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How to Deal With an Angry Person?

How to Deal With an Angry Person?

Whether you encounter an angry person in your family, workplace or in another setting, there are things you can do to help yourself. Understand that long-term exposure to an angry person has its consequences.

When you encounter an angry person, realize that you are likely the whipping boy for something that you had nothing to do with. I remember a person who, when angry, stomped loudly going up stairs. Next thing someone would be yelled at for some innocuous reason. Once the person let out their anger, they pretended that nothing had happened. They showed absolutely no understanding of the harm that they had just caused.

So – what can you do? First of all be safe. If there appears to be no physical danger, then use the following steps.

  1. If you are in a situation where you can just walk away or hang up the phone, then that might be the best solution.
  2. If the angry person is someone close to you with whom you have repeated encounters, you may tell them that you are happy to talk with them when they have calmed down. Then walk away.
  3. If you are in a situation where a customer is angry, put on your customer service hat and listen. Once the angry person feels heard, you are likely to know what to do next.
    • If the angry outburst is due to a mistake or fault of your business, then apologize.
    • If you can take corrective measures, then tell the customer exactly what will be done to correct the error, by whom, and by when.
    • If you don’t know how to make things right, ask the customer, “What can we do to make it right?” If that is within your power to grant, then make it so, or propose something similar.
    • If there is nothing that can be done, at least empathize with the customer for the trouble or inconvenience that was created. Often a customer wants to be truly listened to and their complaint heard. That may suffice.

Why this Matters:

We all deal with angry persons from time to time. When an angry person feels truly listened to, often the person will be impressed with the non-confrontational way they were dealt with. If it is a business situation, you may just have won customer loyalty. If it is another encounter, you may have just diffused a volatile situation.

Taking it Further:

Some people, especially in close relationships, use anger, sarcasm, cynicism, or put downs to control and to get their way. This is unhealthy behavior and results in unhealthy relationships. In family situations you will need to be strong and create healthy boundaries. For further reading I suggest the “Boundaries” books by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.

In interpersonal work situations, if you can’t solve the problem yourself, you may need to seek help from personnel. For further reading I suggest the book from Harvard Business Press Pocket Mentor: “Managing Difficult Interactions – Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges”.


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