Thursday, April 8, 2010

7 Steps for Dealing with Irate People

How do you get an unruly parent, student, coworker, stranger, or random person to calm down?  Great question!  Let me give you a hypothetical example to use as a case study.

A parent starts to loudly, yet indirectly, cuss out coaches because their child is not performing well in a particular sport.  The coach simply ignores the parent and continues to praise the child for their improving performance.  The parent begins to cuss louder and with more frequency.  No one responds, they drop their final "F" bomb and leave.  Child is embarrassed, people are shocked, and bystanders wonder what happened.

What the hypothetical coach would have liked to do in this hypothetical situation is calmly explain to the irate parent that their child chose to participate in that area/position and all coach has done is encourage their child to get better at the sport they have chosen.  However, this probably would have urinated this parent off even more, increasing the size of the scene that was being made.

Arguing back or making a sarcastic remark certainly would have added fuel to the parent's fire.  Basically any statement made to this parent would have been like dropping Mentos into a diet coke.

So what is the right thing to do?  Here are 7 ways to deal with unruly and irate people.

1.  Be cool.  Someone has to be calm in that situation and that person should be you.

2.  Assess the situation.  Do you know this person?  Are you ever going to see them again?  Are they harming someone?  How many people are their actions affecting?  Are you responsible for their behavior?  You may handle the situation differently depending on these factors.

3.  Speak softly yet strongly.  Have you ever noticed that when one person is whispering on the phone the other person naturally does too?  Make sure to get their attention but speak quietly as to not embarrass them in front of a crowd.  They are doing perfectly fine with that on their own.  If you embarrass them, they will feel the need to show you up.  At the same time, speak with purpose.  In other words, speak softly like a protective lion rather than quietly like a mouse.

4.  Be brief.  Irate and unruly people are not in a mental state to have a civil conversation.  Don't bother.

5.  Do whats best for everyone involved.  If the scene is being made in front of a crowd simply ask the unruly person to leave.  If they do and drop a few more "f" bombs on the way, be thankful its over.  If they don't, call security or the police to have them escorted off the premises.

6.  Follow up.  If you know the person, contact them the next day when they have had time to sleep on it.  Explain to them the inappropriateness of their behavior and let them know that it will not be tolerated. 

7.  Follow through.  If you said it will not be tolerated and it happens again, make sure there are consequences so they know that you make promises and not just threats.

How do you deal with unruly and irate people?  Very carefully!

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