Healthcare Training: Responding to An Angry Person

Avoid any negative message like judgment or evaluation

If we can think about pausing as the idea of freedom, this ability of pause between an opportunity and the response and during that pause, we choose how we respond. Because really, everything we do, we define ourselves we’re the sum of the total responses we've made. So, if we respond in a cool logical, organized, supportive, positive way then we come across as being a cool, logical, supportive, positive person. Know more by going through these communication  tips and strategies provided by our experts in a healthcare event.

But if we respond in anger, they scream at us we scream back, what are we doing? We’re projecting that we’re an angry person. So, the pause decides how to response. Now, there's a couple of techniques that will help you to respond that are pretty powerful. One is called sorting, the other is called fogging.

Now, sorting means we take parts of a hostile message. The person says, “You're always late with the report.” So, you may ask yourself, “What's the triggering event?” You might want to say, “I bet you feel awful. I'm going to help you.” Or, “Yes, I am sometimes late with the report. We need to talk about that.”

So, you sort out the anger from the message and what's the triggering event. So – and fogging made you create an imaginary fog around you by finding some truth in what the person is saying and admit, you say, “You're right. I was slow at getting back. You're absolutely right.” I mean how can you argue with the person that keeps agreeing with you? It's pretty hard to do.

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So, fogging is not lying but it’s finding something to agree with so the person feels that they’ve won. So, sorting helps you to figure out what's the anger and what's the event we’re talking about separated to.

So, again, when you – while responding to this process cue yourself to stand still or assume an “open” posture. Don't have your arms folded, which tends to be seen as an aggressive or defensive gesture, just keep your hands rested on your desk or in your pockets. Match eye contact and have a backup plan to walk away if you need to.

But listen to the complete explosion. Don't interrupt them. Wait until they finish because if you interrupt them it's going to make them even more mad. Wait until they finish. They have to breathe at some point. When they finish just sit there. It might take ten minutes. Let them vent. If you need to, move to a safe physical position so they don't hit you.

But be prepared to replay the message over and over so the person who’s screaming at you, “You're late with report.” So, you can say things like, “Let me see if I got this right. You're saying that I'm late with the report, that I've been consistently late and you're upset with me.” So, what you're doing – you're responding in a way that shows that you're in control. But it's really important to listen to them. Don't interrupt.

Here are some things that you can say as you're responding to an angry person as stated by a lot of experts in management audio conferences and healthcare events,. You can acknowledge that they're angry like, “I didn’t know that. I can see there’s a problem. I know your concern. I can see your angry.” Or you can express regret, “I'm sorry that happened. I'm sorry having a tough time.”

You can show empathy like, “I can understand why you're upset. I can tell you’ve had a tough time. I understand.” Or you can agree with them, “You’re absolutely right. This shouldn’t have happened. You're right, this is a real problem. I don't blame you. We need to deal with this. We can't go on with this.” So, you're agreeing with the person.

And maybe you want to just present some alternatives like, “You know (Jack). Here’s a possibility.” Or, “One of the things you could try is…” “Here’s how I’ve handled it. How do you feel about it? What do you think of this?” Or, “(Jack) what can I do to fix this?” So, give them options, all right? Because sometimes when they're angry they’ve only got one solution. And you help them get better solutions and more of them you're probably going to be better and more in control

What you want to avoid is any negative message like judgment or evaluation, “You can't do it this way. Will you just listen…? All you engineers are just the like.” You don't want to say that. And don't want to try to show control like, “You have to do it this way. You have to follow the plan.” because then people feel squeezed. So, you don't want to show evaluation or control.

You don't want to show that you don't care like, “I don't care what you do. You're on your own. Go ahead, do it your own, who cares?” You don't want to show that you're superior, “Well, you can do it if you want it, but if it was me…” And, “When I was in that junior group, here’s what I did.” Or, “When I was at your level I did this.” That’s going to make them more angry. And always be careful. I've just used the same thing that I should tell you.

Try not to use the word “always” or “never”. “You always do this. You always have the report late. You never get it on time.” So, don't use over-generalizations.

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