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Tame a screamer

How to respond when scolded

by on
in Workplace Communication

It’s easy to assume that when someone yells at you, it’s justified. You’re devastated because you figure you’ve really screwed up.

In truth, however, the fact that someone explodes may have little or nothing to do with you.

Respond shrewdly:

Detach yourself. Narrate what’s happening in a flat, disinterested tone. Say, “You’re speaking much louder than normal” or “Your face is turning beet red.” As long as you remain calm and polite, this can lead speakers to reflect on their behavior and maybe even change it.

Remain silent. You’re under no obligation to talk. You need to respond, not react. If you jump in too soon, you may reach the screamer’s decibel level.

If you’re dealing with a boss and you can’t just walk out (or hang up), then wait for the tirade to subside. Let the speaker blow off steam. If you’re asked a question, don’t rush to answer. Plan to clarify misunderstandings or defend yourself later— when the speaker is ready to listen.

Stay grounded. Your body language can influence whether the hothead cools off quickly. If you fidget, cry or show combativeness, you’ll make matters worse. The best approach: Keep a neutral expression. Don’t show fear. Maintain eye contact.

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