Workplace Violence: TOP 5 Phrases to AVOID when Dealing with an Angry Person
When confronted with an angry customer, co-worker, employee or stranger, it is important to not only know which verbal and non-verbal communication you should use to de-escalate the situation, but also be aware of the phrases you should absolutely avoid.
The last thing you want to do is push someone’s button and trigger an emotional response which is what some of these phrases do in a tense situation.
1. Calm Down
This has become a very common phrase that most people use. Think back to the last time that someone else told you to “calm down.” Did it work? No, in fact this simple statement actually escalates the situation and often causes the angry person to shout “I AM CALM!”
2. You Said…
This is an accusatory statement and even if the angry person actually said what you are accusing them of, he/she will escalate and become defensive. It is much better to change our language and say “What I thought I heard was” or “I may have misunderstood.” It is never good to accuse an angry person of anything because it guarantees the escalation of the situation.
3. If I Were You…
There is no benefit to offering your opinion – an angry person doesn’t care what you think. They want to be heard! So instead of offering your opinion, be quiet and listen. Really listen to what they are saying, it is very clear to the other person if you're engaged or not.
4. I Know How You Feel
How could we possibly know how to they feel? We know how we feel and often project our feelings on others. When we tell someone else how they feel they know immediately that we are not listening to them.
5. I Understand
Never use this term unless you have walked a mile in their shoes. For instance, they may be incredibly stressed and in fear over something; perhaps they have a young child going through chemotherapy and maybe your child was also diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemo. In this circumstance it would be okay to say “I understand what you are going through because my daughter was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago and I know how stressful that can be.” But if you don't have the facts to back this statement up, avoid it at all costs. Using it without context will come off as patronizing.
The main thing to remember is that the angry person wants to be heard! By changing our language we can de-escalate the situation and change a possible violent outcome.
Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about my customized "Managing Angry People" training that can be delivered as in-person seminars or virtually.