Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dealing With An Angry Person

When you face some people who are very angry, it helps to have a plan in mind ahead of time in order to handle the situation appropriately. There are five stages to remember in dealing with a person who is angry and irate, and it is important to follow these stages in sequence:

1.      Listen and allow that person to ventilate.
If you allow a person to ventilate, many times he or she will end by apologizing to you or thanking you for listening.

2.      Defuse the anger
Here are some effective defusers:
Keep your voice calm and under control

Use empathy and/or sympathy:
                        --"I can understand your frustration..."
                        --"I certainly can see why that would upset you..."
                        --"I know how annoying that can be..."
                        --"I know what you mean; that has happened to me,
                            and it can be very upsetting.

You can sympathize with an angry person without apologizing.  Whether you owe that person an apology or not, don't be afraid to use sympathy, such as:
                        --"I'm sorry you've had a problem..."
                        --"I'm sorry this has inconvenienced you..."
                        --"I'm sorry to hear about that..."

Agree where possible. Even if it is a small agreement, the words, "I agree," or "You have a good point there," or "I can see what you mean" have a calming effect on an angry person.

Apologize if appropriate.  When an apology is due, it not only is the right thing to do, it also works as a very effective defuser.

Assure the angry person of a response.  It usually has a defusing effect to let this person know that you are going to respond to the situation.  But of course, don't promise what you cannot deliver.

If your attempt to defuse proves unsuccessful, let someone else deal with the angry person.  Many irate people will ventilate on the first person they speak with, but calm down as soon as a second person comes on the scene.  So, as a last resort, when nothing else is seeming to work, look for someone else to help.

3.      Clarify the situation
Paraphrase the situation back to the angry person, minus the anger.  Often that can clear up the exaggerations and the problem becomes more life-sized.

4.      Offer suggestions and/or solutions
After defusing and clarifying, you should be able to go into solution stage.  That will take many different forms based on the situation.  However, I would emphasize once again that you do not go to solution stage until you've defused.

5.      End on a positive note
After you have dealt with an angry person, please remember to have the "last word," and make certain that last word is positive.  "We appreciate you bringing this to our attention."  Or "I'm really glad you talked with me about this." 

One last word on dealing with angry people:  Even though you may have done your part correctly, you cannot control the response of the other person.  So, even if you are not able to totally calm an angry person, as long as you stay in control of yourself, you can know that you did it well.

Proverbs 15:1:  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 12:18:  Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 16:24:  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

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