Words to calm an angry person

Seven steps to calm an angry person down in ten minutes

Article by: Viola Lloyd |

If you’re in HR, one of the most stressful situations you will encounter occurs when someone is angry and you are called in to calm that person down. It’s even more challenging when that person is above your pay grade, and possibly even in the executive suite. Although you may want to avoid it, it’s your job to deal with it. 

If you follow these 7 steps, it will make these challenging and stressful situations infinitely easier. The acronym, SIFUDNO (pronounced sif-fud-no), will help you remember the process. 

Stop – As the person begins to vent, let them speak for around 30 seconds, and then calmly and firmly say, “I need to stop you for a moment.”  In all likelihood, they won’t like it – particularly if they were picking up momentum –  but will probably stop, if only to blurt back, “What?”

Important – Next tell the person, “This is much too important for me not to hear you clearly and understand exactly what happened. I’m already having a difficult time hearing you because of how you’re expressing yourself. So, can you please take it from the top and tell me exactly what happened?” People who are angry often feel that their concerns have not been made a priority.  Saying the “i” word, “important,” can help them begin to calm down. Also, reminding them that what they’re saying is important will hopefully cause them to pause and retell you what happened with less anger.

Frustrated – Let them retell you what happened without interrupting them.  When they finish, say, “Hmmm?” and then pause for 2-4 seconds.

That will cause them to feel that you are truly considering what they said. This will also be disarming (or at least confusing) to them. Next say in an inviting want-to-hear-more tone, “You sound frustrated.  What’s that about?” The reason for this is that if you tell someone they sound angry, they’re more likely to become defensive.  People are more willing to talk about being frustrated.   Also, after they reply, select any words they’ve used that have an emotional charge and say to them, “Say more about the emotional words.” This will help them get more off their chest and lessen the chance of escalating further.

Upset – After they finish telling you why they’re frustrated, respond again with, “Hmmm?” and then say, “And you also sound upset. What’s that about?” This will enable them to get the anger out and off their chest in a non-escalated fashion. Repeat the “Say more about _______” tactic above.

Disappointed – After they tell you what they’re upset about, respond again with, “Hmmm?” and then say, “And I’m also guessing that you feel very disappointed about something or someone – maybe even yourself.  What’s that about?”  There is something about expressing one’s disappointment that takes a lot of the emotion out of the conversation. Repeat the “Say more about _______” tactic above.

Now what – After people express what caused them to feel Frustrated, Upset and Disappointed, and felt their feelings heard and considered, they are often much calmer.   At that point say to them, “I can understand how you have felt frustrated about x, upset about y and disappointed about z. Given what has happened, now what?” At that point they will usually seem dumbfounded, but not angry and reply with, “What?” or “Huh?”

Outcome – After they have responded in that manner, re-say to them, “Yes, given that what you have said has happened, what is outcome you’d now like going forward? And after you tell me what that is, let’s see what we can do about achieving it.  That will of course have to depend on whether your desired outcome is realistic and doable, given everyone that it will involve.”

The reason this approach works is that when you “lean into” someone’s anger rather than take issue with it, that person will likely feel less alone in their upset. And feeling less alone by itself will have a calming effect. Dr. Mark Goulston is the Founder and Co-CEO of the Goulston Group, an executive and business advisory company and the author of Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life (Amacom, 2015).

How To Calm Someone Down: 7 Phrases That Help

We live in a world where people get mad. Sometimes we’re the reason, so we apologize. Other times, we’re present as our spouse, friend, relative, or whomever is angry. Rather than be pure witness, we want to help. Often, we tell the person “Calm down.”

You may know this but it’s important to remember: Telling an angry person to calm down is simple and direct and about as effective as eating soup with a fork. The person doesn’t want to hear it because they can’t. Their limbic system has hijacked the brain and when someone is in the fight-or-flight response, there’s no creativity, just a singular focus on the threat.

More than not getting through, the words “calm down” will most likely piss them off because the implicit message is: Your feelings are inappropriate and you can’t handle them. Invalidate, much?

“You’re usurping control and that escalates things,” says Jeff Bostic, psychiatrist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

“You’re lucky if they only tell you to, ‘Go fuck yourself,’” adds Mitch Abrams, clinical psychologist in Tinton Falls and Fords, New Jersey.

Of course, there are words to help an angry person calm down. They must be paired with proper action. Calming someone down calls on combination of using distraction and then moving into problem-solving. As no anger is the same, no approach comes with a guarantee. But by being in tune with the moment and how the two of you relate, the following phrases can get to calm.

1. “

How am I right now?”

Before anything, ask yourself this. Seeing distress can cause you to feel the same, and you want to go in calm to help regulate the other person. The question lets you do a full-body check and might remind yourself to relax your shoulders or breathe fully, but also gives you time to determine how you want to be in the situation. “It’s taking intentionality,” says Beth Kurland, clinical psychologist and author of The Transformative Power of 10 Minutes. And now that you’re present …

2. Nothing.

As in, say nothing. Your spouse or friend is running at 80 miles per hour and needs time to ramp down. That comes from being able to vent, i.e., not getting interrupted. Just listen, and more than the actual words, try to hear the emotions under them. The person gets to have their say and that’s all someone wants. “There’s an immediate softening when you’re feeling heard,” Kurland says. “It creates possibilities.”

3. “Is it ridiculously cold right now?”

This question is off-center to make the person say, “What?,” but it’s also grounded in the shared moment. You could just as well ask, “What are your plans for the holidays?” or “How’s your mom?” It creates a slight pause for them to consider the answer, Bostic says.

Abrams adds that you could even try, “You want to get a burrito?,” if you sense the person isn’t completely red-lining. Whatever you do, when you lower the intensity, even for a few seconds, it’s hard to return to that level. “It takes energy to be angry,” he says.

4. “That’s so frustrating.”

If the temperature has gone down, you can move into empathizing. Avoid “I” or “You” because they steal the spotlight or put the other person on their heels. Staying in the general, third person lets you share and identify “without piling on,” Bostic says.

But one warning: Don’t say, “Those people do suck” or “Yeah, you should do that.” That’s pouring gasoline on the fire. “Validate without encouraging them,” Abrams says.

5. “I wonder if it would help to take a walk and get some coffee?”

You’re leaving the scene and offering something else to do. Keep the options limited, on the scale of two not 10, so it’s not overwhelming and the person has the final choice. “You’re imposing your frontal lobe on them, but doing it nicely,” Bostic says.

And while the brain doesn’t always multitask well, it does all right when one activity is familiar and takes little thought. Whatever you do is a transition, not necessarily the final solution. “It’s something to get them out of this rut,” he says.

6. “How will that work?”

Even after someone has calmed down, they still might fume, “I want to hit the guy” or “I want to ruin that company.” You respond with, “I get it,” “Totally understand,” or “Don’t blame you,” followed with the above. You keep up the validation, because no one ever got in trouble for feeling like hitting someone. It’s acting on it where the trouble starts, Abrams says.

But then get them to think about consequences and ultimately, “What do you want to do?” It’s building emotional literacy, of not being afraid of feelings and realizing that anger can be motivating if it’s calibrated correctly. “You can be pissed, just not so pissed that you can’t do what you want to do,” he says.

7. “Shut up.”

This is a higher risk option to make the other person say, “Huh?” You’re redirecting the anger onto you and saying that it’s okay for it to go there and that you’re able to take the person to a safe place. But it’s a ballsy move and it hinges on credibility. You need to have a strong relationship and be viewed as someone who takes on hard issues.

Whatever course you take and words you choose, ultimately, they need to be authentic. Anything else will be blown off. “Know yourself and your limitations,” Abrams says. “It might be good advice but it’s not a costume I can wear.”

This article was originally published on

How to quickly and reliably calm an angry person

Gazeta.Ru has found out how to quickly calm an angry person with the help of an effective psychological technique without dropping your authority.

“An effective anger management strategy is based on the need to focus on the angry person. He should be given the opportunity to vent his anger and at the same time try to correct the state of affairs that led to an outburst of rage, says Jack Schafer, professor of psychology, former special agent, author of Turning on the charm according to the methods of the special services. “This approach breaks the vicious circle and allows you to resolve a critical situation without ruining the relationship.” nine0003

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It's true that if, in the course of settling a conflict, you manage to elevate your opponent in his own eyes, then you can not only calm him down, but even please him. And here's how you can do it.

1. Do not try to explain anything to an angry person: he is not capable of thinking sensibly. nine0015

Anger triggers the fight or flight response in the body, which prepares the person physically and mentally for conflict. At the moment of this reaction, the body reacts instinctively to the threat.

As the danger grows, a person's ability to think rationally completely disappears. Angry people behave the same way because anger is a reaction to a real or perceived threat. They speak and act without reasoning, and the degree of cognitive impairment depends on the intensity of the anger. nine0003

The more angry a person is, the less inclined he is to process information logically. In this state, people do not notice the obvious, because their minds are clouded.

2. Give him time.

It takes about 20 minutes for an angry person to calm down and regain the ability to think clearly. He will not accept any explanations, solutions and ways to resolve the conflict until he again masters his mind.

3. Offer a simple solution right away. nine0015

People always want to feel like they are in control. An angry person is looking for the lost meaning and order in the world. The inability to return to the usual track causes confusion, and confusion is expressed in anger.

Saying an explanation for such behavior or voicing the problem often helps to restore the previous picture of the world and cool down anger.

4. If the simple solution doesn't work, formulate a "compassionate statement.

When an angry person hears that you understand him, at first it causes him surprise and confusion. If sympathy is expressed unexpectedly, it may even arouse suspicion. But if you reinforce your words, then it becomes difficult for a person not to appreciate the participation of the opponent. Empathy quickly leads to trust. nine0003

5. Assess the emotional state of the interlocutor.

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It will be very helpful to express sympathy without being too false. Be empathic and learn to discern the nuances: anger can consist of different emotions (resentment, rage, sadness, wounded pride, etc.). You can use this to direct the person to the solution you need. nine0003

Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal responses. Watch for the slightest changes in facial expressions.

Listen for voice modulations and the use of certain words expressing emotions.

6. Let the angry person let off steam.

Most likely, it will not be possible to blow off steam at once. Remember that the first discharge is usually the strongest. It allows a person to relieve tension, get rid of most of the anger and enter into a dialogue. Subsequent times are less intense, especially if no wood is thrown into the furnace of anger. nine0003

After each discharge there is a natural pause that should be filled with a sympathetic statement.

An angry person will throw out more anger, although the intensity of the outbursts will decrease with each time. This must be done until the anger subsides completely. A sigh, a long exhalation, hunched shoulders and a lowered look indicate that the anger has dried up.

7. Make a guess.

Guessing directs an angry person's thinking towards conflict resolution. It must be formulated in such a way that the interlocutor could not deviate from the course of action imposed on him. nine0003

The ability to make assumptions requires the skill of active listening, since the assumption made directs the power of anger towards a conflict resolution acceptable to both parties.

Formulate the suggestion in such a way that it is difficult for the person to refuse the recommendation.

Here is how, for example, you can apply this technique in a work situation:

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Manager: I expected your report to be ready this morning. Your behavior is unacceptable (anger) .
Subordinate: I couldn't finish the report because I didn't get the data from the sales department. They were promised to be sent within the hour (simple explanation) .

Chief: This is not an excuse. I had to go to the sales department and demand the data. You must understand how important it was for me to receive the report this morning. I have an appointment with a client this afternoon. I don't know what to do now (rejects proposed explanation) .
Slave: You are upset because the client is expecting a report this afternoon (sympathetic statement) .

Head: Yes. You put me in an awkward position (steam release) .
Subordinate: You are disappointed because you expected to receive my report in the morning (sympathetic statement) .

Leader: Exactly! That's the whole point (stoops and sighs; steam finally released) .
Subordinate: I'll go down to the sales department right away and finish my report in an hour. Most likely, I will have time to give it to you before the arrival of the client (guess) .

Leader: Good. See what you can do (anger subsided completely) .

“Some people feel they are sacrificing their power and credibility if they use gradual nudge rather than intimidation,” says Marvin Carlins, professor of management at the University of South Florida, Ph.D. special services methods. “But due to the fact that the person got rid of anger, he agrees to submit voluntarily. nine0003

And this not only increases your credibility, but also reduces the likelihood that an angry person will get even more angry and show even more insubordination.

By allowing the person to let off steam, you increase the likelihood that he will agree with your decision and at the same time feel that you have treated him with due respect. You can't think of a better outcome for the confrontation.

Difficult conversation: how a call center can calm an angry customer

Difficult situations arise in any business. If you are looking to maintain customer loyalty, you need to know how a contact center can help you achieve this

If something goes wrong with customers, the first reaction is usually to contact the contact center. Often, the reasons for dissatisfaction are related to areas of the company's activities that are not directly dependent on the contact center employee. However, even in this case, the specialist must do everything possible to satisfy the client.

Poor service at the point of sale

The contact center is the link between the customer and the company. Often, the further attitude of the consumer to the brand depends on how quickly and clearly the contact center employee helps to solve the problem. At the same time, the contact center should not step back, separate itself from other stages of the customer journey (customer path). For example, if a client has an unpleasant situation at a point of sale or service, then the contact center employee must show that the company will fix everything and make sure that this does not happen again. nine0003

What to do?

First of all, you should apologize for the situation and find out the details. Show understanding, let the client understand that he is important to the company. The operator can best work out the situation if he has complete information about the client: how often and what kind of purchases he makes, how often he contacts the company and on what issues. This information will allow you to offer a suitable bonus that will smooth out the negative impression.

Recently, a hardware and electronics store encountered a negative review from a regular customer. He had a promotional code, which at first he could not activate on the site, and then in the sales salon. With this question, he turned to the contact center. First, the operator figured out the reason and helped the client resolve the issue with the order, and then studied the client's purchase history and offered a bonus subscription for accessories that would be interesting and useful to him in the future. nine0003

Problems with transaction or system operation

Users are used to information being loaded instantly, and when the system fails, they immediately call and report a problem. This often happens with banks and payment systems when, for example, a transaction fails. Often, customers expect an immediate response. For them, this is always a critical issue: if they cannot withdraw money or pay for services, they cannot plan further actions.

What to do?

The contact center should be able to verify the client to identify the cause of the problem in order to help him here and now. This allows the operator to complete an operation that was not performed automatically. If it takes time to figure out and fix a problem with the system, then, if possible, find an alternative solution for the client. For example, offer to conduct a transaction through a contact center, provide temporary access to a service that will help the client, or recommend the nearest branch where he can go. nine0003

Incorrect information on the company website or help systems

Sometimes information on the Internet lags behind the actual changes. The most typical example is the lack of communication between operations and marketing. Some are responsible for opening or closing new sites, while others post information about this on public platforms. As a result, the client receives incorrect information, comes to a non-existent office and immediately contacts the contact center for clarification. There is another thing: the sales department, logistics and contact center work in different CRM systems. This often causes confusion: the request of a regular customer not to call before 10 am is not transferred to the logistics department, the contact center cannot promptly warn the customer about a delivery delay, and so on. nine0003

What to do?

Of course, this is a negative scenario, and the company must ensure that information is updated simultaneously across all channels. Otherwise, a client who has received a negative experience even at the stage of getting to know the company will most likely not want to continue further interaction.

The formation of a single information space, a single CRM is a key task to prevent such situations. First of all, it is important to make sure that the contact center is one of the first to receive updates. If there is still incorrect information on any of the channels, it is important to apologize for the inconvenience and provide the correct information. After the call, it is necessary to escalate the problem to the responsible departments so that the error is immediately corrected. In nine cases out of ten, the client will definitely check whether changes have been made. nine0003

If incorrect information has already caused inconvenience to the client, for example, he did not find a sales office at the specified address, the contact center can arrange express delivery of goods or field service so that the person does not waste his time anymore.

Delivery problems

Companies often use external courier services. Occasionally there may be an issue on their side that results in a delay in delivery. Sometimes it is triggered by high demand around the holidays, during a sale, or because of the hype at a new product launch. During this period, companies are faced with a flurry of negativity from buyers. Despite the fact that the problem is on the side of the courier service, the contact center will solve it, since all customers will contact it there. nine0003

What to do?

In the event of an increase in demand and, as a result, the number of calls, customer support should have a clear scenario of action. A good contact center knows about the peaks of activity and plans its work in accordance with them. In anticipation of this, it is necessary to clarify and correct information on delivery times together with the courier service and inform the client at the time of placing the order about possible delays. This will reduce the possible negativity on his part. nine0003

Even in a day-to-day situation, the contact center should have the authority to resolve issues with the delivery service directly. In emergency cases, this will allow the operator to reassign the courier or adjust the delivery time. Let's say that the client urgently needs to change the time interval on the day of receiving the order. The operator must be able to immediately find out where the courier is and contact him. If for some reason the courier service cannot cope, then additional resources must be involved. Moreover, all this should happen in real time, and not after the words “we will contact you later” or “the courier will call you back.” nine0003

Force majeure

Flight cancellation due to bad weather, loss of property, theft and other force majeure circumstances are beyond the control of the contact center. However, it is the customer's first point of contact. Of course, the contact center is powerless if the passenger's plans are frustrated, but this is not a reason to refuse him assistance.

What to do?

In these situations, it is important to be empathetic and provide the client with as much information as possible on how to proceed. For example, in the event of a flight delay or cancellation, the contact center should have information when the issue is decided, where to turn for help on the spot and what compensation the client can expect. To do this, the contact center reviews the client's history or promptly contacts a company representative for additional information. Responding quickly and reassuring the client is the key to success. nine0003

Another example: a passenger forgot his item in a taxi. The first reaction is to call the service contact center and find out the driver’s phone number. The contact center operator is not entitled to provide personal data of employees. He himself must immediately contact the driver and find out if there are things forgotten by the client in the car and where they can be picked up. Ideally, the delivery of his things to his home should be organized for the client.

How to work with a client

Be prepared for any difficult situation

First, the company's management, together with the contact center, must create a knowledge base that will contain detailed information about the product and responsible persons. In closed organizations, for example, in a bank, you need to know exactly which of the representatives of this organization you need to contact in order to quickly solve the problem. More open companies, such as retail companies, give the contact center more freedom of action. The operator can offer a dissatisfied customer an additional discount or free shipping without the need to agree with the company. nine0003

In any case, the contact center takes responsibility for resolving conflicts with dissatisfied customers and must provide feedback. To maintain customer loyalty, it is necessary to record and analyze all information about critical situations, this will allow us to determine the timing and possibilities of resolving such requests in the future.

Secondly, you need to determine in advance what bonuses a contact center specialist can offer to a client. In some companies, the customer's list of critical situations is obvious, and a list of possible solutions can be drawn up in advance to resolve the problems that have arisen. For more complex cases, it is necessary to involve a team of professionals who will help formulate an action plan for resolving non-standard conflicts based on the needs of the client. nine0003

Track customer history

The contact center is a trusted source of knowledge about customer needs. To increase loyalty, develop motivational programs and lists of benefits, it is necessary to collect and transfer information to the business about customer complaints and wishes.

The company must clearly see the entire journey of the client: from the moment when he gets acquainted with the product, and to the decision whether he will stay with the company or not. The most important thing is to show the client that the information that he gave to the contact center employee is not left without attention, his problem is being worked on and that a repeat of such a situation is excluded. nine0003

Adapt to the client

Clients react differently to critical situations: someone starts yelling at the operator, someone cries, someone uses foul language.

Learn more