Wedding dramaz: 9 crucial steps to take when communicating while upset or angry

September 15 2011 | Guest post by Little Red Lupine

Little Red Lupine spent three years as the Offbeat Bride Tribe Community Manager, and knows a few things about communication. So we've asked her to help us with communicating while angry. Grr! Argh!

Sometimes weddings make you wanna just freak out. (Thanks to Jenna for uploading this to the Flickr pool!)
Sometimes weddings make you wanna just freak out. (Thanks to Jenna for uploading this to the Flickr pool!)

We all know that wedding planning can be stressful and — dare I say it — can make people a bit crazy. Frequently the stress can make communication hazardous. There's a great post on the blog already for Copy 'n Paste Conflict Resolution, but sometimes that doesn't fit what you need.

We've all had that experience where we got an email or had a conversation (or maybe a lack of conversation) and we were steaming mad or super upset. It could be family who is driving you nuts, it could be a member of your wedding party, or even a vendor. But you want to react immediately. Tell them off, call them on their behaviour, sob your heart out.

Let's just say that when you react that way you may not help things. You might say something you don't mean, be mistaken about the situation, leave out an important detail or might just make things worse. Worst case, you get dismissed as a crazy bridezilla.

So how do you deal with those situations when they happen? Here's a list of handy steps you can follow to work on resolution:

  1. Give yourself 24 hours to calm down. You may think I'm crazy for saying that but it seriously does help. What we might feel in the heat of the moment may not be what we feel 24 hours later after we've thought about it. Before you do anything, consider carefully if there really is an issue.
  2. Write a draft of what you want to say to the person. I find this really helpful, whether you're sending an email or having a conversation. Put the draft down for a couple minutes. Look at it again and consider how you'd feel receiving it. Make sure to avoid accusing the other person of things. Use "I" statements when possible: "I feel hurt," "I am feeling a little out of the loop," "I am feeling unsure or concerned." It's a way to help get across that at the moment all you know for sure is that you are having a problem. Make sure you are clear about the problem and solutions you can see, but be open to other options.
  3. Always give a chance for explaining, reconciliation, etc. Something may have been misunderstood or incorrect, or an accident may have happened. Emails and messages get deleted by accident or people forget to reply. When you're angry or upset it's hard to admit that, but it is very worthwhile to give the other person a second chance. This is especially true of vendors. Try to assume the best of the person you're dealing with.
    • If you are sending an email, walk away after you send it. Do something to take your mind off it. They may not respond right away and if they don't, it does not mean they hate you or won't respond in a positive way. They may be busy, may be considering a reply, or may be feeling totally stupid for having accidentally caused a problem. Give them time.
    • If you are having a conversation, do something to relax yourself first. Take some deep breaths, have some tea, whatever works for you. Call when you are as calm as you can be, meet them somewhere you find safe, or be as zen as you can if you're going to their business. Have your prepped statement and explain the situation to them. This can help you avoid getting emotional all over again. Remember, you're trying to fix this.

  4. Give them the chance to respond and resolve things. They may need to think about what you've said to come up with a way to fix the situation or to choose an option that works for them. Give them a reasonable deadline if that is the case, especially if it is a vendor.
  5. If, and only if, after these steps your concerns are not met, should you proceed to other actions. It may seem like a lot of work to go through, but I promise it's a lot less hassle than the alternative.
  6. Talk to someone else if you can. Especially true if it's a vendor. This is the best way to find out if the problem is just between you and the other person or if it's a bigger problem. Go to a supervisor or, if it's a family member, try going to someone else who can act as mediator.
  7. Get help if you need to return with a firmer statement. Ask a friend, ask your partner, ask another vendor or a family member. Sometimes you just need someone else to deal with it because you know you'll cave or you'll get too angry or upset. Sometimes another vendor may know the right way to approach a situation or might have an "in."
  8. Make sure you use clear language about the problem, solution and consequences. Just to avoid any confusion or arguments later, make this as straightforward as possible. Bullet points help! Here's the problem. Here are the solutions I would accept. Here's what I'll do if this isn't fixed. Have it in writing so no one can say you didn't let them know, especially vendors. You've tried to work with them but you can only do so much.
  9. Proceed to drastic measures. Sometimes you'll have to use them. You may have to take a vendor issue to the media or report them to a Better Business Bureau. You may have to remove a member of the wedding party or stop involving a family member in wedding planning. It sucks, but by this point you know you've done everything you can. Just be prepared for the consequences.

Was there anything I missed? What advice do YOU have for responding when angry?

  1. Yes! Drafting a letter is good. So is asking someone else to read it before you send it.

    I feel it can sometimes help to say all those mean, angry things you want to in a letter that you never send. I find that really helps me get out anger and frustration. Of course, then you have to avoid feeling so much better when you're done that you don't do anything about the original problem. 'Cause I've done that before. But sometimes it also makes you realize that you were being irrational or misunderstood the intent. 'Cause that happens too.

    But yes, perspective, calmness, and civility are very helpful.

    1 agrees
    • And you must remember to properly destroy the first letter that you write. DO NOT accidentally do anything that might get the venting letter to the recipient. Like, write it on real paper and then shred it and throw it out or write it in word instead of in email and don't save it. There have been a lot of bad situations made worse by the venting letter accidentally being sent.

      2 agree
  2. This is fabulous advice! Especially the points about walking away and waiting until it's a better time to work on the issue.

    I always keep this in mind when I am getting worked into a tizzy about an enraging issue that I want to resolve OMG NOW: Will someone die if I don't do this RIGHT THIS INSTANT? I am not a doctor or emergency response worker, and my wedding is not a 15 car pile-up that's on fire, so pretty much all my responses are no. That's my moment of levity when I realize I need to let it rest and re-attack it at a later time. The "Will someone die?" approach might seem extreme or dire, but it's often exactly what I need to put things into perspective. Hey, whatever works! 🙂

    2 agree
  3. I always keep this XKCD strip in mind when i need to respond to something that has anggered, upset or otherwise disgruntled me. Getting somebody to read an email to you or saying the words outloud to a neutral party can realy put a better perspective and tone on things.
    http://xkcd.com/481/

    3 agree
  4. The compliment sandwich is good too.

    "I really love how you came up with that awesome tablecloth idea for my wedding. It would never have occurred to me, so I appreciated that you thought of it. However, your attempts to sleep with my fiance are becoming a bit of a problem. I'm getting upset about it, and you're making me not want you to be at my wedding. If you could please try to keep your propositions to the single groomsmen, I'd appreciate it. And if you come up with more awesome ideas for our napkins or chair covers, I definitely want to hear about them!"

    9 agree
  5. Mediators are great! I love my mom, but she envisions things so far off from what I want. I've learned to enlist my MOH and pictures of what I like.

  6. When I'm really spun up, I tell myself this:
    "There is no statue of limitations for being a bitch. You can still rip off their head and shit down their throat tomorrow, if you're still upset."
    Of course by tomorrow.. I never am.
    I also try NOT to write the "vent email", even if it goes nowhere. If I do that, I find:
    1) I'm more spun-up at the end because as I'm writing I'm probably thinking of more reasons to be pissed off.
    2) I fall in love with the more dangerous and vicious language I've included in it. This makes it hard to edit out later. ( "But dick turd is a great epithet!" )
    3) It wastes a lot of time. Once I get started, I can fume for hours. Better to nip it in the bud.

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