If somebody says something that makes you angry, you may notice you become tense, your heart beats faster and you feel energized. This is because your body has a hard-wired reaction to conflict called "fight or flight." The reaction is caused by adrenaline, a chemical released by your body when you are scared, excited or angry. Your pupils widen, more blood is pumped to your muscles, your breathing speeds up and your heart beats faster. This all prepares you to fight or to run away.
Our bodies developed the "fight of flight" response a long time ago, when our ancestors had to do things like defend themselves against wild animals. But today, our natural urges to fight or run away can make problems worse. So when somebody makes you angry, what should you do?
If someone is mean, it's natural to want to defend yourself. Bullies often try to make problems, but it's important to stay calm and not give in to teasing. Walk away and tell a grown up who can solve the problem, instead of getting in a fight where someone could get injured. Fighting does not fix anything and can even make the situation worse.
But walking away is not the right answer in every situation. Sometimes, people give the "silent treatment" to a friend who makes them angry, refusing to talk to them. This is silly, because without talking, you can't solve anything. The other person may not even know what he or she did to offend you. If you're angry, talk calmly to the person, and listen to their side of the story. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding. If someone isn't talking to you, try talking to them. You might apologize for making them upset and ask what is wrong. You could also write a sincere note.
You might also feel tempted to spread rumors when somebody makes you mad, but this never solves problems either. Gossip spreads false or embarrassing information and can make the other person feel very bad. If you hear gossip about another person, don't pass it on, and if you feel comfortable, tell the person spreading the rumor that gossip is not nice. If the gossip might be hurtful to someone, you could even tell an adult that rumors are spreading and ask for their advice.
Physical or verbal fighting often makes problems worse. Walking away is sometimes the best action, but other times it might just make someone angrier or confused. In those cases, talking it out is best. Tell a teacher or grown up if needed. They can help you stay calm and keep problems from getting out of hand.
Author: Katie Ransohoff, high school student writer