Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes (part 3)

Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes (part 3)
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.

Problem # 7: Saying “Calm down”, etc.
Many people think that when dealing with an angry person, the best way to calm them down is to use one of the following techniques because they are “Logical” & “SHOULD” work!:

1.    Say things like “Calm down”, Relax, etc., thinking that that will actually make people do as they say, Reflect on how many times YOU have said this and what the actual result  was! Or how you feel when you are angry and someone says “Calm down!” to you! The most common response is an INCREASE in the level of anger!

2,     Think that if you are cool, calm & collected, they will change & become calm, too. As mentioned previously, people who are angry do NOT listen but function on emotions. The perception of someone being calm while they are angry only makes the angry person angrier because they feel that the calm person really doesn’t understand why they are angry or, what is worse, that they do not care.

Solution: Match & Lead – A Counter-intuitive response.
While it will seem counter-intuitive, many studies show that the best way to deal with an angry person is to literally reflect their communication: Copy EXACTLY what they do and immediately bring  down the intensity of the communication. If the person is shouting, repeat their shouted phrase at the same volume, tone and timbre as them and IMMEDIATELY take the volume, tone and timbre down to a conversational level and continue speaking. This works equally well in face-to-face conversations as well as in telephone calls.

Problem # 8: Using Negative orders.
Do NOT think of a pink elephant.
Now, what are you thinking about?
Probably a pink elephant!
It is a recognized psychological fact that for the human brain to understand a negative order, it must first understand (& do) the positive. When you say “Don’t get angry” the other person has to get angry to understand the negative order. Saying “Don’t shout” = The other person has to shout again to understand the negative. This can lead to a very unproductive cycle of behaviour.

Solution: Always use positive language.
Instead of saying: “Don’t worry”, it is much more productive to say something like “Trust me, we will find a solution.” Or “Don’t touch me!” becomes “Keep your hands off me!”, etc.
Problem # 9: Limiting the time dedicated to dealing with the client.
In some organizations, especially in Call Centres, etc., there is a maximum amount of time that can be dedicated to a client and the staff are working “against the clock” to get rid of the caller and move on to the next call, person or problem. There are even certain organizations where the staff are penalized for taking too long to deal with a client!

Solution: Dedicate enough time to solve THEIR problem.
As mentioned previously, people who are angry are emotional and much more sensitive to implicit or unspoken nuances in communication. If they feel that their interlocutor is try to get rid of them rapidly, it exacerbates their anger.

The final part of this article will appear in May, 2012.

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

(c) Brownlee & Associates, S.L., 1999. This material may not be copied, reprinted or used without the prior written permission of Brownlee & Associates, S.L.

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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