Diffusing Anger

Veins popping. Eyes bulging. Heart pounding. Eyes glaring. Vision narrowing. Hands sweating. These are just some of the symptoms felt during anger. The emotional response is often associated with danger. However, it is a normal, and sometimes necessary, response to the environment. Anger helps us in many ways; it:

  • releases adrenaline to numb pain
  • social regulator
  • communicates a message
  • can help a person obtain a goal

When dealing with someone else’s anger, however, you only get to control how you respond. You cannot make a person feel anything. You cannot make a person do anything. Control over anyone else is an illusion. So, what do you do to deal with that angry spouse, customer, boss or child? Think of a balloon filled with anger. To deflate the balloon, it requires specific steps. Below are 5 sequential tips to respond to an angry customer:

  1. Respond with a genuine apology and a desire to resolve the issue. (“You’re right. Clearly, this has upset you. I am going to make it a priority to get to the bottom of this.”) Historically, the apology can make the difference on whether or not the issue goes to court.
  2. Go into cyborg mode. Remove your emotionally-charged voice pitch and be more automated. (“It is annoying to have to wait so long for a response; any person would be upset, given this situation.”)
  3. Be vulnerable and ask the difficult question. (“Have I done anything to personally offend you?”) It is important that you wait for the response; silence can be powerful at this point. Allow him or her to respond.
  4. Be empathetic. (“I imagine that this has been very difficult for you to wait so long for an answer. I think I would be upset, too.”) This can be a challenge but remember it builds rapport and trust. More importantly, it helps you connect with their pain or frustration. This one tip can make an enormous difference in future potential referrals. It demonstrates that you care and that you truly understand the person and the situation.
  5. Show appreciate for the feedback. (“Thank you for letting me know about your frustration. By bringing this to our attention, we are better able to meet the needs of our customers in the future.”)

~Lisa Schiro, M.S., LPC-5494

Owner/Operator of K-Counseling & Anxiety Treatment, LLC