Dealing With Angry People: 12 Most shared Mistakes


The objective of this article is to provide you with some basic psychological insights into ways of dealing with angry people in a more effective manner.

One meaningful point that is often overlooked is that an angry person is NOT going to be logical and unemotional. When people are angry, they are working on a subconscious level where their thoughts and emotions are concerned about solving the problem, avoiding blame and getting the solution that they want. Frequently, feelings of; injustice; being a victim; fear of dealing with a faceless person in a giant organization; impotence, etc., can increase the degree of anger and the production of adrenaline – already before they have begun discussing the problem. This is one of the main reasons why angry people appear to be so irate at the beginning of the conversation.

Frequently, when we interact with an angry person, we cause more harm than good by doing things that add fuel to the anger instead of reducing it. The next news letters are going to probe these problems in detail and propose some solutions.

Problem # 1: Interrupting the client.

One of the most shared problems found in dealing with angry clients is the inclination of the other person to try and interrupt them. This might be by verbal interruptions; “Mind reading” where the speaker thinks he/she knows what the angry person is going to say before they say it and responds consequently; or by finishing their sentences for them. One of the worst things that can be done to an angry person is to speak over them. This involves speaking at the same time as the angry person, speaking more loudly than them and trying to “control” them & the communication in some way. This is possibly the best way to INCREASE the level of anger and ensure that no solution is reached!

Solution: Encourage them to speak and get all their fears & worries out in the open so that you can deal with each area in turn. Use “phatic communion” (sounds used to show that the channel of communication is open). Once the client has finished, repeat the main points of their complaint in a neutral, unemotional way and then look for possible solutions.

Problem # 2: Playing “The Blame Game”.

The Blame Game consists of trying to make someone let in, either directly or indirectly, that an error or mistake is theirs. It might be the angry person blaming the other person or vice versa. Do NOT play the game as you can never win.

The solution: Neither the client or you are really interested in sharing out blame. The objective of both parties is to find the best solution. Focus on finding different ways that can solve the problem.

Problem # 3: Making excuses for a specific mistake.

Frequently, when people make excuses for a mistake, they tend to bring into the conversation other factors that they use to justify why something occurred. An angry client does NOT care about the reason why something happened – just that it DID happen. What they want is a solution – nothing else.

The Solution: Apologize for the delay / the inconvenience / the bother / etc., and then move on to finding possible solutions for the problem.

Problem # 4: “Company policy”

Probably the two worst words that you can use when dealing with an angry person are “Company Policy”. This is seen as a company that sees its clients as unimportant. By definition, “Company policy” method that it has been written down and formalized in a document – an example is the “End-User Licence Agreement” that we all accept when installing & using a computer programme. An perceptive angry person will ask to truly see the “Policy” document and if you can’t produce it, you become a liar. More frequently the company’s answer is based on a “customary” response which is not written and often accepted at confront value by the client. However, when it is a custom, there is ALWAYS someone who has the strength to override this response and help keep the client satisfied and loyal to the organization.

Solution: Focus on the solution.

To avoid having to use the phrase “It is company Policy”, it is much better to focus on finding a fast and effective solution to the problem. If there is a structured system for dealing with complaints or problems, focus on the need to rapidly complete the steps necessary so that a solution can be reached. Used the “Scratched Record” technique: Keep repeating, in different ways… “We will resolve this problem.”.

Problem # 5:Directly reject an idea or suggestion from the client.

Many clients have a preferred solution to a problem in mind, especially when angry. It is often an emotion-based solution instead of a logical. If you reject out-of-hand their solution it is taken as a personal insult to them which serves to excaberate the problem which makes it already more difficult to reach a successful solution.

Solution: Treat it as one more possible solution.

The client has every right to express what would make them feel that the problem has been resolved properly. There is usually more than one solution to a problem: these other options might be less desirable, but they do exist. It is vital that you recognize that their possible solution is one of many. Always recognize its validity and then propose other alternatives: Eg, “That is one possible solution however, let’s see what other options are open to us. How about… ?

There is a inclination to NOT ask the client what response or solution would make them happy. It is one thing to include the client in a joint search to find the best solution, and something else to impose a solution on them. Instead of saying “I can… “, it is much more elegant to say “Supposing we could + possible solution, would that be a satisfactory solution?” – Using “I” indicates that you are the only one involved in the solution: Using “We” subconsciously indicates that you are part of a group and unprotected to the norms of the group.

Problem # 6: Become defensive – Take the comments / anger as something personal directed towards you.

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, an angry client might use swear words or say things that are not really appropriate. However, it is important to remember that when someone is angry they responding viscerally and literally “NOT thinking” – we could consider them temporarily sick. If a person is sick, you do not mirror their behaviour, you understand them and show compassion. Do the same with an angry person. In many countries, there is a inclination for a person on the receiving end of the bad language or behaviour to become defensive or insulted and respond with phrases like: “Do not speak to me like that” or “Who do you think you are to treat me like this?” or “Mind your language, please!” This does not solve the problem: These comments only make the client angrier because not only is there a problem to be resolved, NOW you are attacking them for being angry!

Solution: Use psychology;Remember: It is NOT a personal attack on you. It is someone letting off steam about something that is very problematic for them. Use the following formula:

1. Recognize their reality:

– “I understand how important this is for you.”

2. Apologize for what happened:

– “I am really sorry that this has occurred.”

3. Recognise the importance of the situation FOR THEM:

– “I know exactly how you must be feeling”.

4. Recognize and match their feelings:

– “I know that I would feel the same way if I were in your position.”

5. rule the person into the future:

– “Let’s go forward and see how we can make sure that this never happens again. Will you work with me on this?

Problem # 7: Saying “Calm down”, etc.

Many people think that when dealing with an angry person, the best way to calm them down is to use one of the following techniques because they are “Logical” & SHOULD work!:

1. Say things like “Calm down”, Relax, etc., thinking that that will truly make people do as they say, mirror on how many times YOU have said this and what the actual consequence was! Or how you feel when you are angry and someone says “Calm down!” to you! The most shared response is an INCREASE in the level of anger!

2, Think that if you are cool, calm & collected, they will change & become calm, too. As mentioned before, people who are angry do NOT listen but function on emotions. The perception of someone being calm while they are angry only makes the angry person angrier because they feel that the calm person really doesn’t understand why they are angry or, what is worse, that they do not care.

Solution: Match & rule – A Counter-intuitive response.

While it will seem counter-intuitive, many studies show that the best way to deal with an angry person is to literally mirror their communication: Copy EXACTLY what they do and closest bring down the intensity of the communication. If the person is shouting, repeat their shouted phrase at the same quantity, tone and timbre as them and closest take the quantity, tone and timbre down to a conversational level and continue speaking. This works equally well in confront-to-confront conversations in addition as in telephone calls.

Problem # 8: Using Negative orders.

Do NOT think of a pink elephant.

Now, what are you thinking about?

Probably a pink elephant!

It is a recognized psychological fact that for the human brain to understand a negative order, it must first understand (& do) the positive. When you say “Don’t get angry” the other person has to get angry to understand the negative order. Saying “Don’t shout” = The other person has to shout again to understand the negative. This can rule to a very unproductive cycle of behaviour.

Solution: Always use positive language.

Instead of saying: “Don’t worry”, it is much more productive to say something like “Trust me, we will find a solution.” Or “Don’t touch me!” becomes “Keep your hands off me!”, etc.

Problem # 9: Limiting the time dedicated to dealing with the client.

In some organizations, especially in Call Centres, etc., there is a maximum amount of time that can be dedicated to a client and the staff are working “against the clock” to get rid of the caller and move on to the next call, person or problem. There are already certain organizations where the staff are penalized for taking too long to deal with a client!

Solution: Dedicate enough time to solve THEIR problem.

As mentioned before, people who are angry are emotional and much more sensitive to implicit or unspoken nuances in communication. If they feel that their interlocutor is try to get rid of them rapidly, it exacerbates their anger.

Problem # 10: NOT showing that you are listening to them.

When dealing with an angry person it is imperative that, at all times, they hear and feel that you are listening to them. In confront-to-confront communication people subconsciously course of action the three communication channels – Verbal (7%), paralinguistic (38%) & non-verbal (55%) – during the conversation. When the communication is by telephone, the non-verbal component is missing which method that the listener has to “fill in” the missing information using their own knowledge, or feelings, which could be incorrect and rule to serious, and unexpected, consequences.

Solution: Echoic responses.

One of the best way of showing that you are listening to someone is by using an “Echoic Response” which is when the listener repeats the last few words or last phrase used by the other person as an introduction to what they are going to say. The listener is literally “Speaking their Language” which is subconsciously understood and appreciated by the listener and viewed as one of the best and fastest methods of obtaining rapport with someone. It is also a clear example that the listener is truly listening! An additional assistance of this technique is that it can be used in other settings such as Sales, Negotiations, Meetings, etc.

Problem # 11: Not focussing 100% on the “client”.

When working with an angry person, especially by telephone, many people are easily distracted by thing that are happening around them which method that their attention wanders from the task they are doing (& getting paid for!): attending to an angry person. People will notice if you are not focussed on them: you ask them to repeat what they have just said; you keep up “similar Conversations” with another person; you ask them to “Wait one second, please”, etc.

Solution: focus on the person.

The only way to ensure that you are focussed on them is for you to truly be focussed on them. Remember that your job is to solve their problem and remove their worries & fears in addition as give them renewed confidence in your organization.

Problem # 12: Forgetting that any angry client is an opportunity to create brand/organization loyalty.

A multinational organization with headquarters in France considers that a complaint from a client is a gift; an opportunity to enhance and to create brand loyalty. This is already more true with an angry client. A client who has their problem solved rapidly & effectively will become a loyal one.

A Boston Consulting Group study indicates that a client who is happy with his treatment by an organization will tell an average of 13 people about it in a way which is positive for the company. However, an unhappy client will express his feelings to 24 people in a way which is negative for the organization. When you consider the knock-on effect of bad comments that go from unhappy clients to friends & family and then are re-transmitted to their friends and family… How many clients are being lost indirectly by not treating an angry client properly and effectively?

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