Several years ago, a client relayed a story that happened between her and a disgruntled customer. Bernice worked in a fast food restaurant, and she’s good at what she does. She serves customers with a smile and is always courteous.
One busy evening, a man entered the restaurant and stood at the counter. He seemed to have come in angry. After placing his order, he had to wait a few minutes. Within a very short time, he stormed up to the counter, interrupted another customer’s order, and started to berate Bernice. “I gave you my order several minutes ago and I’m still waiting. Why don’t you just commit suicide so no one else has to put up with you?!”
Bernice was in tears and the manager asked the irate man to leave, which he did without incident.
So, what can we learn from this story? Well, for one thing, we can start with the premise that humans want to feel valued. When they think that they are being ignored and made to wait, they get angry. The question then becomes what to do with that anger.
If someone is upset, ask yourself, “What emotion is that person experiencing?” This helps you empathize with that individual. Imagine how you would feel if you were in the other person’s situation. Of course, this does not mean you should allow anyone to verbally abuse you. You deserve to be treated with human dignity—even when you make a mistake.
Sometimes when a person is flying off the handle and ranting, I will speak in a consoling voice and say, “Has it been one of those days?” This is the best line I have to tactfully let the person know that he or she is yelling. You would be surprised how often the other person doesn’t even realize it. Sometimes that happens to me. When I get agitated, I raise my voice, and it is not until someone else points it out that I catch myself.
Another way to raise the awareness of the other person is to reflect back what he or she is saying. This does not mean repeating everything word for word, just summarize the main points. I have found this helps calm down the angry person because you are demonstrating that you understand and the other person feels heard.
It usually doesn’t help to be disagreeable with people who are angry. You don’t have to outright agree with them either. You can just make neutral statements, such as, “Hmm, I see,” or, “I didn’t know you felt that way.” Just remember to avoid giving advice or blaming them—even if you think the problem is all their fault. Blaming will only make them defensive.
Sarcasm is a form of aggression. Don’t use it—ever. Other forms of verbal aggression include personal insults, criticism, and bullying. The fastest way to have anger spiral out of control is to start using these tactics. If your goal is to have a civil conversation, then aggression needs to be eliminated.
Be sure your words match your facial expression. This type of congruency engenders credibility. If your words do not match your expression—such as smiling even though you are hurt and offended—then the other person will sense that mixed message and become confused. Likewise, don’t narrow your eyes with an angry glare while saying through tight lips, “It’s ok. No problem. I’m fine. No, really. I’m fine.”
Today’s Loving Suggestion: You are going to face angry people in your life sooner or later. It’s best to learn how to deal with angry people effectively. Try to understand their point of view. Let them know you understand by summarizing what you heard them say.
Once they know you have heard and understood their message, they will most likely calm down. If not and they become verbally abusive towards you, then it is time to practice a little self-love and leave the situation. You can’t win them all.
If you have followed any of the suggestions in the Sir Rennity feature, I would love to hear your stories. Please email me at email@example.com. I will keep your letters private unless you request that they be published.
The Sir Rennity feature is intended to provide gentle guidance for your life. These articles hold no intrinsic meaning. You give meaning to them based on the value you place on them, so the words here are meaningless unless you put them into practice.