When Tempers Flare


We work in a high-pressure field where people’s lives and livelihoods are often at stake. When tempers flare and someone gets angry, what should you do?


Here are three suggestions:

  1. Stay Calm. Adding your own emotions to the situation rarely results in a better outcome for anyone.
  2. Be aware of your client’s safety and also your own safety. If you feel at risk, don’t hesitate to call or ask for assistance.
  3. If possible, try to move past someone’s anger by figuring out where the anger is coming from. A very wise person once told me that anger is a mask for fear, hurt, or frustration.

So instead of asking why someone is angry, the better question might be, ‘why is that person feeling afraid, hurt, or frustrated?’ Lawyers are problem solvers and anger can be an obstacle to a fair resolution. When you control your own emotions and understand the cause of someone else’s, you’re better equipped to find a solution to the problem.

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Authored by:

Karen is a graduate of Wartburg College in Waverly, IA, and Drake University Law School in Des Moines, IA. She began her legal career as a prosecutor before entering private practice. For over 20 years, her practice has focused on family law and general practice. Karen is trained in Collaborative Law and also acts as a parenting coordinator for high conflict parents. Since 2009, Karen has served as a judicial magistrate in Iowa. She is also the Chief Compliance Officer and pre-law advisor at Wartburg College. Karen is the author of “The New Lawyer’s Handbook: 101 Things They Don’t Teach You in Law School” and also two knitting books for children. Her commentaries and guest opinions have appeared in the Huffington Post and the Des Moines Register. She and her husband Pete have 4 children.