Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes (part 2)

Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes (part 2)

Problem # 4: “Company policy”

Probably the two worst words that you can use when dealing with an angry person are “Company Policy”. Their use is seen as a sign that the company sees its clients as unimportant and all the same. By definition, “Company policy” means 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 astute angry person will ask to actually 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 face value by the client. However, when it is a custom, there is ALWAYS someone who has the power 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 rather than 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 even 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, however, 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 tendency in many organizations to NOT ask the client what response or solution would make them happy. It is one thing to involve 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 subject to the norms of the group. Which makes it more difficult for the client to argue with you!

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 reflect their behaviour, you understand them and show compassion. Do the same with an angry person. In many countries, there is a tendency 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. Lead the person into the future. – “Let’s go forward and see how we can resolve this and make sure that this never happens again. Will you work with me on this?

Note: The above formula is NOT a dialogue, it should be a continuous flow of communication – without any interruptions – to the client.

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

(c) Brownlee & Associates S.L., 2012


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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