What Casino Dealers Know About Calming Down Angry People

by Melody Fletcher on June 5, 2011

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Summary

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!

Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=751

{ 21 comments }

Justin | Mazzastick June 5, 2011 at 23:18

Hi Melody,
I can’t stand it when someone says “calm-down” when someone is in highly emotional state. It does only add fuel to the fire.

I couldn’t imagine being a casino dealer. More power to you for pulling that one off.

The way that you describe handling and diffusing situations sounds like the most common sense way to handle a situation. I wonder how many “authority” types like police, teachers, parents and so on are taught theses skills.

Melody Fletcher June 6, 2011 at 12:38

Thanks Justin. I truly believe that a lot of our society’s problems (crime, drugs, etc.) could be reduced if we learned how to deal with anger in a more healing way. Our reaction is generally to suppress it, because it makes people uncomfortable, which causes a cycle of powerlessness – anger – powerlessness. If we would just allow the anger, people could move through it and beyond it to a better feeling place.

Hugs,
Melody

Todd | Channelingmyself June 6, 2011 at 06:31

Hi Melody,

I think it is important not to take their anger personally. It is easy to become upset and feel threatened when someone is venting at you. I wouldn’t want to be a casino dealer either, I can imagine feeling the wrath of someone who just lost all their life savings.

Melody Fletcher June 6, 2011 at 12:46

Hiya Todd,
It’s not much different from being a bartender, really. It’s a party environment and sometimes you see people at their worst. There were fun times, too, and overall it was a huge learning experience. I don’t regret it for a second. Plus, I have a lot of cool stories to tell. :)

Hugs,
Melody

Riley Harrison June 6, 2011 at 14:53

Hi Melody,
First time here. I really like your practical advice that deals with real world issues. As you do, I also enjoy the writings of Jerry and Esther Hicks but the few LOA groups I’ve attended haven’t done it for me. I figured out early in life that “like attracts like” so I do pay attention as to who I associate with and the experiences I participate in. And I also believe we all have vast amounts of unrealized potential and our purpopse in existence is to realize that potential. Wish you the best.
Riley

Melody Fletcher June 6, 2011 at 20:43

Hi Riley,

Welcome to Deliberate Receiving! I’m so glad you found your way here. As Abe say, it can be a bit lonely on the leading edge, but there are more and more of us out there, now, so I’m absolutely sure that you’ll find the community you’re looking for.

Hugs,
Melody

rob white June 6, 2011 at 15:34

Wow Melody, what an experience that must have been! It would be hard to find a better way of learning first hand of how to not take things personally. Indeed, you are in a unique position to share what you have learned and it is powerful.

Others will prescribe negative opinions for us but we do not have to swallow it. We can always exercise our right to choose what we think of ourselves and experience life on our terms.

Melody Fletcher June 6, 2011 at 20:46

Hey Rob,
Ah, I can think of worse jobs… ;)
Exactly. We always have a choice. We just don’t realize it. At that time in my life, I was just beginning to get a glimpse of the power we have. Actually, I think I might milk this Vegas thing for a few more blog posts… LOL

Hugs,
Melody

Dia June 6, 2011 at 19:34

Hi Melody,

This is an excelent post and it is very informative on how to deal with someone who is angry. It is very important to let the other person’s behavior affect us negatively. We always have a choice to how to react. Creating harmony with the angry person usually does wonders in my experience. Separting ourselves from their behavior is crucial if we don’t want to get emotionally down. Thanks for the great post Melody! Keep up the excellent job :)

Melody Fletcher June 6, 2011 at 20:46

Thanks for stopping by Dia! Always glad to see you here. :)

Hugs,
Melody

Sean Cox June 6, 2011 at 21:49

Hey Melody,
This is my first time on your blog. I love your article. Great practical “defusing-the-bomb” advice–thanks! And I love that you’re drawing on your own experiences as a dealer . . . you MUST know what you’re talking about since you had to deal with the hostility and desperation of a bet-gone-bad!

Melody Fletcher June 7, 2011 at 13:24

Hey Sean,
Welcome to Deliberate Receiving! :)
It certainly was quite the learning experience. But it wasn’t all bad, either. People go to Vegas with the intention of letting down their guard and having a good time. That makes for some high vibrations, too. Overall, though, I would say that casinos have quite a low frequency. I don’t think it would affect me nearly as much now that I know how to protect myself.

Hugs,
Melody

Patricia June 6, 2011 at 23:29

I did my internship in the Sheriff’s Office and had to book the female drunks into jail. The throw up was bad and the search, but wow when someone was angry staying as calm as possible was what I learned to do. ( One women tried to hit me and I backed up and her fist hit the concrete wall – she was even angrier then – overwhelming and I needed the help of one of the men – once it goes physical it goes fast )

But after that year of working in the jail I was able to deal with my special needs child who had Oppositional Defiant Disorder and huge temper displays and angry behaviors and testing behaviors….It turned out to be the best training in my backpack…and even though I fell apart sometime – usually it was not on the child but privately in the confines of my own space.

I also think it is part of the resistance within myself – try to control and then I just can not let go…truly let go ( ie = weight)

Thanks for an interest post

Melody Fletcher June 7, 2011 at 13:29

Hi Patricia,
Wow, thanks so much for sharing your story. I can only imagine the lessons you must have learned in that environment. And I love how you’re able to see how those lessons have benefited you.

Weight is very, very often a control issue. You’ve hit it on the head. And I’m sure you’re son has taught you a lot about the fact that you can’t control everything. Kids are great that way, especially when they come with a strong intention not to be controlled.

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a valuable comment.

Hugs,
Melody

Haley June 7, 2011 at 11:21

Thanks a lot for enjoying this beautiful post. I am appreciating your effort to write it! Looking forward to another great article. It;s difficult to clalm down angry people in casino but if we know behave wisely,we can succeed in controling this.

Melody Fletcher June 7, 2011 at 13:34

Thanks Haley,
I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Hugs,
Melody

Daniel M. Wood June 7, 2011 at 15:24

I work in sales so anger is somehting I face every day.
Showing people who are angry respect is something you need to do, don’t meet it right on, instead agree and try to move it away from you and then try and help them resolve the problem.

Madfishmonger June 7, 2011 at 17:18

These are some great tips. I’ve taken classes in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention and other counselling courses. One thing I wanted to note, you made a great point of not raising your voice, but sometimes (especially if someone is bordering on hysteria) actually lowering your voice can make a huge difference. If the person is so loud and angry they can barely hear you speaking quietly, they will turn down the volume, usually without even noticing. The more you lower your voice, the more they lower theirs.
There is also the matter of your body language and physical distance. It’s best to stand at a sort of angle to an angry person. Keep your arms open but close to your body, and be sure that there is an exit space for either you or the angry person. It’ll only make them more scared/angry if they’re feeling physically trapped or you’re looking like you’re preparing to defend yourself physically. Keep your body calm, it will encourage them to mirror that as well.
Great article, thanks for sharing.

Jamie July 24, 2011 at 15:56

Hi! Thank you so much for posting this. I’ll be having my final interview as a casino dealer on the 27th. I will remember these guidelines. Thanks!

Karma October 9, 2012 at 08:41

Wow, this was so helpful Melody, thank you! I’ve been having issues with a coworker (nepotism=never be fired) and today she blew up at me. I of course, had been working so hard on trying to be positive about the on going situation that I was tired and finally snapped back. I’m thought of as the meek mouse around there. I did not feel good, I don’t like to hurt people and it really did a number on my self esteem. They told me to ‘let it go’ and ‘she’s just jealous’, which isn’t helpful at all. I wish I had read this before the incident but at least I feel confident that I will have options in any future incidents. Even after all the nastiness I want to be nice…I feel sorry for her but she seems hell bent on forcing me out. Aspiring for that higher vibration!

Melody Fletcher October 11, 2012 at 11:17

Hey Karma,

Focus on how it will feel when it’s resolved. On harmony and peace. And let the Universe bring you that. It may mean another job opportunity, or a change in her demeanor (she will no longer perceive you as a threat). You don’t have to figure out the details. And if she comes at you again, just use the tips above. :)

Hang in there!

Huge hugs,

Melody
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