Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes (part 1)

Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes (part 1)

In this article, the word “client” is used to refer to either an external client of the organization, an internal client / colleague or friend/family member.

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 key 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 – even 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. These are known as counter-intuitive reactions and the next articles are going to investigate these in detail and propose some alternative solutions.

Problem # 1: Interrupting the client.

One of the most common problems found in dealing with angry clients is the tendency of the the other person to try and interrupt them. This might be by curt 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 accordingly; 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 admit, 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.

In the next article, we will cover more elements of dealing with angry people.

Please feel free to visit our bilingual (English & Spanish) web page:

(c) Brownlee & Associates, S.L., 2011

About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
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