Perhaps the most challenging part of anyone’s job is dealing with angry people.
A 26+ year career in upper management for a world-class retail corporation based in Texas and Mexico offered many experiences to sharpen my expertise with such difficult situations. My performance reviews were rated high and commonly mentioned an ability to “extract the venom” from hostile and tough individuals.
Here are some tips I’ve used over the years to calm others down and get a strategic advantage in confrontations.
1. Try not to reveal that you are emotionally bothered if someone curses and becomes belligerent. Showing that you’re upset makes you appear weak. When discussing points you gain more credit by staying factual and focusing on their statements.
2. It is far better to stand next to someone confronting you instead of in front of them. The appearance of being a threat diminishes and helps them calm down.
3. If you can anticipate they will be argumentative, use the old trick from Benjamin Franklin. Approach them with a friendly and concerning “I need your help.” It’s a natural feeling in humans to want to help others.
No one likes the guilt of rejecting someone who needs aid. Simply ask the favor with a genuine smile and ask with their name first “John, I need your help.” It seriously increases the odds of calming them down and getting a favor accomplished.
4. Mirror them. This is a powerful Neurolinguistic Programing (NLP) technique that works very well. Rephrase what the other person says and repeat it back to them. This not only helps you understand them better, it shows them you’re listening. Just do it enough to validate them and show you are actually interested.
5. Nod your head up and down in agreement while you talk. They will begin to nod too and will start agreeing with you subconsciously.
6. If they are really angry, loud and talking fast, listen so they can vent but respond back in a more relaxed, quiet and calm tone.
Breathe slower and set the pace for a more tame conversation. Sometimes it’s important to move to a less intimidating location or take a walk together.
7. If you know someone doesn’t like you, ask to borrow a pencil or something similar. Another Ben Franklin trick, this technique relies on it being a small enough favor that they won’t say no, and it gets them to like you more.
8. Repeat their name often during the conversation. It’s a friendly gesture and helps you remember their name. People will like you more because they like hearing their name.