17 tips and tactics for dealing with irate people

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Dealing with Irate People

Dealing with angry people is not always easy even if you are not the cause of their anger!

You need tact and skill to defuse the situation and then deal with whatever needs dealing with.

People get angry because …

  • procedures arenot being completely implemented.
  • paperwork is being lost.
  • paperwork is not being completed or completed incorrectly.
  • of miscommunication or unnecessary communication.
  • of  missed deadlines.
  • of other people being stressed –  customers/clients being ratty or miserable; staff and managers under pressure to get things done.
  • of Inflexibility in procedures (or people).
  • people are being rude, dishonest or manipulative.

Here are 17 tips and tactics for dealing with irate or angry people …

  • Show you listen and understand, e.g.

“I appreciate what you are saying.”

“I see your point, however …”

“I understand that …”

“I can see that you are frustrated by this delay …”

“On one hand I agree with you …”

“I understand that you’re angry about this matter …”

  • Say what you want/feel, e.g.

“I think the best option is for us to go back through the paperwork.”

“It is a totally unacceptable situation and I feel quite embarrassed.”

  • Say what you want to happen, e.g.

“Is that okay?  When is convenient for you?”

“I’m going to deal with this personally myself.”

  • Do not interrupt

Remember the person is not likely to be reasonable at the height of their anger.

Let them ‘get it off their chest’.

Then you can start to negotiate.

  • Apologise

Apologise sincerely.

Don’t apologise too often, it can become meaningless.

You can apologise for a situation without taking any sort of blame: “I’m sorry that you feel like this, Jane”; “I’m really sorry it’s come to this”.

  • Manage your emotions

Be objective.

Do not take it personally.

  • Physically

Count to ten.

Take deep breaths.

Remove your frustration by talking the episode through with a colleague or the other half tonight!

  • Take control

Be assertive.

Ask relevant questions.

Get the information right.

Take notes.

Listen carefully to what is being said.

  • Questions

Angry people will be annoyed even further by probing questions if they see them as irrelevant, or not a contributing factor to solving their immediate problem.

Keep the person informed as to why you need certain information.

  • Using Names

Use their name – this can often help pacify irate people, as long as you don t use it too often.

Reinforce confidence by re-iterating your name and direct dial number (if possible.

  • See it as a challenge

You have to have the right attitude.

People will respond to you in a rude way if you are rude!!

If you do react in a negative or rude way you may well be in the wrong job.

  • Knowledge

You have to be confident.

Knowledge goes a long way when dealing with someone who is angry, because they can see that you can take control and rectify the situation.

  • Voice

Keep well paced and at a ‘normal’ volume. The tendency is to ‘mirror’ the other party i.e. raise volume and speed.

  • Body Language open

Have no barriers such as desks.

Arms open and uncrossed.

Fingers open and unclenched.

Face the person.

Give plenty of eye contact.

Raise the eyebrows.

Smile when you get any sort of agreement.

  • Resolve the situation away from other people

Invite into an office to sit down.

Ensure confidentiality e.g. tip the blinds on any internal windows.

  • Set timescales for resolution

If you can’t meet those timescales, let them know with new expectation.

Never say “I’ll call you later.”

  • ‘Under Promise, Over Deliver’

Do everything you can to give them something extra e.g. a quicker timescale; a better than normal standard of work

This post was written by Bryan Edwards, author of A Useful Guide to Assertiveness.

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