As those of you who’ve meandered over to my About Page may know, I spent almost five years of my life working as a dealer in Las Vegas. I dealt Black Jack, Roulette, Baccarat and Pai-Gow Poker on the strip, and it was simultaneously one of the best and worst times of my life. It was great because I had lots of adventures and it was horrible because I wasn’t yet able to handle the immense vibrational fluctuations of the city of sin. Spikes of intense happiness are mixed with huge heaps of despair and desperation. To someone who is sensitive to energy and hasn’t yet learned any protective mechanisms, it was difficult, to say the least. But one of the reasons that stint as a casino dealer was valuable, was because it taught me a great deal about how to deal with people, especially when they’re upset.
When you combine copious amounts of free alcohol with the fact that the casinos are set up to take as much of your money as possible (seriously, do not ask me how to win), you get some really angry people. And, as the person who just happens to snatch said money off the table, the dealer tends to get all the blame. You develop a thick skin rather quickly, but you also learn how to calm people down, and get them back to having a good time. Today, I’d like to share some of those lessons with you, along with the vibrational knowledge I gained later.
So, you’re faced with someone who’s upset, maybe even screaming and cursing at you. What do you do now?
DO’s and DO NOT’s:
- DO NOT tell the person to “calm down”. When someone is upset, it’s generally because they’re feeling some degree of powerlessness and they’re railing against it. By telling them to calm down, you’re invalidating their feelings, essentially saying that they shouldn’t be feeling the way they are, which translates into “you’re bad/wrong/inappropriate”. This will only add to their sense of powerlessness, causing them push harder and will increase their angry response.
- DO let them vent. Don’t interrupt and don’t try to get them to stop right away. Let them explain what they are upset about and really listen. Assume that they have a valid complaint and treat it as such, even if it turns out to be ridiculous. This step alone will go a long way towards calming someone down. Usually, once they’ve vented, people are much more reasonable and less emotionally volatile. If they are just yelling without stating the issue “You people are idiots! This is an outrage! Etc.”, one technique that works really well is to stay very calm and polite, infuse your voice with compassion and ask “Why are you so angry?” If you can convey that you actually care about what their problem is, they will tell you. What you’re essentially saying is “I care about your pain and I’m here to listen.” Use the right tone of voice and demeanor and it works wonders every time, even when the upset party is drunk (trust me).
- DO agree with their right to be angry. You don’t have to agree with their point of view in order to do this. Everyone has the right to their emotions, and everyone has the right to be angry. By saying things like “I can understand why you feel that way”, “You have a perfect right to be angry”, or even “You’re right”, you will actually help to calm them down. They want to be heard and they want to take back some control (to combat the powerlessness). By giving them the sense of being heard, you are helping them get back some of that control.
- DO NOT dismiss their anger or their issue, just because it’s not something that you wouldn’t have gotten upset about. Try to see it from their point of view. Again, they have a right to be angry. Just because whatever triggered them doesn’t trigger you, doesn’t mean that their feelings aren’t valid. Imagine the next time you’re angry, someone simply invalidates your feelings by judging your reasons to be ridiculous. That wouldn’t exactly get you to calm down, would it?
- DO NOT take their anger or reaction personally. They are not angry with you. They are looking at the situation in a way that feels bad (i.e., they are looking at it in a way that makes them feel powerless). They may be attributing it to you or the situation you’re both in, because you’re right in front of them, but in no case, IN NO CASE, does it actually have anything to do with you or anyone but them. This isn’t the time to make them see that, of course, but it will help you to keep in mind that the issue they’re reacting to is theirs. DO NOT let yourself get emotionally affected by them.
- DO stay calm. Try to get into a space of compassion, and let your voice and demeanor show that. Whatever you do, DO NOT raise your voice in return. You will only escalate their anger. Keep your vibration high (stay in a good feeling place), and address them from that point of view. What you’re doing is holding a space for them in a high vibration that they don’t have access to in that moment. But by holding this space, you are assisting them in raising their own vibration and finding a better feeling place. As long as you don’t let them drag you down into a negative emotion, you can hold this space for them. Read Why Having Empathy is the Last Way to Help Someone for a deeper explanation on this point.
- DO mirror their statements or concerns back to them, but generalize them a bit. This will diffuse the intensity of their concerns. For example, a player in a casino may have ranted “you people took my money!”, to which I might’ve responded “You know what? You’re so right. I hate losing money, too. Losing money sucks.” I would’ve elevated his statement that we, specifically had taken his money, to the idea of losing money in general. In a restaurant, a waitress might soothe a dissatisfied guest by agreeing that she, too, hates going to a nice restaurant and being disappointed by the meal, instead of focusing on this particular meal or restaurant. General statements will be a lot easier for you to agree with, as well.
- DO let the person know that they have some choices and offer some next steps. Again, the actual issue is almost always some sense of powerlessness, so taking away all choices (by restraining someone physically for example, telling them to suck it up or screaming at them to get out), is only going to make them angrier. “Why don’t we sit down and talk about it? I’d love to hear what you have to say. And if we can’t resolve this between us, then we can do XYZ”, will let them know that you’ll listen as well as giving them the next steps. They’re not trapped, there are options and steps that can be taken. For example, if you’re an employee, and customer is irate, you can offer to let them speak with the manager, or explain what steps will be taken to resolve the issue. Often simply laying out what will be done goes a long way towards appeasing an angry person. A helpdesk employee might explain what the possible causes of the problem could be and exactly who they’re going to call next to get the issue resolved. When someone is angry, they want to know that they’re being taken seriously. Divulging the next steps and giving them options gives them this impression as well as giving them back some power.
- DO offer some kind of compromise. There’s nothing worse than getting truly upset about something and then having to back down and go way empty handed. That feels like defeat. You were wronged, but the issue wasn’t resolved and there’s nothing you can do. Issues can’t always be resolved. At the casino, giving people their money back wasn’t an option, but the floor man could give them a free meal at the buffet. At a restaurant, a bad meal can’t be uneaten, but a new meal can be cooked, the tab can be picked up or a gift certificate for next time can be given. In a personal situation, this could be as easy as giving someone a hug. They haven’t lost their friend. Essentially, this step will show the offended party that they aren’t walking way with nothing. They have their dignity, some kind of validation or the ongoing affection of a friend or family member.
What about if it’s personal?
Now, these steps seem pretty applicable to work situations. But what about when a friend or family member is upset? The same steps still apply, except it’s going to be harder for you. The more you care about a person, the more their reaction has the potential to trigger something within you. In other words, the more connected you are to a person emotionally, the harder it is not to take their reactions, especially anger, personally. Stay strong and neutral though. If you get upset as well, you won’t be in any position to diffuse the situation. You’ll just be throwing gasoline on the fire.
All of these steps presuppose that you’re not in any physical danger. It should go without saying (but just in case it doesn’t), if at any time you fear for your safety, just get away. Personally, by using the methodology above, I’ve never had anyone explode. In fact, it was only when someone else stepped in and threatened or physically tried to restrain the angry individual, that things really got out of hand. That makes perfect sense, of course. Take a person who is feeling powerless and railing against it, threaten to take even more power away from them, and you get an explosion almost every time. On the other hand, you can diffuse an angry person pretty quickly with the right reaction.
When another person directs their anger at you:
- Stay calm and don’t take their anger personally.
- Let them vent and state the problem while really listening to them.
- Agree with their right to be angry and validate their feelings. Again, you don’t have to agree with their point of view to agree that they have a right to their emotions.
- Mirror their concerns back to them while generalizing the issues a bit.
- Try to offer them choices (in a professional situation) or different points of view (in a personal situation).
- Hold a high vibrational space for them and don’t let their reaction affect your emotions.
- Don’t let them walk away empty handed and defeated, even if the issue couldn’t be resolved directly.
Have you successfully diffused an angry situation? What worked and what didn’t? Tell us about it in the comments!