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