How can we control our minds angrily

4 effective strategies to instantly calm angry customers

Anyone who works in service will sooner or later face an angry customer. Spontaneous stress reactions are the cause of most service disasters.

The internet is full of videos depicting outbursts of anger from customers. The angry McRib lady and United Breaks Guitars are my favorites. Such videos are often entertaining, but can result in a gigantic loss for the companies concerned.

If you don't know how to deal with angry customers, your case could become the next YouTube "hit".

How an angry customer ticks

A behavior too understand is always the first step in dealing with it. Let's take a close look at what's going on in the mind of an angry person. Why do we get angry at all?

After Recalibrational Theory anger is a "sense of negotiation." It arises when we judge a situation to be unfair. We get angry and show an "angry face" (lowered eyebrows, pursed lips, widened nostrils) to let the other person know that we will not let their insolent behavior get away.

By getting the potential Violence costs flaunt the situation, we put ourselves in a better negotiating position.

Molly Edmonds explains the physical anger response. Anger is a stress response that forces us into “fight or flight” mode. Adrenaline and noradrenaline flood the body. The Amygdala The part of the brain that controls emotions is going crazy - pushing you to act.

Most of us, however, will not start a fight if someone jostles at the checkout in the supermarket. This is due to another physical response to anger: increased blood circulation in the frontal lobe, which controls our logical thinking.

But the two alerted areas of the brain, the amygdala (fight / flight) and the frontal lobe (reason), usually quickly equalize each other. Even when you feel heated, your voice of reason whispers to you: "He is not worth it…"

The angry customers who vent their tension are the ones who react before mental balance is restored. Or those who made the calculating decision that only a show of power can resolve your cause.

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According to customer experience expert Ruby Newell-Legner, less than 4% of dissatisfied customers will share their displeasure with you. So 96% will keep your anger to themselves and 91% will never come back.

It's important to internalize that. However, your angry customers are also a source of development and a way to make things right.

Keep calm and show compassion

In situations with angry customers - in interpersonal conflicts in general, the first reaction is usually the first thing to go wrong. When someone attacks us, we instinctively become stressed and switch to defense mode - fight or flight. But that's exactly the wrong approach if your goal is de-escalation rather than drama.

Zen Habits is a blog that I recommend to all service employees who are frequently exposed to stressful situations. A better response is suggested here: the Zen mind. Which means something like “letting go of the art”.

In this mental state you are aware that it is not the event itself that is causing the stress. It's not the angry customer, your coworkers, or your boss. No it is reaction the event that triggers stress - the fear of not being able to cope with the situation, of not being able to calm the customer down.

This fear of a negative outcome stems from the desire to steer things in a certain direction. The stress doesn't come from a situation; it comes from you. When you break away from the idea that you need to save the situation, you can let go of anxiety and stress.

That doesn't mean that you don't care about the customer. It is simply the realization that you can only do your best. Let go of responsibility for the outcome. Focus on the execution.

The Zen spirit, however, is easily mistaken for indifference - a view many service workers have.

A good service agent knows how to combine Zen spirit and compassion. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits defines compassion as "feeling and understanding the pain of others and wanting to reduce their suffering."

The best attitude toward angry or annoying people is empathy: the knowledge that you would act the same if you were them. With their background, experiences, and genes, your behavior would be exactly the same.

Understanding creates empathy and compassion for even the greatest villain.


Practice this attitude the next time you find yourself in a situation like this.

Calm down by asking questions

Defense is the standard answer to anger. Usually it consists of the argument as to why the customer's anger is unfounded. But there is no point in arguing with someone whose amygdala is electrified. Your counterpart is in this state physically unable to follow his mind.

Various studies have shown that even a relaxed mind is almost impossible to change. We are not the rational beings we think we are. The " Affect heuristics ”Explains that objective facts alone are meaningless to us. We make sense by running the facts through our feeling software, which is how we form our opinions. Disney's " Everything is upside down ”Sums it up pretty well.

What has been shown to make us more open-minded is when we see ourselves positively. Studies of self-affirmation conditioning showed that participants who were asked to think positively about themselves were more open to facts.

What does this mean for dealing with angry customers?

On the one hand, that you will get stuck with rational arguments. It is hardly possible to change the mindset of a relaxed person. So with an upset person, we don't even need to start. The only thing that will spark discussion in your angry customer is even more anger - because they don't feel understood or taken seriously.

So your first priority should be to reassure your customer. Deal with the person first, then the problem.

The Questioning technique is a good remedy for this. Sincerely ask the customer to describe their problem in detail without your evaluating it. Use follow-up questions to get a clear picture of the situation.

This simple technique kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, your active listening will make the customer feel that they are being taken seriously. That alone will dampen his fighting mood.

On the other hand, speaking and explaining helps the customer to reconnect with his rational way of thinking. It is not possible to communicate in a targeted manner when the mood is heated; while your customer explains the situation, he will automatically calm down.

Then you can also take advantage of the fact that people are more open when they have a positive self-image:

Thank you for letting us know about this issue. We appreciate customers who do this so that such incidents do not go unnoticed and become a nuisance for other customers. They help us to offer a better service.

A little tactical ego petting ensures that the customer feels good and thus improves the chances of openness and understanding.

The apology

The customer might be upset for reasons beyond your control. A very human response would be to make it clear to the customer that you are not part of the problem:

I have nothing to do with it, something went wrong with my colleagues in accounting.

But a service employee is the face of the company - his eyes, ears, nose and mouth. When you speak, speak as Deputy Of your company. So it doesn't matter if you have something to do with the dissatisfaction. If the customer doesn't hear an apology from you, they won't get it from anyone.

Does that mean you should always apologize to an angry customer? Yes, but there is an important side note.

The customer can be angry because your company made a mistake. If so, an apology on behalf of your company is appropriate. But sometimes the customer's anger is inappropriate.

A customer might complain that their brand new smartphone didn't survive the spin cycle in the washing machine. Obviously, this is not your company's fault. In this case, the excuse might look like this:

I'm sorry your phone stopped working. I understand you are upset about this.

You apologize for the situation, but you do not accept the blame.

The “because justification”

In the 1970s, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer conducted an insightful behavioral experiment in a public library. In doing so, she tested the willingness of people to admit someone in the queue at the copier. The ignorant study participants were asked three slightly different questions.

  • Variation 1:“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. Could I use the Xerox machine? ” 60% of people gave their consent - albeit certainly with a fiery amygdala.
  • Variation 2:“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. Could I use the Xerox machine because I'm pressed for time? " 94% of people gave their consent, which already shows the power of “because justification”. However, the really interesting findings come from the third variant.
  • Variation 3:“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. Could I use the Xerox machine because I need to make a few copies? " A remarkable 93% of the people gave their consent - almost as many as with the more or less legitimate reason for pushing ahead. This is the effect of the “justification because”: explanation, even without any logical conclusion, generates consent.

So how can we take advantage of this when dealing with an angry customer? For one thing, it can be trouble avoid . When delivering bad news, a supplied statement will curb the release of toxic emotions in the brain.

The because justification can also be used when you've just reassured the customer with the questioning technique and apologizing. A solid one Because will make it difficult for the customer to switch back to their anger mode.

Your customers are likely to be more critical than the average sensitive bookworm in line at the copier; therefore, you should come up with a logical justification. There are few things more frustrating than hearing "because these are our rules". If the rules don't make sense, you will lose a customer.

This is where the importance of well-informed employees comes into play. A service rep with a deep understanding of the “why” behind the company's policy is in a better position to pacify the disgruntled customer. And also knows which rules can be bent and which are irrevocable.

You won't be able to get every complaining customer on board. Some people get lost in their anger, others are marked by many bad experiences. No combination of well-intentioned words and flattery will save them.

Even so, these tips will help you even out your communication with disgruntled customers and get many of them on board.