Worked for Her: My trick for calming angry people

Carol Milkman, Office Manager for the City of Staunton in Virginia shares how she cools things off when tempers flare.

When I came into my job, I had no idea how often I’d have to deal with people who are upset and negative.

But whether it’s a vendor distressed over a payment or an employee who’s frustrated with our travel policy, I deal with angry people on the regular.

So I knew I needed an approach that would help me bring people back down to earth when they started getting fired up.

And after many heated situations with many people, I’ve found an approach that works.

2 easy steps

Now when I’m dealing with an angry person, here’s what I do:

First, I let them say their piece. I sit back, listen and let them get it out.

(Sometimes, that’s enough. They just want to get their anger out and are much calmer after.)

But if the person is still fired up after that, I repeat what they said back to them. And nine times out of 10, their anger subsides.

When I repeat things back, it lets them know they’ve been heard and that I understand where they’re coming from. They realize I’m not working against them. I’m on their side and want to help.

This approach has helped me turn some potentially ugly situations into calm discussions.

And once people are calm, we can problem solve and find a solution.

(Carol Milkman, Office Manager, City of Staunton, Staunton, VA)