, yelling straight at your face. Which is scary!
No one wants to be yelled at by a stranger.
Again a way of intimidating people and probably his intention will be for you to move and leave the parking space to him.
If you decide to apologize and leave the parking spot to him without saying much then, he just got what he wanted by yelling at you and you responded exactly how he needed you to.
Here we are reinforcing his yelling behavior which is not good at all.
Tomorrow he can yell to a nice old lady that did the same thing (this lady can potentially be your grandma or your neighbor).
So let’s think about how you apologized saying something like “I apologize, didn’t see you” and then you smile at him.
You get out of your car, he keeps looking for a spot and off you go with your day.
He was probably not expecting your apology or you smiling at someone that was just yelling at you a few seconds ago.
Tips on what to do when a stranger is yelling at you
When we are having a conversation with someone and it turns into an argument that includes yelling, no productive conversation can actually happen. Ideally, we should have open communication and dialogue, where both parties feel safe.
It is a fact that when someone is yelling at us, known or unknown we don’t feel safe anymore. We experience fear.
Here are a few reasons why we don’t feel safe anymore according to Jordan Caroll from ‘Thrive global’:
- There is a gap between expectations or your opinions vary
- They feel threatened emotionally, physically, or psychologically
- Emotions are running strong and they can’t control them
- They feel disrespected
- They are projecting their issues onto you from other experiences
Tip 1: Empathize with them and validate their feelings
For some people, it is difficult to put in someone else’s shoes and even more so it is to understand their point of view.
Let’s go back to our scenario with the guy from the pick-up truck and let’s imagine if he got down and started to yell at our faces about how we stole the parking spot.
Validating how he feels looks a lot like “I can understand you are frustrated right now. I would feel the same way too if someone did the same to me.”
Tip 2: Paraphrasing what the other is saying
Here it is important to have listening skills. After being empathetic then you can use paraphrasing in a calm way to let them know you truly listened to them.
Here you can say something like “If I understand you correctly…”
Tip 3: Use a contrasting statement
Here you can make sure to let the other person know it was never your intention to disrespect them in any way.
For instance, “I don’t want you thinking that I meant to disrespect you purposefully. What I do want is to come to an agreement about how we can get past this situation.”
Tip 4: Use facts and take responsibility for your actions
Without blaming anyone, we know that taking his parking spot is the reason why he got so angry and frustrated.
So here the idea is not to point fingers or make excuses. Just state to the facts and state them clearly.
“When you stick to facts rather than judgments, opinions, or assumptions, you increase the chance of making someone feel safe.”
Tip 5: Use of the words “Yes, AND” instead of “But”
If you use statements such as “I understand you are angry I took your spot but….” you are immediately sending the message that everything said after the word “But” seems to be more important than what they are actually trying to say.
Instead, you could use “Yes, I understand you are angry I took your spot and…”.
Here you are communicating you respect them and their opinion, building on what they are saying instead of detracting.
Why is this blog about what to do when a stranger yells at you important?
This blog about what to do when a stranger yells at you is important since it gives us useful tips on how to handle a situation where a stranger yells at us, avoiding confrontation, yelling back and contributing on making things worse.
Either if it is someone yelling at you over a parking spot, at a green light or at the mall, you know now how to handle that type of situation.
In addition, we discussed how detrimental yelling is for our health and relationships, and how important it is to find effective ways of communicating our frustrations and anger.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about what to do when a stranger yells at you
Why do I get upset when someone yells at me?
If you get upset when someone yells at you it is most likely the result of childhood experiences.
You are not actually upset towards the person yelling but how it makes you feel and what your brain remembers from previous experiences.
No one really enjoys being yelled at and it triggers a response in our brain which tells us it is a potentially dangerous situation which is why we experience physiological symptoms that make us feel uncomfortable.
How do you deal with confrontation with a stranger?
When dealing with a confrontation with a stranger the best thing to do is to avoid making the situation personal.
Breathing is key to this type of situation and if you feel threatened or endangered the best thing is to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
What to do if someone yells at you at work?
If someone yells at you at work, maybe a colleague or your boss try not to confront them or engage in yelling since it will only make things worse.
Make sure you breathe slowly and deeply and don’t take things personally.
Your boss or your colleague may be having a rough day and even if it is the display of poor emotional management, wait for them to cool down, allow a few minutes and then ask to schedule a private meeting with them to talk calmly about what happened and how it made you feel.
Own up to your mistakes if their behavior is related to something you did but don’t over apologize or make excuses.
Is yelling at someone disrespectful?
Yelling at someone is considered disrespectful no matter the reason why.
Even if someone made a mistake, it doesn’t mean you have the green light to yell at them or be rude in any way.
This can be considered as verbal abuse and on many occasions, yelling comes with belittling, name-calling and even swearing which is totally unacceptable.
Is raising your voice disrespectful?
Raising your voice is considered disrespectful and if you have to resort to it, it means you have lost control over the situation and you are attempting to be heard (the wrong way).
Raising your voice doesn’t necessarily mean the other person will listen to you more attentively or even accept what you are saying as being true.
- #WhyAmIYelling? Because…Relationships!: The 5 essentials you need to successfully maintain ALL of the relationships in your life (without yelling)
- 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving our children – and ourselves – the skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happier lives
- Stop Anxiety from Stopping You: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Panic and Social Anxiety
- The Power of Now
- The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger
Battles, M. (n.d.) The Best Way to React When Someone Is Shouting at You in Anger. Retrieved from Lifehack.org.
Carroll, J. (2017, Nov.) 10 Things To Do When Someone Is Yelling At you. Retrieved from Thriveglobal.com.